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Aug 08 2014

Why I quit Amazon

I submitted this as feedback on my Amazon account today.

I’ve been a long-time Amazon customer, since 1997 in fact, and have purchased thousands of dollars and dozens of items from you in the last 17 years. I’ve always been pleased with the utility of your website and the ease of purchasing books, music, and other products.

Over the years, I have unhappily noted that small bookshops have disappeared throughout the country, with rare exceptions. This saddened me, since book browsing has always been one of my favorite pastimes; however, I also whole-heartedly embraced the digital revolution, and I recognized this loss as a disheartening consequence.

So I am not just disheartened, but dismayed, that Amazon has elected recently to impede the sales of books from Hachette. Amazon’s appeal to me was not simply that it could send hard-to-find books quickly; it was that it was open-handed and its reach enabled it to find almost any book I needed. Now, however, by limiting or blocking Hachette’s catalogue, I see that this is not true. Worse, Amazon has chosen to do this even as it has driven most of its competition out of business; it is almost impossible for me to now go to a bookstore to find unusual books, since they simply can’t afford to compete with you and maintain such an inventory. So Amazon, by blocking Hachette, has not simply interjected its self-interest into its own marketplace, but has in effect has blocked me from finding Hachette titles anywhere.

This is an unfriendly act to the Hachette authors and overall publishing industry. But it is also an unfriendly act to me, as a customer of Amazon. However easy and effortless purchasing on the Amazon website might be, it is useless if the book or other product I want isn’t there.

So, whoever in the vast organization of Amazon is reading this, I am hereby informing you as one of your millions of customers that I will no longer turn to Amazon first for book or other purchases. Instead, I will be looking for small bookstores or local vendors. And if that should fail, I will seek other website vendors who may offer those products. Amazon will be my last, rather than first, choice going forward. Competition is a wonderful thing, and your actions regarding Hachette have reminded me to patronize your competitors as a way of ensuring that my freedom to find and purchase what I want in the future is protected.

Update: this issue was resolved, although Amazon’s policies toward booksellers and others remains troubling. That said, I have set up an Amazon Smile charity, to which Amazon will donate a small portion of every purchase I make, as a small way to offset Amazon’s negative impact on small businesses and independent contractors.

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