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17th December 2014

Opinion: To Boycott or to not Boycott?

Books Editor Leonie Dunn looks over the Christmas Amazon boycott and focuses on why it is both a positive and negative action to take

With taxes funding our schools, hospitals and public services it is vastly concerning to hear that Amazon is the UK’s number one tax avoider. With Amazon’s UK subsidiary, which equally includes the well-known, Kindle and, it is easy to see how influential they are on consumerism today. Yet the figures suggest they are paying a tax rate of less than 0.1 per cent; with sales of £4.3bn, they only paid £3.2m in corporate taxes in 2012. Therefore, the anonymous organisation Amazon Anonymous is calling us as a united front to use our consumer power to make Amazon pay a fair rate of tax. By taking just one look at Amazon Anonymous’ organisation page it highlights just how deeply affiliated the consumer and Amazon have become. The organisation equally focuses on how Amazon does not pay its workers a reasonable living wage and Amazon’s negative effect on our local shops, all as part of its rally cry. The page constantly interrogates whether you as the consumer can avoid shopping at Amazon this Christmas, even going so far as to send you motivational emails on your progress of a full, cold turkey style, Amazon free Christmas period.

While this rather melodramatic play on an Amazon free Christmas may seem rather odd, it is actually very much a part of our society today. For most students, who form a large percentile of the consumerist society, the first place we will think of when needing to buy that text book or film is Amazon and it often goes without saying. Amazon is the place to go, everything is a simple click away and you don’t have to leave the comfort of your own home. I am not one to point the finger, as I too, often without thinking, find myself on Amazon. I am aware that I can visit my local bookstore for my books or head to the mall for any other of my needs but yet I find myself sweeping the online aisles of Amazon.

However, it is important to think of Amazon in the wider scale of things, in Britain Amazon holds a near 35 per cent share of the book market and that is without going into its many other business ventures. Amazon no longer holds a niche market but has instead enveloped and essentially cut off other markets with its outstretching business. Amazon shows no sign of slowing down or waning either, with its future prospects even touching on drone delivery systems. Yet, there are multiple positive aspects to Amazon and its power, it has the ultimate power to make or break nearly any upcoming author and most authors know that nearly half of their sales will be through Amazon. This is the double edged sword effect that Amazon has. On the one side Amazon and its new non-material format of books has vastly brought down the cost of publishing which has led to more self-published authors, which is part of the wonders of Amazons power.

However, the very fact that there is an organisation and boycott on Amazon itself highlights the problem at hand. Breaking free from the Amazon Empire as it stands is vastly difficult as there are parts and subsidiaries of Amazon that you may never have heard of. Amazon is more than just the simple ‘Everything Store’. Amazon is the largest provider of cloud services in the world; Amazon Web Services touches nearly every corner of the web. Do you have a smart phone? Do you use Netflix or apps on smartphones? If so then you are using Amazon, as all these use, or have used, AWS. So maybe the melodramatic ploy of Amazon Anonymous’ organisation isn’t quite as fickle as it first seems. There is a need for consumers to be aware of the effect of Amazon and its costly effect on the modern industries that are falling as the small players are pushed out of the market.

All the above aspects touch or affect the way we take in or read the literature of the world today. E-readers and kindles have rekindled a lust for literature in the hearts of many and it not without reason. Readers now care only for the ease of access to said books and the price which Amazon and the Kindle magically provide. The ‘Buy Now, Next Day Delivery’ reels inside us and so the bookstore has lost its mojo. The Bookstore wars are over as the Independents are battered and Amazon remains triumphant. But, while many, often myself included, wane over the loss of the hardcover book and the Independent bookstore, the new Digital Age may well have many pleasurable repercussions. The history of writing and literature gives us every bit of confidence on the emergence of a new form of literary excellence, whether it be short stories typed out on Twitter’s 140 character platform or interactive works. So I’ll leave it to you to decide: head on over to choose whether you will boycott Amazon this Christmas.

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