Confronting Amazon: Adventures in Moral Cowardice

I admit it: Amazon’s got me right where they want me, and I’ve been mostly loving it. And no, it’s not just ’cause I live on an island where you can’t always get what you want. I’ve slid into loving the whole experience, from the one-click purchase to the insanely speedy arrival of that smiley package at my door.

As an author and a loyal supporter of indie bookstores, of course, I rarely buy books from Amazon. (Irony! Remember when they called themselves “Earth’s Largest Bookstore?” Me neither.) For example, if you want to buy my books, I ask that you request your favorite Indie bookstore to order them.*Click on the link to see how: The Flying Burgowski.

*This shameless self-promotion brought to you by #supportyourlocalauthor

But my own books are published through Createspace, an Amazon company. And I was given a Kindle. Don’t use it much, but when I do–hello, Amazon. And did I mention how much I love finding packages at my door?

So of course I signed up for Amazon Prime. Ooh, free movies and music too! Got a little grumpy when they raised the price, but still–ooh, shiny free shipping. Which just encourages me to one-click more often.

I do support my local stationery/office supplies/gift shop, and my hardware store. I do send most of my loved ones homemade granola for Christmas, and what clothes I don’t buy at our Thrift Shop I buy at REI.

But oh wow, I can get six pairs of garden gloves for the price of one here on-island? And they’ll be here tomorrow?

Lately I’ve become disturbed by my own rampant acquisitiveness, but not enough to slow myself down much. But now, two additional considerations are doing just that.

First, I began hearing and reading news stores about Amazon using unmarked vehicles to ship, and calling the drivers “independent contractors.” Because Prime speed is the ultimate goal, these drivers are not given routes which avoid dangerous left turns (which UPS drivers do avoid). And if an “independent” Amazon driver does hurt or kill someone, Amazon dodges legal responsibility.

Second–and this was the biggie–I learned that Amazon has been making its cloud storage available to Palantir, the data-mining company that ICE uses to target people for arrest and deportation.

According to Karen Hao of MIT Technology Review,

a new investigation, published today, sheds more light on the web of tech companies involved in supporting ICE and its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security.

The report, commissioned by activist organizations Mijente, the National Immigration Project, and the Immigrant Defense Project, found that Amazon has played as central a role as Palantir in providing the backbone infrastructure for many of ICE’s, and DHS’s, key programs. Amazon has also enjoyed a cozy relationship with the federal government that has helped it secure an outsize number of government contracts.

Hold up. Amazon is helping La Migra do its dirty work? THESE people?

ICE’s Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma.

That one hit me right where I live–or try to live. Because my first thought was, Wow, I need to join that Amazon boycott–and not just on Prime Day

And my second thought? I can’t quit Amazon! I just…can’t.

Stop selling my books? Ditch my Kindle? This is where the rubber of social activism meets the road of sacrifice. And I failed the test big time.

To salvage a few ounces of moral authority, I made two decisions.

  1. I quit Amazon Prime. At the very least, they won’t be getting an automatic $120 from me every year. And between my new efforts to avoid Amazon, and the very real costs of shipping, they won’t be getting as much of my money.
  2. I signed up for Amazon Smile, which allows you to donate 0.5% of eligible purchases to the charity of your choice. And I designated Advocates for Immigrants in Detention Northwest as my recipient.

But I’m still not very happy about my dependence on this giant company which I’ve loved so dearly and so long. Can I get an Amen? 😦

Indie vs. Amazon: Like Bambi vs. Godzilla, Except Godzilla Has Such Great Products…

I’m supposed to be on Bambi’s side, right? I’m a WRITER. We’re sentimental.

This week I encountered another embarrassing enlightening hurdle step in the learning curve of Indie Authorship: getting my book, The Flying Burgowski, registered with Indiebound.

Oh yeah, Indiebound–isn’t that the site which helps you locate independent bookstores near you? I’d heard of it, supported it in a knee-jerk, theoretical way, but that was all. Then a bookstore owner with whom I’m in contact about doing a reading suggested that I link my book with Indiebound and put that upfront on my website. She was actually pretty nice about it, but I could tell what she wanted to say was more like



Like, “Duh, lady–you’re asking for my support, so how about supporting ME?”

So I registered my book with Indiebound. Just like that. Or not.

See, first of all I had to learn what it WAS, exactly. This bookshop owner is clearly a busy person, so she forwarded my ridiculously naive question to a nice person at Indiebound, who sent me this answer: is not its own ecommerce platform; it is a directory that will redirect potential customers to independent bookstores’ ecommerce platforms. So while you can’t sell the book on itself, you can list the book on and independent bookstores would be more able to sell it.


Aha! Got it. But…hmmm. My book is published via CreateSpace, an Amazon company. Why would Indiebound want to list a book published by the company that’s trying to muscle it out of business?

The Indiebound person was just as nice as the bookshop owner, because here’s what she didn’t say:



Nope, she said this:

Publishing via CreateSpace doesn’t necessarily preclude distribution through an indie, but, depending on each store and its ownership, you may encounter pushback to fulfilling an order for a CreateSpace title, since Amazon is indies’ main competitor. It depends on each store’s policy and approach.

So, yeah. Here I am, brave, stalwart Indie author, asking all my favorite Indie bookstore owners to please help me sell my Indie book that I published thanks to the Un-indiest marketing entity in the history of ever. (OK, no, I take that back–at least Walmart doesn’t have a publishing arm. Yet.)

Chapter Two of my novel is titled “Irony,” and there the protagonist, Jocelyn Burgowski, gives her favorite teacher’s definition: “Irony = 1 part ‘Ha Ha’ + 1 part ‘Ouch’.”

Feelin’ a little that way this morning. Luckily, the “ouchy” part is largely salved by gratitude: for a life which has allowed me to become an author, and for all the people who have helped me get here, including the ongoing guidance of people like the two women mentioned above, who were clearly not members of the NSS:


And, yes, gratitude for Godzilla Amazon’s CreateSpace. Which means gratitude for Amazon. There, I said it.

Anyone else feeling stuck in this big-vs.-small quandary? What situations make you feel like you’re choosing to put your money where your principles aren’t? (Don’t worry–I will be the last person to judge.)