One of the questions I’m often asked in my Facebook page inbox is “why do you always share Bookshop links, and not Amazon?” I figure now is as good a time as any to answer that question. Let me start by saying I’m not on the self-righteous cancel train at ALL when it comes to Amazon or any other big corporation. I’m not so woke that I can’t see nuance. Amazon is convenient, accessible, and they’ve done some great things in the world of technology. I own an Amazon Kindle. The company also has a great platform for self-publishing and audiobooks–I’ve used it and so have other authors who I really respect. There are good things about the company and I’m not going to pretend they’re entirely evil, because that is simply too pat and ignores how helpful a company like Amazon can be in circumstances like our current ones. I also don’t like how people try to shame people who use companies like Amazon, ignoring that people have the right to stretch their dollars the best way they see fit. There’s no such thing as a perfect person or corporation.
However, I think we’re all trying to be more conscious of what we support when we spend our hard-earned cash these days. For that reason, I don’t purchase physical, deliverable products from Amazon anymore–including paper books. There is documented evidence that Amazon has poor labor practices and mistreats and neglects warehouse and delivery workers. They’ve been criticized for their poor safety precautions for warehouse employees during the current pandemic, and their lax response to the criticism. While the company claims to donate heavily to charity, they aren’t very transparent about it. Also, speaking of transparency, Amazon’s effective tax payments are nil, which is unacceptable for a trillion-dollar global corporation. That may not be entirely the company’s fault, but when they’re receiving multi-billion tax rebates and I’m receiving none–they certainly don’t need my money!
So who does need my money, and yours? Indie bookstores and publishers, for a start. In the face of the pandemic, many of our beloved small and independent local bookstores are really struggling, and some have been forced to close. A shop that depends on community building and face-to-face connections simply can’t thrive in a time when people can’t go out much and have to avoid being too close to other people. Smaller bookstores also lack the resources to deliver books on an affordable mass scale in the way that a megacorp like Amazon can.
That’s where Bookshop comes in. In their own words,
“Bookshop is an online bookstore with a mission to financially support local, independent bookstores. We believe that bookstores are essential to a healthy culture. They’re where authors can connect with readers, where we discover new writers, where children get hooked on the thrill of reading that can last a lifetime. They’re also anchors for our downtowns and communities. As more and more people buy their books online, we wanted to create an easy, convenient way for you to get your books and support bookstores at the same time.”from the Bookshop.org About page
The site has developed a great affiliate program that gives book advocates, publishers and bookshops an easy-to-use selling portal and pays a commission for each book sold. I’m an affiliate, and I’ve provided a link to my little shop below(I use to support the costs of this lil blog). But if you have a favorite indie bookstore, search for them on the site and any purchases you make will directly benefit them instead. The point of this post is to raise awareness of a platform for book-buying that is more community-oriented and ethical than Amazon, and I hope you check them out, even if it’s not through my link.
A few caveats–Bookshop, for all its wonders, is still in beta, and there are still a few site-wide seams and wrinkles being ironed out. This is especially apparent with books on backorder–I’ve ordered two books that had this status and because of the time it was taking to fulfill the orders, the site’s automated system automatically cancelled them. My money was refunded promptly and there were no real logistic problems. However, one bookworm to another–refunds are nice, but I wanted my books!
I’ve also had people express concern about the price of Bookshop’s stock being more expensive than Amazon. The first thing to remember is that part of what guarantees the low prices of a megacorp like Amazon is dodging corporate taxes and exploiting their workers in addition to buying and distributing in massive bulk. Bookshop sells books on behalf of indie booksellers who don’t have the ability to do these things, so sometimes their prices are higher(especially on popular titles and hardbacks). For small press and indie press books they’re very competitive, I find. As the site grows and begins to ship internationally, hopefully their prices will get better across the board. I understand book budgets though (since I’m always over mine), which brings me to my second point. Bookshop isn’t always more expensive. Recently I wanted to buy the e-book of the necromancer fantasy adventure Gideon the Ninth. I checked prices on Amazon and Bookshop and on the latter–the book is a whole dollar cheaper! I’d encourage you to use Bookshop when they have a competitive price like this, and keep checking in as their site grows.
Peace, beautiful people!