Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Why I Love Amazon: A Consumer's Take

Many folks in the fandom, I hear, have been dumping on Amazon lately for a whole host of perceived evils -- and to a certain extent, I understand the fear. As my mother remarked just last week, "Amazon does everything." That's not 100% true, of course; as far as I know, for example, Amazon has not yet gone the Netflix route and started offering "Amazon original" television content.  [Edit, 7/26: Actually, a respondent below informs me that Amazon is developing original television content. You learn something new every day!] When it comes to writing, however, Amazon is both a publisher in its own right and a major distributor, and its vertical integration and resultant influence have bankrupted booksellers and eaten into other publishers' profits. But, per Frederic Bastiat, I would like to invite you to consider That Which Is Unseen: the positive impact Amazon has had on its consumers.

In a number of ways, Amazon has made my life a lot more pleasant:
  • First of all, it's easy to access. Both my mother and I love shopping, but we also have chronic medical conditions which make trawling through brick-and-mortar stores especially onerous, so the opportunity Amazon provides to stay home and shop is a great boon. Do other people who are sick and/or disabled feel the same way? I suspect so.
  • Second, it offers more. I love an out-of-the-way used bookstore as much as the next person. Indeed, the last time I was in New York City, I visited a few just to explore. But because Amazon has assembled a huge associated network of outside sellers, its selection is simply better. If I pop into the local C&W, the chances are pretty slim that I will find, say, Edgar Rice Burroughs' Carson of Venus; just now, however, I typed "carson of venus" in the Amazon search box and found twenty-seven listings. That's amazing -- and convenient.
  • Third, while Amazon doesn't always have the lowest available price, its prices are usually reasonable. It's a little like Wal-Mart in that way. Now, people crap on Wal-Mart too - and sometimes for good reason - but the fact remains that most of us can't pay the premiums attached to boutique goods that make our social betters feel good about themselves, and without Amazon and Wal-Mart, we would not be living quite as comfortably as we are now (in absolute terms).
  • Fourth - and probably most important - Amazon has radically democratized the sci-fi/fantasy genre, thus giving voice to writers who would not be heard otherwise. Yes -- Sturgeon's Law applies. But I love being wholly free to decide on my own what I would like to read without prissy elites butting in and controlling what's made available. And personally, I find it ironic that the same people who are so concerned about making fandom a "safe" and "welcoming" space are also the ones most likely to denigrate what is probably the most promising platform for promoting diversity currently in existence. Folks: Because of Amazon, there are no more gatekeepers. True -- if you go indie and publish on Amazon, you and you alone have to do the hard work of finding your likely audience and promoting your book. But if you really want more stories that "explode the gender binary," there is literally no one who'll stop you from writing them yourself. Amazon has created wild and perfect liberty.
So before you start talking about "regulating the behemoth," please take the time to see things from the customer's point of view. We are willing to give Amazon our cash not because we are mindless sheeple but because Amazon offers concrete benefits that we feel are worth the expense.


  1. The decided lack of gatekeepers, and the loss of control, is what truly terrifies them.

  2. Amazon IS Science Fiction made fact. Place an order from the screen in your office or living room; your package appears on your doorstep the next day. Or in two days.


  3. Fighting Amazon is not about what is best for the consumer. It's about protecting the interests of traditional publishing.

  4. Actually, Amazon has gone the Netflix route of offering original television content. They even call it Amazon Originals.

    1. Oh, snap. I didn't know that. Making the edit now. ;)