Books with Spine is all about books that change the world for the better, so it’s sad that the biggest bookseller on Earth is, frankly, not good for our planet.
Here’s a fun fact for anyone who’s suffered financially during the global pandemic: As reported by the BBC recently, the net worth of Amazon boss Jeff Bezos climbed to such an extent from March to September 2020 that he could have given all 876,000 employees a bonus of $105,000 and still been as wealthy as he was before the pandemic. Of course, none of his financial success will find its way to the workers upon whom that success depends. YUCK.
Bezos stepped down as Amazon CEO last week, and if he were planning to join the likes of philanthropists Warren Buffet and Bill Gates in spending his fortune solving the world’s problems, that would be lovely. But no. Like another obscenely wealthy man, Elon Musk, Bezos is going to blow his load on space exploration (read exploitation) because humankind needs other planets to mess up. So, I’m done with Amazon. Even with Bezos gone, I cannot bear how omnipresent the Amazon corporation is … and how it reputedly treats its warehouse workers. DONE, I tell you.
I’m not suggesting you ditch Amazon altogether if you don’t want to. But I do hope to persuade you to at least consider more ethical and environmentally friendly book buying options that also support authors and indie bookstores, all from the comfort of your own home. Here are three Amazon alternatives I discovered recently.
This is an affordable subscription service and subscribers get a box of 4 surprise books in a genre of their choice at intervals of their choosing. Great for yourself or as a gift.
Here’s what they say:
"77,000,000 books get destroyed every year in the UK alone. Why? Just 17% of books are lucky enough to receive a decent marketing budget and make it to the ‘Bestsellers’ list created via the media and in bookstores. As a result, some of the BEST books published don't make the shelves and go unread. Every box you buy saves 4 brand new books from getting destroyed.
The Chicago Tribune says, “Bookshop.org hopes to play Rebel Alliance to Amazon’s Empire.” Happily, this online bookstore that started trading in the US in 2018 is now trading in the UK, and it has ambitions to expand throughout Europe. What’s great about it? Book buyers can nominate a local bookshop to receive the profit of the sale.
"By design, we give away over 75% of our profit margin to stores, publications, authors and others who make up the thriving, inspirational culture around books! We hope that Bookshop.org can help strengthen the fragile ecosystem and margins around bookselling and keep local bookshops an integral part of our culture and communities.
Also, if you’re an author or booklover, it has a great affiliate programme, so you can earn money by promoting your love of books.
Like Bookshop.org, Hive is designed to support independent bookstores, and buyers can nominate a bookstore to receive the support.
Here’s what they say:
"We’re really proud to support an independent bookshop with every single sale we make. We give independent bookshops a chance to be seen online. We hope it will help them to reach new and different customers. We help them benefit from the sale of all kinds of stuff.
"We don't want any more independent bookshops to close, that's why we give them a cut from every single order on Hive. Whether you order books, films, music, games, or anything else, your chosen bookshop will receive commission. They will receive a minimum of 10% on the net value of all book orders, rising to 25% when you select store collection. We pay 8% on eBooks and 3% on entertainment products. Bookshops receive their commission monthly.
Side note: Annoyingly, I tried to avoid Amazon by buying from abebooks.com before I discovered it is a subsidiary of Amazon, Inc. Don’t make the same mistake!
Lorna Partington Walsh, Wordsmith