Patrick Rhone writes about why he used Amazon for affiliate links and why he no longer does so. He now favors a site called Indiebound, which serves to federate a group of independent bookstores and positions itself as the conscientious consumer alternative to Amazon.
In the post, Rhone quotes Dan J on the danger of using the ubiquitous e-commerce site for book recommendations.
The problem with linking to Amazon as a “safe default” is the same as the problem with just publishing your book on Amazon and calling it a day: it entrenches Amazon as The One True Place Where Books Are, and, while convenient, that’s not good… it’s not good for society to have one big private corporation responsible for distributing such a huge proportion of the collective written work of the human race.
This highlights a problem that pops into my brain every time I make a purchase from Amazon. Not only do I not want Amazon to own the market on books, I don’t want them to own the market on almost any category of consumer goods. I would rather they not be the leading retailer of apparel, furniture, electronics, vinyl records, hygiene merchandise or any other product groups.
When I was younger, Blockbuster Video was in its ascendency. As they grew, I watched a pattern emerge. When there were good, independent video stores in the same area, Blockbuster aggressively sent out coupons that offered excellent deals on rentals. They were enticing and certainly gave a customer reason to choose them over the competition. When, inevitably, the independent stores went our of business, the well of coupons from Blockbuster magically dried up. I witnessed this phenomenon play out a number of times.
I can’t help but think of the Blockbuster strategy whenever I can choose between Amazon and a viable alternative. The alternative would preferably be an independent business, but even another corporate chain is better. A chain or independent, hopefully, that specializes in a certain segment of products and that can build their business around enthusiastic customers.
I say all of these things as an Amazon shareholder who fully believes the market has room for a variety of retail establishments and that, despite that, Amazon will continue to grow.