Why I don’t buy books from Amazon

On this blog, I haven’t exactly made it a secret that I’m not Amazon’s biggest fan. I don’t buy books from there and I do my best to support other book retailers. Today, I’m going to talk in-depth about why I don’t buy books from Amazon and don’t plan on going back.

Before I get started, though, a disclaimer: this isn’t mean to be a callout or guilt-trip for anyone who does buy books from Amazon. I know that not everyone has access to other book sources, and I know that Amazon is often the most accessible option, both in terms of price and the fact that they can deliver right to your door. I simply want to shed some light on my own reasons for avoiding Amazon and maybe encourage you, if it’s within your means, to seek other options. Also, everything in this post is very US-centric, since that’s the data and experience I have access to.

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I work at an independent bookstore. That in itself might be enough to answer the question in this post’s title.

Ever since I started working as a bookseller last year, I began to see firsthand the impact Amazon has on the book industry. It’s not uncommon for people to ask me why we don’t price match or why our books are so much more expensive than Amazon. I’ve had people directly tell me that they’re going to buy from Amazon instead.

And I get it. Books are expensive. Just maybe don’t say it right to your local bookseller’s face. But that’s business that we lost because of Amazon’s hold on bookselling. It’s money that would have supported a local business and gone back into the community, instead going to a corporation whose CEO is already the richest person in the world.

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Why are books on Amazon cheaper?

Okay, let’s talk money. I’m not going to claim to be an expert on this, but from my own knowledge and the research I’ve done, this is the situation:

Amazon sells more – a lot more – than just books, which means they can sell books at steep discounts and make up the loss through other goods. As a result, they have gained a large monopoly of online bookselling, which gives them unrivaled influence over publishers.

Like all book retailers, Amazon buys from publishers at a discount, but because of their monopoly, Amazon is able to impose wholesale terms that benefit them. They usually negotiate deeper discounts with publishers – discounts that smaller retailers like bookstores can’t afford – in order to push their prices down.

It’s not uncommon for Amazon to take advantage of this. For example, in 2012 Amazon demanded a 45% discount deal with a small publisher, McFarland & Co., nearly doubling the current discount and making it impossible for McFarland & Co. to make a profit through the books sold on Amazon. In 2010, Amazon refused to sell books from Macmillan, one of the Big Five publishers in the US, during a dispute about ebooks. Similarly, in 2014, Amazon briefly stopped allowing customers to preorder books published by Hachette in response to Hachette’s pushback about ebook pricing.

Amazon’s influence on the book industry goes beyond low prices. They’re able to bully publishers into getting what they want; if Amazon doesn’t like the terms of a deal, they have the power to seriously hurt publishers without making a dent on their own profits.

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How does this hurt publishers?

The examples with McFarland & Co., Macmillan, and Hachette demonstrate what Amazon can do if they’re not happy with a deal. Bigger publishers like Macmillan and Hachette can probably survive the hit (though not for long), but smaller publishers like McFarland & Co. can’t. Publishing is already incredibly centralized, with the Big Five publishers dominating everything else, and Amazon’s practices only exacerbate the problem.

Publishers might be companies whose main goal is making money, but at least they’re companies dedicated to readers and books. Amazon doesn’t care about that. They’re not going to push for diversity or listen to readers or put thought into what they put into the world, as long as it makes them money. And as long as Amazon has control over what publishers can and can’t do, that’s concerning to me.

Doesn’t cheaper books mean that people buy more books?

This is an argument I came across while I was researching for this post, and it’s a fair point. If, say, I could be buying two hardcover books for $30 from Amazon instead of one book for the same price, isn’t that better for the book industry?

Maybe in the short term it’s a good thing, but in the long run the whole system ends up hurting publishers, and therefore authors and readers as well. As I’ve already talked about, this model is unsustainable, especially for smaller publishers (who are often the first to support marginalized voices and unconventional stories).

Sure, maybe Amazon’s cheaper prices make it easier to buy more books. But wouldn’t you rather have better books?

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The benefits of supporting independent bookstores

Okay, time to get on my soapbox (as if I haven’t already been there this whole time). This topic could honestly have a whole post to itself, so I’ll keep this relatively short for now.

In addition to the monetary benefits of supporting a local business (such putting money and jobs back into the local economy), bookstores provide community spaces that simply can’t be replicated through online retailers like Amazon. (I’m not even going to get started on those physical Amazon Books stores.) Bookstores host events, organize author visits to local schools, and create a human genuine connection between publishers and readers.

