Boycott, save bookstores

The book-and-everything-else-selling behemoth Amazon is edging ever closer to a final loss of public trust.

First, the sales-tax imbroglio, in which Amazon threatened to dump independent sellers in states with sales taxes rather than collecting the funds. This had a large impact in California, where a settlement was eventually negotiated, allowing Amazon to defer collection of sales taxes in exchange for building fulfillment centers here—and thus creating jobs for Californians.

Then, there is the ongoing issue of labor conditions in Amazon’s fulfillment centers, with workers complaining about the ever-increasing demands for speedups and ever-decreasing break time. In some cases, workers have been going at top-speed in hot warehouses without air conditioning or breaks. Amazon has promised to fix these problems.

Now, though, we have the book boycotts. In an ongoing dispute about pricing with publishing giant Hachette Book Group, Amazon has been refusing to sell books by the publisher. “Buy” buttons have disappeared from the website, and when the books are offered for sale, delivery dates can be weeks or months in the future.

Add to that the revelations from a recent CNBC documentary, Amazon Rising, which details how independent sellers on the site have found Amazon tracking their best-selling products and making independent deals with manufacturers to offer those items at a lower cost, in effect undercutting the sales of their own partners.

This is all very bad business, especially when it becomes apparent that Amazon is not interested in making a profit on what it sells. Instead, Amazon functions as a massive data-collection center. It’s the information about consumers that’s valuable, and that makes Amazon something other than a retailer.

In this age of metadata and loss of privacy, Amazon is striking close to home. This is a hard choice, especially for readers who have become attached to the convenience of Amazon’s Kindle reading device, but now that the leviathan of retail is moving into phone sales, it’s time to stop. We cannot afford the loss of privacy, the constant destruction of small business and the end of local bookstores.

It’s time to go shopping with our feet instead of our smartphones, while that’s still an option.