About Me

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I write well researched but readable historical and contemporary novels and some non-fiction. I live in a Scottish country cottage with my artist husband. I love gardening and I also collect the fascinating antique textiles that often find their way into my fiction. This blog is about all these things and more!

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Why You Shouldn't Boycott Amazon

Old and new: teddies and Kindle
As Christmas approaches, I've been encouraged by a few colleagues and even one or two friends to boycott Amazon. They've called it a monster, a parasite, and a few other nasty names besides, some of them (oddly enough) while making enthusiastic use of it as a distributor.

Do they realise, I wonder, that in calling for a boycott of Amazon, they are in effect, calling for a boycott of the small cottage industry that is me and thousands, perhaps millions of people like me? Literally cottage industry in my case because I live and work and file my tax returns from a cottage. But I distribute - among other places - on Amazon.

If they don't like Amazon's tax arrangements, then they need to lobby politicians to change the law, but they are going to have to do it for all those other mega corporations that do exactly the same kind of legal tax avoidance. As the director general of the CBI says, if the government wants a different result from the tax system, it must change the rules. Mind you, we should be very careful what we wish for.  The latest EU changes to VAT on digital downloads are certain to have the presumably unintended consequence of driving more and more small businesses away from distributing their product themselves and into the arms of the big companies. One can only assume that they were drafted by a bunch of elderly and ridiculously well-paid denizens of Brussels who have no idea how the internet works. Unless there is a change of heart, from 1st January, not only will eBooks cost more, (apologies to my readers, but since my prices are quite low anyway it won't be too draconian) but most EU based digital businesses - people selling everything from knitting patterns to training manuals online - will either have to decide to trade exclusively via the likes of Amazon or not trade within other EU countries at all. The alternatives, for a micro-business, will be so costly as to be utterly unrealistic. On the whole, I've been a supporter of the EU, but when they make cross border trading this stupidly problematic, you've got to ask yourself what's the point? This is the first time that I've genuinely started to think that in any referendum, I might well vote to leave!

Amazon is my main distributor for my self published work. And one of the distributors for my publisher too. Other distributors are, of course, available and I use some of them, but the truth is that at present, nowhere sells as well for me as Amazon, and no other distributor pays me the monthly sum of money that allows me to carry on writing fiction and occasionally publishing elsewhere.

The garden of my 'cottage industry'.
All the same, I don't actually 'love' Amazon although I may joke about it. There are precious few people in the world I love and I can't think of a single company or organisation that merits that kind of affection although I'll admit that T K Maxx gives me a bit of a buzz.

But I do respect Amazon. They sell books for me all the time. And they pay a decent share of the proceeds on the nail, every month, with great efficiency.  Even in the middle of the recent VAT hideousness, they have done what they can to make things easier for the small trader.

There are thousands of people like me in all kinds of businesses, large, medium and very very small. If you want to boycott Amazon for Christmas, that's your prerogative. But don't then kid yourself that you are supporting small businesses, cottage industries like mine.

Because you're not. You are damaging them. Damaging us all: the writer, the chocolate maker,  the coffee roaster, and the fabulous loose leaf tea blender I've just discovered while researching this post, as well as the artist, the crafter, the toymaker and the herbalist. I don't expect they're supporting an Amazon or an Etsy or a Google boycott either.  Many of them have nice little 'high street' or rural shops that are also supported by online selling  Because that's the way it works these days. Even small shops sell online as well. They sell in as many ways as they possibly can. Except to other EU countries, from their own websites after January. That's one boycott I'd be willing to support.

Meanwhile, I'm off to buy some tea. From a small business, a cottage industry really. Probably via Amazon.

2 comments:

Susan Price said...

Completely agree, Catherine. As for politicians and governments - as Osbourne takes us back to the 1930s - I increasingly think we need very different politicians and different governments.
How about deciding everything by the wisdom of crowds, via the internet?

Bill Kirton said...

Good common sense as usual, Catherine. The 'I won't buy from Amazon but you should because I sell there' is a baffling position.