Plus, booksellers can offer real, personalized recommendations that an algorithm can’t. In a bookstore, it’s much easier to find lesser-known books that you might never have learned about otherwise, either through a recommendation or simply by picking something up off the shelf.

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Yes, I’m incredibly biased in this argument, as an indie bookseller. But I’ve seen firsthand how important bookstores are – from kids excited about meeting their favorite authors to people ecstatic about finding the perfect next read. It’s frustrating to know that this is what’s at stake because of Amazon’s monopoly.

Independent bookstores aren’t going anywhere. In the last ten years, there has actually been growth in the number of indie bookstores in the US. But that only happened because people made the deliberate choice to buy from indies rather than online.

I try to put my money where my values are, which is why I don’t buy books from Amazon. It’s something that I can afford, especially since I frequently use my public library and therefore don’t buy every book I read. I know it’s not an option for everyone, but if it’s within your means, I definitely encourage you to go support just about anywhere else rather than Amazon.

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Alternatives to buying books on Amazon

  • BOOKSTORES. Obviously, independent bookstores are always my first choice, and I also support chains like Barnes & Noble. Secondhand stores are also nice, though they don’t directly support the author so I try to buy my books new.
    • If you want to find the nearest indie bookstore to you (in the US), check here.
    • Plus, lots of indie bookstores will ship to you!
  • Indiebound. Again, this site supports independent bookstores, which you know I’m a big fan of. I even have an affiliate link!
  • Wordery. This is a more recent discovery of mine, but it looks great. Free worldwide delivery!
  • Book Outlet. You can find books for ridiculously low prices here. Not everything is available, but it’s worth a look.

And just in case you didn’t know, Book Depository and Audible are both owned by Amazon, so I don’t buy from them either.

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Sure hope this post doesn’t put me on Jeff Bezos’ hit list.

What do you think of buying books from Amazon? What’s your favorite independent bookstore?

x Margaret 

goodreads | twitter | indiebound

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70 thoughts on “Why I don’t buy books from Amazon

  1. This is a really great post about the publishing side of things. It really sucks that Amazon has such a monopoly on books, especially considering the ethics of the company. I try not to buy from Amazon and support bookstores instead. I didn’t know indie bookstores ship books–I’ll have to check that out!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think a lot of people are vaguely familiar with the “Amazon is bad” rhetoric, but they don’t really know HOW bad it is or think about how this is going to affect them (and everyone) long-term. I agree indie bookstores aren’t going anywhere, but the major chain competitors like Barnes and Noble actually might close, and that will be a huge loss.

    I also try to tell people all the time that Amazon is selling books at a loss because…people don’t know. I think they see Amazon selling a new YA hardcover for $13 instead of $18 and think, “SEE! That book is worth $13! Anyone charging $18 is cheating me!” No…Amazon is selling the book for less than it’s worth because they don’t care if they lose money on it.

    I also disagree with the “people buy more books if they’re cheaper” argument. I mean, maybe some people under certain circumstance. I can see some people just buying $3 e-books willy-nilly because “Why not? It’s so cheap!” But the physical books are really often not that much cheaper than list price these days. If I’m only saving $3-$5 per book, would I really buy more because of it? Like, if I can get a $18 book for $13, I would still personally buy just one book, not choose to buy two books for $26.

    I also think that, you know, people read a finite number of books. The blogosphere can skew perspectives because we’re avid readers and there are these outlier people who read 300 books a year or whatever, but the average person (I forget the number exactly from the studies I’ve seen) reads probably like 0-10 books a year. The “average” avid reader might read like 30-50 books a year. How many is someone really going to buy? My own purchasing habits would definitely be related to how many books I expect to read, and making it “affordable” for me to purchase 100 books a year means nothing if I can only read 50 anyway.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. What you said about Barnes & Noble is so true, and something that I didn’t even touch on in this! The prospect of major chains like that going under is definitely concerning.

      And yes, it’s definitely frustrating when people think that Amazon’s book prices are the REAL prices and other places mark them up.

      You’re so right about the whole “people buy more books if they’re cheaper” argument. It’s harder to see from inside the book community, but it’s true that most people don’t read that much or buy lots of books. It’s not as if buying cheaper books allows people to READ more books (otherwise we’d all be reading nonstop thanks to public libraries). Basically, it’s an argument that doesn’t make sense.

