Why I am leaving Amazon

Amazon and our collective consumption addiction

Yes, it’s cool that we can get nearly anything we want, from almost anywhere in the world, delivered to us within two days, for “free.” But it’s not really free — we’re just not seeing the hidden cost.

Amazon is happy to feed our collective consumption addiction — an addiction spread by the virus of separation.

Amazon is happy to feed our collective consumption addiction — an addiction spread by the virus of separation. It’s the “easy button” for all our material desires. The logistics behind this retail wizardry are largely invisible. When we trust in the magic hands of Amazon, we don’t have a clear picture of what goes into the things we click, click, buy. We have no idea who made our stuff, where the raw materials came from, or what conditions the workers may have endured in manufacturing it.

How Amazon screws over independent authors

I love the ease of one-stop-shopping as much as anyone else. But as an author with a self-published book on their platform, I got a deeper view into the dynamics within their digital walls. And I found a lot of issues with how they handle pricing, royalties, reporting, and payments for authors.

Pricing

Amazon controls the pricing of your book on their platform. There’s a lower limit and an upper limit to what you can charge based on your book’s file size, format, and genre. Even if you set a retail list price that falls within those pricing limitations, Amazon can arbitrarily decide to discount your book to a price that they choose, at any time.

Royalties

Amazon offers independent authors two equally unappetizing options for self-publishing on their platform.

  1. You give them a whopping 65% commission on every book sale. As the author and creator of your work, you take home only a 35% royalty.
  2. You join the Kindle Select program and give them a 30% commission on every book sale. You receive a 70% royalty. To qualify for this royalty rate, you have to grant exclusive distribution for a renewable period of 90 days. This means Amazon owns the rights to your book in all global marketplaces, and you cannot sell your book on any other online platform. I realized later, it also means they can give your book away as an enrollment incentive for Kindle Unlimited membership.

It feels like a naively self-limiting act of rebellion to reject the platform that controls such a vast majority of the market. Yet here I am.

Reporting

The way that downloads and page views are tracked and reported on Amazon is frustratingly opaque. Several times in the days and weeks after launching my book, a friend would text and tell me that they had just downloaded my e-book. Later that day, I would look at my author dashboard and see nothing — no new download activity.

Payments

There are three ways authors get paid on Amazon: 1) purchases of the physical book, 2) downloads of the Kindle e-book, and 3) page views of the e-book by Kindle Unlimited (KU) members, which earns you a share of the Kindle Select Global Fund. Right now, Amazon has a promotion, offering two months of KU free to new subscribers. They’re not yet receiving revenue from new subscribers, so it’s possible that these new subscribers’ reading activity doesn’t count towards KU page views. Totally unclear.

The system reeks from a lack of transparency, accountability, fairness, and integrity.

As an independent author on Amazon, what I kept seeing is that the system reeks from a lack of transparency, accountability, fairness, and integrity. Yet another example is the way they hand out “bestselling book” badges, which brazenly panders to those who have the cash to pay for such a privilege.

Voting with our money and attention

Amazon has grown to the point where they have a frightening amount of market power. And every purchase we make through their platform is casting a vote for them to continue their questionable business practices, unchecked. The only way that we can hold them accountable for operating with more fairness and transparency is by divesting ourselves from their empire, and by doing so immediately, en masse.

Every purchase we make through their platform is casting a vote for them to continue their questionable business practices, unchecked.

It has taken me some time to get here, but now I’m finally seeing the hypocrisy of distributing my book Regenerative Purpose on a platform that works the way that Amazon does. It makes no sense for me to do that.

I have no choice but to take my energy back from Amazon, because their practices are not aligned with my values.

Making the choice to move away from Amazon requires some sacrifices. As an independent author, it means investing in upgrades to my own website, paying more for paperback book printing and distribution, and doing a lot more grassroots outreach to let people know about my book.

The big picture: world domination

The big picture: Amazon is out for world domination. They account for nearly half of the US e-commerce market. Being a big company is not inherently “bad,” but when one company controls so much market share, it effectively kills off other providers of the same goods and services. When this happens, the dominant player can set whatever prices and terms and conditions they want — even as the quality of what they offer declines.

Amazon’s free delivery is not truly free. In fact, it’s very expensive. It’s time to stop compromising our values for the sake of convenience.

Amazon’s free delivery is not truly free. In fact, it’s very expensive. It’s time to stop compromising our values for the sake of convenience. I know it’s not going to be an easy addiction to break free from. But the alternative — not changing — is sickening to community, and humanity.

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Wendy May

Wendy May

Purpose pathlight. Conscious biz coach. New paradigm pioneer. Author, speaker and activist for Regenerative Purpose.