April 6, 2009

Should We Boycott Amazon (again)?

Christopher North, Vice President of Media, AmazonMy first proper full-time job was working in the big bad world of scientific publishing for a family run company based in Oxford called Blackwell Science Limited, or blacksci.co.uk which is now part of wiley.com. Consequently, I’ve a few friends and former colleagues who still work in various parts of the publishing industry. Last week I got an email from one of these friends who works for a small independent book publishing company: I’ve reproduced an interesting email message about Amazon from them below (with permission):

This is very unlike me but I am sending a general email out because I am so outraged by something I feel I must share with you. In case you didn’t already know, I work for a small publisher. Times are hard – we all know that. Amazon.co.uk form a large part of our business. Recently they have changed their terms with all of their publishers. For us, and many other small and independent publishers, these new terms are completely unacceptable. We have no say about it and the way they went about it was frankly nasty (they basically sent an email out giving us a week to decide whether to give them more discount or more credit). For bigger publishers it may have a negligible effect but for smaller publishers, where cashflow can mean everything, the effect will be severe! And they have us over a barrel.

Amazon.co.uk so dominate the online market in books that they are almost a monopoly. The discounts we’ve been supplying Amazon for the last few years are outrageous – but what they have done recently is the last straw, and many small publishers could go out of business (luckily I think we’ll survive!). I am so outraged at how they are treating their suppliers that I am now boycotting Amazon for my own personal books and CDs. I have been using them for years and years. The only way to put a bit of healthy competition back into the system is by having more online book retailers become as successful as Amazon. Today we used The Book Depository bookdepository.co.uk for the first time. The books we wanted were all there, in stock and cheaper than Amazon and it was very easy to use. So we’re trying to help spread the word!

Another online retailer is waterstones.com, which separated from Amazon a few years ago due to their unworkable terms. I haven’t used them myself but I hear they are pretty good, and play.com can fulfil your DVD and CD requirements (and all delivery is free I think).

They may not always be as cheap as Amazon but now you know how Amazon get their low prices you may not be as happy to use them – if small, interesting, independent publishers go out of business it’ll just be the biggies left (which will mean much less choice).

So, is the behaviour of Amazon.co.uk just the all too familiar face of capitalism? Or should we boycott Amazon for being a big bully only interested in monopolising the marketplace and getting rid of some healthy competition?


  1. Catherine Neilan (2009) Amazon refused to budge on new terms, Bookseller.com 2009-03-30
  2. Liz Thomson (2009) Advantage Amazon? Publishers react to proposed new terms Bookbrunch.co.uk 2009-03-26
  3. Richard Stalman (2001) (Formerly) Boycott Amazon! – GNU Project – Free Software Foundation (FSF) gnu.org


  1. I boycott Amazon for a different reason (I don’t like their politics) but I absolutely agree that they have a monopoly and should be sanctioned for that. I hope that smaller book publishers survive the Age of Amazon.

    Comment by xJane — September 8, 2010 @ 10:06 pm | Reply

  2. I so agree.

    Our business was a seller on Amazon until they acted more and more like bullies. For the commission charged, the angry and threatening e-mails sent to sellers, the screwed up product listings, and the constant change in policies to keep us from even mentioning that we are a separate company it became really, really not worth it. There were some extra sales but it was way more extra headache. Plus if you sell any decent quantity of anything they just use you as research and start competing with you selling the same item. Oh, and their listing there (whether it’s yours or not) will rank higher than your own site’s product page in Google so your natural sales become their sales and you pay commission on sales you would have gotten anyway.

    Yes. It’s time for the Amazon era to end. I’m shopping anywhere but. Support sellers who leave!

    Comment by Joel C. — December 3, 2010 @ 8:33 am | Reply

  3. We have stopped shopping with Amazon for the reasons mentioned above. They are monopilizing online shopping. Individual retailers are getting choked out of the market because of the fierce competion with Amazon affiliates. They make very little while Amazon gets there cut skimming off of every transaction. Even though people purchase with the affiliates your still purchasing from the beast that controls them. We look for smaller individual merchants that specialize in the products they offer. Such as http://www.childrenssoftwareonline.com, toolbarn.com, abebooks.com, express.com, ajmadison.com

    Comment by mike pasvang — January 9, 2011 @ 2:48 am | Reply

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