      Thanks for such a thoughtful comment! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Tangentially related, I do admire how publishers have started to sell more collector’s and special editions to solve the “people can only read (and therefore buy) so many books” problem. Now you can buy five editions of the same book and give publishers more money while still only having to read the book once! :p

        Liked by 1 person

      2. First of all, I really needed a blog post like that, so thanks for making one!

        Down to the nitty gritty:
        I mainly support indie bookstores instead of Amazon, but as an international buyer (outside the US that is) finding affordable books and shipping can be challenging. My silver lining is certain bargain ebooks, because I think that I get access to books in a way that is not piracy (which is a whole other story) and support publishers and authors; keep in mind that I don’t have access to a library with ebooks in English. I’m also considering an Audible subscription, because again it’s one of the most affordable and legal ways to get access to audiobooks whilst supporting authors and publishing houses.

        Other that that, I usually go for Wordery instead of BD after I found out they were bought by Amazon a few years back. I’ve also found a few big bookshops in my country with a good selection of foreign books and rather competitive prices. I do wish that indie bookstores offer at least a 10% discount, since that’s the best one can ask for new releases anyway (mostly talking about translated fiction in my country in this scenario, not sure how that goes in other countries).

        I don’t know much about Indiebound and international shipping, but I will try to look more into that. I was wondering, what’s your opinion on Barnes&Noble? I’ve never been to one, but I see all American booktubers talk about it and I believe they offer international shipping.

        Once again, great discussion, loved the blog post!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yep, I know it’s a completely different story for readers outside of the US, and Amazon is often the best – or only – way to get certain books. But that’s great to hear that you’ve used Wordery and found some bookstores near you! I’m not sure if Indiebound ships internationally…
        But I’m definitely a fan of Barnes & Noble! I don’t shop there often, but they’re a great alternative to Amazon. Thanks so much for your comment!!

        Like

  3. This is such an informative post! Just 2 days ago I was wondering to myself, “Why does everyone hate buying from Amazon so much?” and this answered my questions! (Also, I didn’t know Book Depository was owned by Amazon! I don’t use them, but I’ve thought about it in the past.)

    I try not to buy from Amazon mostly because they don’t handle my books very well. Almost every single book I’ve received from them has arrived damaged in some way (twice I’ve received books with not only a torn cover, but also a torn hardback 😦 ). Whenever I do buy from them, it’s because it is the cheaper option. I’ve always loved owning a collection of books, and now that I’m in the book community and I’m exposed to so many more books than I was a year ago, I’m also buying more, and all of that money adds up, unfortunately. I also knew there were some “bad” parts of Amazon, and I kind of tried to stay away, but I wasn’t aware of how bad it was until this post.

    Right now, I try to buy books from Barnes & Noble and BookOutlet as much as possible. BookOutlet has a lot of the options I like, and it’s fun and cheap to buy books in bulk every now and then. I’ve already put myself on a book buying ban for now, but the next time I buy some books, I’ll use an indie store. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad I could help inform you! 😊 And that’s great that you plan to buy from an indie next time!

      That’s so frustrating that Amazon treats their books so poorly, and honestly is kind of indicative of their attitude towards books in general imo. (How do you tear a hardcover??) It’s definitely understandable to go to them first because they’re cheaper – I did too for a long time – but now that I know more about the situation, I want even more to support other places.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you so much to reiterate how important it is to vote with our dollars…okay, we’re not actually voting but you know what I mean. If I can eat out or buy a $5 latte or get drinks, I can spend $10 or $18 on a paperback or $18 or $25 on a hardcover once in awhile. It’s not as if I have to buy a full priced book every single week or month all year around. Not to mention, indies have membership discounts. I guess if you’re an avid reader and you read 100 books a year, I can see why buying indie wouldn’t be economically beneficial. But I feel like if you’re already reading 100 books a year, spending some of that cash on indies wouldn’t hurt?

    I think if someone is broke, one way to boycott or protest Amazon is to use the library (if they have one). I feel like it’s almost better to borrow there than spend on Amazon because one purchase from Amazon is still money in their pockets. I could be wrong. But like Briana said, the average reader is reading less than we are lead to believe and honestly? I really feel like it’s a bunch of rich people who shop at Amazon. I wouldn’t be surprised if the average income of Amazon users is relatively high. I will admit that as a jobless, carless 18 year old I used Amazon frequently (but I do remember grabbing books full price with my pocket money as well since I wasn’t reading 100 books a year anyway).

    Excellent post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I think it definitely does count as voting with your dollars! It’s true that buying all your books at full price maybe isn’t the best economic option if you’re reading 100+ a year, but like you said, that’s what public libraries are for. (Of course, not everyone has access to public libraries, which is why this isn’t a clear-cut issue.)

      But yeah, I doubt that EVERYONE who buys their books from Amazon is doing it because they’re struggling financially. I definitely used Amazon back in the day when all I cared about was finding the cheapest option (and when I didn’t know any better), but now, even though I’m not exactly rolling in cash, I try to put my dollars elsewhere.

