In light of Amazon’s attempts to lock print-on-demand publishers into their own printing services, I’ve made a personal decision not to buy from Amazon any more. Since the site first launched over a decade ago, I’ve spent thousands and thousands of dollars on Amazon feeding my addiction to tech books and fiction, on music, DVDs, electronics, and gifts for friends and family. I realize my spending is a tiny drop in the bucket of Amazon’s total revenue, but it’s a decision I feel good about, the same way I feel good about using low-energy lightbulbs, reusing plastic bags, and buying a car with environmentally friendly fuel economy and emissions ratings. One of the fundamental principles of capitalism is that when one source of goods and services isn’t meeting your needs, you switch to another. The power to decide which businesses succeed and which fail lies in the collective hands of millions of individual consumers.
I’ve mainly switched to Books-A-Million for the prices (fair disclosure: I developed a good portion of the site back in the heady dot-com days), but I shop around at Barnes & Noble, Bookpool, Powell’s, Alibris, BookFinder, and here in South Africa Exclusive Books. There’s no shortage of alternatives, all over the world.
In my very first order, I bought some Xhosa language learning CDs, and on a whim added a print-on-demand book of Xhosa folk tales. It just goes to show that by restricting print-on-demand publishers, Amazon isn’t only damaging the publishing ecosystem, it’s also hurting its own business.