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Reasons not to buy from Amazon

If you want to order a book (or something else), don't buy it from Amazon. Amazon harms its customers, as well as workers, the national treasury, and many others that it affects.

If you want to order a book, order it directly from the publisher or through a local book store. If you want to use a URL to refer to a book, please don't use an Amazon page.

Here's a good (though long) overview of why Amazon's overall activity is harmful to society overall.

Here are specific reasons — plenty of them.

Restricting and Shafting Customers

Amazon distributes ebooks in a way that strips users of many freedoms (PDF or html).

Amazon's on-line music "sales" have some of the same problems as the ebooks: users are required to identify themselves and sign a contract that denies them the freedoms they would have with a CD.

The Amazon Swindle has a back door that can erase books. We found out about this when Amazon remotely erased thousands of copies of 1984. In response to criticism, Amazon promised it would never do this again unless ordered to by the state, which I find not very comforting.

Amazon did not keep that promise. In 2012 it wiped a user's Kindle and deleted her account, then offered her kafkaesque "explanations".

Amazon's book recommendations are not based honestly on algorithms that try to figure out what users might like. Publishers .

Amazon rents textbooks to students with a requirement not to take them across state lines.

Amazon "sold" someone Disney Christmas videos (via remote access, not a local copy); subsequently Amazon, at Disney's command, cut off access for Christmas. This demonstrates why we should not trust remote hosting for copies of published works. Insist on having your own copy which is yours.

Amazon's service, that offers you an MP3 for CDs you bought there, respects your rights less than ripping the CDs yourself.

Amazon's complex financial arrangements bypass UK credit card consumer protection.


Amazon cut off service to Wikileaks, claiming that whistleblowing violates its terms of service. It had no need to go to court to prove this, because if you rent a server from Amazon, you have no rights.

Amazon censored an ebook that exposed how ebook bestseller lists can be manipulated (and therefore are meaningless).

Exploiting workers mercilessly

Amazon's shipping in the US is done in a sweatshop. More info, including paramedics standing by for workers who pass out from the heat.

Workers in an Amazon warehouse and shipping center walk all day under the orders of a computer, and are forbidden even to speak to each other.

A stress expert, looking at an undercover report about an Amazon warehouse, says these conditions make physical and mental illness more likely.

Shafting others in the publishing world

Amazon squeezes small publishers. For instance, Amazon cut off Swindle sales for an independent book distributor in order to press for bigger discounts. (The article ends by promoting ebooks for another platform, the Shnook from Barnes and Noble. While that company is not as nasty to small publishers, its ebooks do violate your freedom in most of the same ways.)

Amazon doesn't just compete with independent book stores, it arrogantly seeks to destroy them. Independent book stores urge people not to buy from Amazon.

Amazon appears to treat self-published authors well, but it can unilaterally cut the price of their books. And when it does, the authors are the ones who lose.

Amazon is bad for books and writing.

Dodging taxes

Amazon's tax avoidance means it sucks money out of your country's economy.

Amazon charges publishers for 20% sales tax in the UK even though the tax it pays is 3%.

UK independent bookstores condemn Amazon for not paying taxes as they do.

Political harm

Amazon was a member of ALEC. ALEC is the right-wing lobbying group that promotes voter-suppression laws and "shoot first" laws, as well as attacks against wages and working conditions in the US.

Amazon quit ALEC after public pressure in May 2012, but I am sure it still supports the same nasty policies and is waiting for a new tool to achieve them.

Copyright (c) 2011-2014 Richard Stallman
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