      Thanks so much for your comment!

      Like

  5. Brilliant post! I’m so glad to finally see someone make a post about this issue. I work for a small business that sells on Amazon, so have had firsthand experience of what it’s like to be a seller on their systems. They are categorically AWFUL. Honestly, I think Amazon is one of the sleaziest companies around today – trying to self publish a book on their systems is terrible. They have a lot of sway, which they use to bully small companies – it’s their way or the highway, basically. I never buy books from them and I encourage anyone else to stay away too.

    As for your list of alternatives, Waterstones is a great chain bookstore in the UK!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh no, I can imagine that would be so frustrating! I only touched on the book side of things because that’s all I really feel qualified to talk about, but it’s true that Amazon has so much control over ALL of the online market. And they can use it to get pretty much anything they want. Truly awful.

      Waterstones is great, though!! That’s a wonderful alternative 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I hate that Amazon sells so many books, yet doesn’t have any respect for them. I have bought from there in the past and I would say at least half of the paperbacks I got arrived damaged.

        I kind of resent that I own a Kindle but there just isn’t that much choice in the ebook market. I do try to use Scribd and my online library and leave the Kindle for NetGalley ARCs and those books I just can’t find anywhere else.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. This is such an amazing post.

    I definitely agree that Amazon seems to be a bully, and that they are being extremely cruel to publishers. Unnecessarily cruel.

    I’ll admit now that I have bought from Book Depository (which I didn’t know was owned by Amazon until now) and will maybe do so for box sets considering the only way to order them at my home is through Mighty Ape, which will sometimes charge up to two or three times more.
    I try to buy at my local – Whitcoulls – where I can get most books and independent book stores where I can, and what they don’t have our department stores (similar to Target and Walmart) will most likely have.

    Thank you for this post, it was super duper informative and has helped me see a side of Amazon that I never carefully considered.

    – Emma 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much!

      I didn’t know that BD was owned by Amazon for a long time either, so I definitely bought from them thinking I was avoiding Amazon 😔 It’s definitely understandable to choose that when the alternative is paying so much more. And that’s great that you have some physical bookstores near you! 😀 I’m glad I could help inform you about the whole situation!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow, I had no idea Amazon was so sleazy. I’ve never bought a book there (or anyone I know irl) because in my country they are horribly expensive. Once I tried ordering a book, it was $17, but with shipping it was around $90. Never added anything into my cart ever since.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This was such a brilliant post!! And it was written so accessibly and just PERFECT!!
    I loved it when you said “I try to put my money where my values are, which is why I don’t buy books from Amazon.” because I feel like at times it can be easy to say I care but it is easy to buy a cheap book of amazon but you have to make a difference yourself to support the book industry. You do make an individual difference and you have to take responsibility for that.

    I also think this was really educational as I didn’t know too much about Amazon until a while ago and I had no idea Book Depo was owned by amazon until quite recently!! So it is really important to get that information out there so people can make informed decisions.

    I definitely want to stop using amazon and use my local bookstore or Wordery!! Thank you so much for this post, it is so important!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Sophie! 😊

      I’ve definitely put more of an effort to support my values with how I spend my money, and even though I haven’t accomplished that in every area of my life, it’s important to me to do that for books.

      And yep, I think a lot of people don’t know about BD….and it’s really too bad, since it’s otherwise a great place to buy books 😔 I’m glad I could encourage you to buy from your local bookstore, though! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I always prefer to browse a bookstore over online shopping. Whenever we go on a road trip or vacation, the first thing I do is look for bookstores (new and used) along the route. There’s nothing like holding a book in your hands.

