Tom Hoffarth / FartherOffTheWall.com
Something to chew on the next time you lazily flip over to Al Michaels bemoaning why he didn’t take an early retirement and is instead stuck trying to quantify a Week 6 Bears-Commanders game on a Thursday night exclusively streaming on Amazon Prime:
Ordering stuff on Amazon isn’t a slippery slope. It’s a slip-n-slide that can confuse us into becoming an existential death spiral.
The sooner one upon another upon another recognizes this mucked-up reality, there is a greater chance we can try to turn this away from the iceberg and survival options don’t have to default to ordering more life preservers from some giant cloud that can be parachuted in for an extra handling fee.
With all the other things in the world we’ve been told to keep an eye on – climate change, the economy, personal freedoms – somehow Amazon.com is not a part of the solution.
Not at all a hyperbolic way.
“How to Resist Amazon And Why: The Fight For Local Economies, Data Privacy, Fair Labor, Independent Bookstores and a People-Powered Future” by Danny Caine, the owner of the Raven Book Store in Lawrence, Kansas, is the most instructive take-away we can offer on this tale-of-the-boiling-frog subject.
The first pass was written and published (by Microcosm Publishing of Portland, Ore.) in 2019, well before Amazon got its claws on NFL live product for the 2022 season and beyond.
We find no irony in that Amazon.com offers a first-pass paperback for $3.95 new, $1.46 used. That’s a 20-page version. Ranks #312,137 in books, #316 in business ethics and #99 in retailing industry (books). It has three and a half stars out of 18 ratings.
A mashup of some of the “five-star” reviews read:
So a book on a site about why to resist THAT site. It answers its own question. This is a very nonjudgmental fluid forum and interchange. … Should Mr. Bezos not make a lot of money when he has created a better mousetrap? I think the whole concept of Monster Capitalism is not preferable for humans BUT within that construct amazon is at least as equitable as possible by allowing competitors to sell on their forum and allowing comment on those items that are perceived as bad or faulty or against their existence. … For anyone using this website, I strongly urge reading this, it’s an eye-opener, and will change the way you think about this business. And to the author, kudos, I’m grateful for your research and clarity. I will reach out to you for a bulk order!
One “one-star” rating simply said: “This is not an actual book.”
Actually and absolutely correct.
It’s a decree. A mandate. An instruction manual. A how-to referendum on clear thinking.
Read it and weep, cheapskate.
We purchased this 126-page edition for $12.95 at Chevaliers, powered by Bookshop.org, the oldest independent book store in L.A. going on 82 years. This copy, updated in March, 2021, has a price published on the book cover that can’t be changed, only lowered, by any bookseller.
A Sept. 2022 updated and expanded edition (192 pages) offered for $14.95 is also available on the publisher’s website. There are also a variety of options to buy this as a zine, slightly-damaged book edition or an ebook.
Consider paying full price (the store’s profit margin depends on it) and ordering in bulk for distribution to friends, neighbors and closely-held enemies prior to the holiday season.
We take self-responsibility for having an ingloriously bastardized appreciation of the book market business express services of Amazon in order to a) find a far-ahead list of new titles we might be interested in, especially those in the baseball genre, b) order them as a last resort only because of the speed with which they can arrive for us to read them faster, and c) return them for credit if we need to at a local outlet that is way too easy to use.
What happens to returned items? You need to know. It’s obscene.
We come to grips with the reality the trappings of all this aren’t healthy for any of us. Even if our most recent Amazon purchase arrived Thursday afternoon while we happened to be at the independent book store – a box of three water filters that fit in our refrigerator so we can use the fill-the-drinking-glass luxury. We went through our last one, planned to order another box from the company itself, forgot, and was stuck having to make an Amazon order because of the mere hours it would take to get the replacements. All so we could enjoy a cold drink of water straight out of the fridge.
First-world issues. Not proud.
Re-think this, please. Retrain the domain. Drink it all in, clean and cool.
The beauty of Caine’s book is he isn’t shaking his fist and calling out Jeff Bezos (as much as the cover might appear – it’s a fist holding up money, not one punching in anger). Caine in fact provides a template near the start, after the intro and before even getting to Chapter 1 – an “interlude” that is an open letter he wrote to Bezos trying to appeal to his humanity.
“I’m writing you to try to illustrate just how many people your business affects in a negative way,” he says. “Let’s start with books.”
That Costco chicken you buy for $4.99. It’s Amazon’s plan with books.
Get you hooked on a product that they’ve priced lower that what it even costs an independent book retailer from the publisher. From then, Amazon captures data, spending habits, alternative reading platforms (Kindle, audiobook), and applies it to its greater retail mechanisms, through its own delivery services (bypassing what exists) and supporting a structure that it calls helping you navigate through its “fulfillment center.”
Caine points out how if small businesses are pushed out – Walmart used to be the greatest threat to that – it will expose “the loss of a community force. If your retail experiment disrupts us into extinction you’re not threatening quaint old ways of doing things. You’re threatening communities.”
Caine asks Bezos to come visit him someday in fly-over Kansas “here on earth.” Not to plot out the next Amazon warehouse – and create an embarrassment of public servants offering him tax breaks for doing so, to continue the fact the company makes billions and doesn’t pay business taxes back to the government for public use. The invitation is to “help you realize that some things don’t need to be disrupted.”
We keep Amazon and all its other businesses in business by participating in a relationship that seems like a two-way street. We have needs.
Click shopping, personalized recommendations, Prime, AWS, Kindle Direct Publishing, Kindle, Fire tablets, Fire TV, Amazon Echo, Amazon Prime’s NFL games, movies from Amazon Studios …
There is a path to resistance, if one commits. The research is in. The debate can be had.
Your multi-click action item: Take ownership, even if you’re not put off by the return policy. Define your belief system.
The results of this please-leave-it-on-the-porch rebellion might someday be published in the Washington Post. Maybe Uncle Al (and his $15 million Amazon store annual line of credit) can ask Kirk Herbstreit stop yammering long enough to read aloud the blowback next time he’s bored to tears during the next unwatchable Thursday NFL broadcast.
Or is this not ready for Prime time?