More on why to avoid Amazon

If you support Amazon, you know, go with the flow, take what’s good for you, as some think is the right thing to do, these are some other practices you are supporting:

Censorship by Amazon such as the removal of wikileaks from their Cloud.

Amazon campaigns designed to exploit small businesses until they are able to kill it completely: Amazon actively and explicitly advises people to go into shops to see what they want to buy, touch it, talk to a sales person about it etc and then buy it from Amazon. I’m not just blaming Amazon for this, people don’t have to go along with it. But they did and do. Please be advised that where you sit in my ranking of the world is scum.

Censorship of books. This one is both alarming and hilarious and results from the modern mentality of people wanting to get everything for nothing. ‘Hey, this is SO great. You get on Amazon, you buy self-published books and they are SO cheap.’ Then the complaints start coming in when people pay small amounts of money for crap. It’s a small amount of money because the writers have cut out the people who used to turn their writing into something publishable. So Amazon started to employ people for whom English is not their first language (this is my understanding), doubtless paying them the fair wage that all your good supporters of Amazon care about so much, and got them to start going through these self-published books and pulling them off Amazon lists, informing the writers that they had to be brought up to a publishable standard. How interesting that Amazon is now the world opinion on what that is. Laughably, some people pulled were well-established and credentialed writers who used language in the ways they pleased….not what these censors had learned in high-school English classes, however. Not that the writers are laughing, but hey, go with the flow, right, boys. What do you care if Amazon employees re-write the books you buy for next to nothing on Amazon.

I particularly like this story as a person who has spent quite a lot of my life not only writing, but also editing, type-setting etc. By all means buy books that aren’t edited by people with an appropriate command of the English language, by all means buy books from people who have no idea how to design and type-set a book. But what’s with complaining when you get an illiterate awful looking .pdf that somebody’s friends did a Twitter promotion for? What’s THAT all about?!!

Amazon Turk, crowd-sourcing, which some of you will know about. You get a group of people to do work for you, ranging from unskilled to highly skilled, ranging in pay offered from nothing (seriously) to whatever you think is appropriate. I am involved with a uni group in Geneva who has been using this to gather data for their research. A little while ago they got a message from Amazon saying that they were in violation of their agreement for asking workers to download an app. Interesting in itself – why WOULD this be illegal? One would think it is a free market place, you put a sign up saying $x/hour, download a program to speak French in your phone and do ‘y’. Next workers would decide whether they wish do to this. But no, for whatever reason, it is illegal. Being a uni group, spread around the world, it took them a while to figure out what to do about this. Meanwhile, Amazon wrote to them, closed their account for ever with no possibility of recourse to any higher authority AND confiscated all the money in their account. That’s pretty interesting, wouldn’t you say? Amazon tells you that you are doing something illegal, closes you down and takes all your money whilst giving you no right to appeal, discussion, NOTHING. Not that they didn’t try writing to support to discuss it further. A handy way for Amazon to make a few extra bucks, wouldn’t you say? I’m gobsmacked that this is legal.

For those going with the flow, skip this, as you won’t care…., but some of you may not know that after goodreads had a sort of tactical falling out with Amazon where we all thought goodreads was on the right side, goodreads enlisted even more people than usual to do their unpaid librarian’s work on the site. Indeed, I sat next to Manny as he spent some hours now and then putting lots of book information back onto the site as part of his attempt to help. Not that he did a lot of work, but I surely do feel sorry for all the ‘librarians’ of goodreads who have done all this unpaid thankless work, thinking that it was because a few nice computer dorks who like reading needed help setting up their site. And I challenge Paul in his idea that ALL these sorts of things are started up by people expecting to make a huge amount of money whilst getting most people to work for nothing and that we should all know and expect that. I don’t know it. I am on various sites that I don’t think are like this at all. Why should the internet be any different from businesses in general? There are some that are set up for greed. There are lots set up for love. I think people believed goodreads was one of the latter….but it turns out it wasn’t.

What I am at a complete loss to understand is that to me, speaking as a historian, it is so obvious that what is happening with Amazon is close to some horrific science fiction story somebody like Orwell or Bradbury would write and we all would be reading thinking, hey, we’re gonna make sure THAT never happens. But it is. And you all don’t get it.

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8 thoughts on “More on why to avoid Amazon

  1. I do agree with you for the most part, but I think your post attacks people too much. No one likes to be called scum, and Amazon is cheaper, although in the long run it drives up the price of books.

    So people just shouldn’t buy cheap, cheap books on Amazon. It’s okay to buy other books, though of course it’s better to get them at your indie bookstore. But what if it doesn’t have a certain book, and you want to use Amazon? Or it’s a really expensive book which you can get cheaper on Amazon?

    I was really upset when Goodreads became part of the Amazon family too. Stupid, stupid stupid! It used to have Amazon at the bottom of where to get this book, but now it’s at the top.

    • Hi Kathy. Well, perhaps I wasn’t clear enough. I was specifically suggesting that people who supported Amazon’s campaign to get free content by going into small businesses and sending information to Amazon were being scummy. I stand by that, pretty repulsive behaviour.

      But yeah, if I abandoned all people in the world who were involved with Amazon, that’d be an awful lot of people I know!

    • Hi Tuck! I have an Australian friend who watched the Alekhine Memorial just held in France and Russia. Judit Polgar was commentating and according to Sartaj she was fantastic. I was watching another tournie on at the same time, so I missed her. BUT here in Geneva, Manny and I are going to do the English live commentary on a chess tournament in June and she is playing! So looking forward to being involved in this. I will let you know when we’ll be on.

  2. that is super cool have fun! i guess all 3 of those players, krusha, pol gr, and um , that other lady, are really neat to watch live.

  3. I don’t know, Tuck. I don’t follow the women’s. Polgar isn’t actually a female as far as the chess world goes, she only plays open. The event she is playing in that we are going to comment on is world’s top open players including Nakamura and Kramnik! To be honest, if it were a women’s event I wouldn’t want to be commenting.

  4. Thanks Cathy. I had no idea it was this bad. I tend to use ABE and Ebay as money has been tight for so long. I’ve always ordered new releases that we want from our local. Really missing bookshops. Thank heavens my kids still read. What’s the deal with kindles? Does the author get the money??? Hope the family is well. haven’t seen any of you for ages. 🙂

  5. Hi Meredith. I honestly don’t know how kindles work – it just isn’t a way I want to read. Surely they must still get royalties, though I suppose, since the modern attitude to these things is for one person to pay and then send copies illegally to friends, maybe they get a lot less than they used to.

    On the other hand, kindles are part of the move towards self-publishing and there is the potential in that case for the author to make more than they used to.

    I expect it is all complicated and murky! Somebody asked me recently how to buy material for their kindle without using Amazon – has Amazon really cornered that market? I really don’t know.

    I will email you more personal info….

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