    Interesting side-note, Book Outlet has a physical store nearby, and that’s one of my wife’s favorite places to go looking for books. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. This was a very important post. Well done! You really opened up my mind because honestly Amazon used to be my usual goto for books. As of this past year I have been trying to buy from indie bookstores more or Barnes and Noble. Reading this post has made it all the more important to me to continue this practice! Thank you for opening my eyes wider ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  11. This is such a brilliant and insightful post and I wholeheartedly agree with everything you’ve said. I don’t typically buy as many books as I use to, mainly due to shelf-space/saving money, but when I do I make a point of actively seeking out bookstores over amazon. Yes, amazon is cheaper, but I’ve read a couple of stories on how they manipulate companies to their will and it doesn’t sit right with me. So, am I willing to pay more for a book I find at a bookstore? Yes, because the only way local businesses have a chance of surviving is if people actively make the effort to support them.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. This is such a well written and informative post! I never knew how bad Amazon was for books/bookstores/publishers… yikes. I never really buy books (I think I bought 1 new book in the past two years…), but on the rare occasion I do, I tend to go to Barnes and Noble rather than Amazon, and now I’m definitely going to keep that up!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. This was such an interesting post. I’ve obviously heard before that it’s way better to support indie booksellers than Amazon, but I’d never had it broken down in such a clear manner. I think I’m going to try to avoid buying books from Amazon now. I’m lucky enough to live near quite a few book stores, so it’s definitely doable for me. This was such a wonderful post!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Margaret, this post is absolutely incredible! Like, oh my word there’s so much research behind it and it mixes so well with your opinion, and I’m really just in love with it. I too also try to avoid buying books from Amazon and supporting book stores, so I could relate with a lot of what you mentioned here. Especially in the fact that Amazon can sell their books for so much cheaper, but buying from a bookstore helps and supports the author a whole heck of a lot more. Although, I do have to admit, we don’t have many indie bookstores where I live which is upsetting, but I will happily look into the indie stores that ship.

    I also really love the thought process that while we cater to our love of reading, we can make a difference in that author’s life or in the grand scheme of things. As you said, by purchasing books from bookstores or indies, we’re not only telling the author, “hey, I think I’ll like this book so here’s some money for all of your hard work and talent,” buy we’re also telling the book industry what stories we’re interested in, which will ultimately produce more of those stories. Incredible. Incredible. Incredible.

    Again, congratulations on this post! It’s seriously something incredible ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahhhh thank you so much, that’s so kind of you! 😀

      Gotta love actually being able to support authors through buying their books! 🙌 And yep, I think it’s so important to actually SHOW what kinds of stories we’re interested in by giving them money, and through that pushing for more inclusive and diverse stories.

      That’s too bad that you don’t have many indies near you, but looking into ones that ship is a great option. (You might already know this, but Books of Wonder in NYC ships!)

      Thanks again so much! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  15. I’ve been buying books from Amazon forever, but it’s been sitting wrong with me for the past few years, and I just never thought of so many of these. Like, I think I knew, but it just didn’t occur to me? Which is definitely because I come from such a privileged background. But this has made me think so much, and I really appreciate that! I’ve been doing more going to B&N instead of just popping onto Amazon lately, but I want you to know that I’m making the switch right now. I’m going to cancel all of my preorders and switch them over because it’s not worth it. I want books to remain accessible and diverse, and the only way to do that is to actually support the book community, not another jerk billionaire.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s definitely understandable! I don’t think it’s something most people think about, and the fact that you’re willing to make a conscious effort to switch is amazing!! I’m so happy to hear that I could inspire that 😀 Here’s to accessible and diverse books!!

      Liked by 1 person

  16. I love bookstores so much!! Barnes and Noble is my favorite place to go when I shop for YA. I have to use Amazon for some books that are harder to find, like if I want some academic book I can’t find anywhere else. I don’t really like using Amazon, though.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. oooh I love BookOutlet the books are cheap af and I can get so much more for my $$!!! I love this post— super informative and I agree with so much of what your saying.

    I also have discovered that I am not the biggest fan of amazon bookstores because they do not take cash and also they only carry the most popular books sold on amazon.com… this makes it really hard to find lesser known or even just older books :(( I try to shop locally and stop in a bookstore ever chance I get! (this is in part bc my soul cannot pass a bookstore without going in lol and bc I truly believe in shopping locally!) Amazing post love 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. BookOutlet is great for finding cheap books!! I’m glad you found this post so informative 😀

      Wow, I didn’t realize the Amazon bookstores didn’t take cash. And it’s frustrating that they only have the most popular books. So much for supportive small authors. Haha, I feel the same way about bookstores – I can’t pass by without stepping inside! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  18. This is such an interesting post, I love it so much and thank you for putting a light on all of the issues about Amazon in such a great blog post, I’ve learned a whole damn lot after reading this and I appreciate this so much.
    Unfortunately, I’ve been ordering from Amazon and lately Book Depository, just as well, as an intl reader, it’s hard to come by English titles directly in bookstores, the closest bookstore with English books is almost 100 km away from where I live and they just don’t have a big collection of young adult books, unfortunately. I need to explore the Wordery option a little more and see what they have and if I can order from there 🙂
    Thank you so much for this post. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I worked for a while at my local indie store, saw the impact of Amazon’s pricing there too. Amazon has people believing their book pricing is logical when really, they can just afford not to make money on books. Their pricing is not reasonable pricing for a store that actually has to make a profit from selling books!

    Liked by 1 person

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