If you hadn’t heard, Amazon, the online bookseller, has become a bit of a monster, in more ways than one. It dominates the online market and it does so by using a
business model that depends on paying its warehouse staff low wages and effective tax avoidance. Added to that, its success at undercutting the high street, at the expense of its workers and government tax earnings, means traditional book shops are struggling.
Last year, I finally had enough, when I heard that Amazon deliberately puts its warehouses in areas with chronic unemployment, allowing it to dictate the lowest wages and zero hours contracts. Not paying tax is one thing, but basing your business on exploiting the most vulnerable is just despicable. I used to do all my Christmas shopping at Amazon. It was easy, convenient and cheaper – what’s not to love? But I can’t go on exploiting underpaid workers, just so that I can consume more ‘stuff’ and get it tomorrow, because I can’t wait until next week. Added to that, I’m not convinced that Amazon is the best place for authors either. I’m not self-published, so I can’t speak from personal experience, but paying authors by the number of pages read seems like a strange way forward.
Once I decided to leave Amazon, it was time to find alternatives, so I thought I’d share.
Cons: Launched in 2013, Wordery bills itself as the online alternative to Amazon and calls itself an online, independent bookshop. However, a bit of digging on Ethical Consumer reveals that it’s actually a book wholesaler, which is how it manages to undercut Amazon, but it may not be the best thing for real, bricks and mortar indie book shops. It only sells books.
Pros: It is British, so it pays its taxes. It’s not Amazon. Free delivery. Good, modern website.
Hive is an online hub for a network of local bookshops. The idea is that you can shop online for the convenience, but Hive finds the nearest member bookshop to your address and orders it from them. This way, you are actually supporting your local bookshop, but get the benefit of online shopping.
Cons: Sales through Hive don’t give bookshops as much as sales made by customers who actually walk through the door, because Hive gets a percentage of every sale.
Pros: It’s not Amazon. It appears to pay its taxes. Sells CDs, DVDs and stationary, not just books. Fast and free delivery.
Foyles is a bricks and mortar bookshop with a small chain nationwide. However, it has a very good website and you can get free delivery to your local Foyles.
Cons: It only sells books. You pay for delivery. It’s not as fast as Amazon, but it pays taxes – small price to pay.
Pros: Really wide choice of books. A really engaging website and reward points system. No parent company and pays UK taxes with no avoidance, so it’s one of the most ethical online book sellers. It’s a bookshop, not just online.
Last but not least…
Go to your local, independent bookshop. The only way we’re going to save bookshops is by buying from them.
My local bookshop is called Brendon Books.
Pros: Will order any book you like. Hosts regular events, such as talks with authors and book signings. Organises Taunton Literary Festival and supports local authors by stocking their books, even if they’re self-published. Knows its customers. British owned and pays its taxes. Stocks new and used books.
Cons: No online delivery, but you can order online and pick up in store.
So, do your bit to support smaller, more ethical book sellers, especially your local bookshop. Trust me, it makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.