So I’m sure y’all have read the news in the last few months about Amazon workers complaints. The delivery drivers can’t stop to pee, the warehouse folks are run ragged, etc. The rampant cloning of products being sold in the online store showing up as recommended items. Then there are the new issues with their publishing side blocking access to libraries for works under their umbrella. Ebook licenses for libraries are already very pricey as it is and it does make sense that Amazon wouldn’t want it’s private Kindle Unlimited subscription library accessible outside their e-ink screened garden. Then there were the weird fake-employee twitter accounts popping up to say nothing was wrong at Amazon and it’s a great place to work, there is no war in Ba Sing Se, you name it.
Then, I thought, that’s it I’ll just go on Ingram and have them pull by book off Amazon. I’ll stop buying things from their store. I could get a Kobo e-reader and move what few ebooks I have to that. I moved my baby registry to Target, bought the kids new clothes on Gap.com, and stopped watching Prime Video for a week. I was gonna stick it to them by golly, until the inevitable realization that Amazon is bigger than just ebooks and retail.
Yeah, I was gonna watch some Netflix instead of my usual Prime video documentaries. Only catch is that Netflix uses Amazon Web Services to host all their shows. Then I got to thinking who else uses AWS? Almost everyone apparently, given the wide range of cloud storage and computing products it runs. A website might not be hosted there but some other data analytics or business functionality might. Some of the big names I use on a daily basis include Coinbase, Adobe, Reddit, Sony, Soundcloud, Twitter, Kellog’s, the USDA, and several others. It’s less of the Monopoly octopus political cartoon and more like the Blob.
It’s one thing to be the only source for a single product or service, it’s another to make yourself the source for all the products and services. There are competitors out there for most of these things. You can host your cloud data with Google or Microsoft, and various web hosts that aren’t just AWS resellers are out there too. Shopping can be done on independent store websites or in person. Shopify runs a mix of AWS and Google. Target and Spotify are using Google, Walmart and eBay are on Microsoft. Even those mom and pop shops we buy from get parts and shipping components from Amazon but am I about to knock them for that? No, I can’t. Small shops have to be supported.
Can I stop buying every piddly thing from Amazon? Yes, that’s easy. I even went into my account to pull up how much we spent last year on everything from clothes to rented movies (I almost always buy books on eBay or thriftbooks) and it came up to about $5k. That shook me so I pulled the entire history of my account that dates back to 2006: $35k. It was interesting to go through the spreadsheet too, the first six years or so we only bought the occasional book or phone charger. It wasn’t until 2016 when the list started to go deep and single years had to be scrolled through. That’s when we started buying dog food, paper goods, birthday presents, cleaning supplies, etc using all the subscribe and save options. With everything limited and shut down all this past year the Amazon cart was abused for anything that couldn’t be found during a monthly Costco run.
It’s much easier to avoid using a company when you can tell that’s what you’re doing. Don’t want to give Apple money? Don’t buy that iPhone or Macbook. Easy. Don’t want to use Google or Microsoft? That’s gonna be harder because your job will likely have you using their software or services but you know what Windows and Gmail look like. Likely you’ll just have to pick one big bad company and go with it. “Well, I’m just gonna keep using my linux thinkpad and only use open source software from my server in the garage.” While that’s commendable it’s not always a realistic option for most people. It’s also illegal to burn your DVD’s and movies to a hard drive so you can watch them off your local NAS which means you legally have to subscribe to a service to watch shows or manually load that disk that’s been out of print since 2009.
When services get involved it becomes even harder. Selling books or anything online requires using social media like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and all for reach. You can’t always abandon outlets to potential customers like that. There are a handful of options for renting videos online and Prime has the old obscure ones I’m looking for. I don’t currently have my book in Kindle Unlimited and don’t subscribe to it because I prefer physical copies but it’s still something I have to be aware of when selling books. I have bought mp3’s off Amazon after I quit using Spotify and started building an actual MP3/OGG library of music but I’ll gladly use iTunes for that as long as I can. (Google Play music, Apple Music, and such look to be headed to subscription only models in the future and Amazon still offers downloadable MP3 options.)
So am I going to yank my book from the Amazon store, nuke Netflix, throw the Playstation in the trash, delete my Reddit and Twitter and only shop offline forever? No, however I will be more mindful by making sure I can’t get whatever it is directly or from a better source before using them. Will that mean I have to pay more in the long run? For shipping maybe but I’m fine with getting what I pay for. Web services can always change their host company in the future, some easier than others but you can’t fault them for using what is basically an industry standard these days.