Amazon confusion

There has been much already written in reaction to the big article about Amazon that ran in the NY Times over the weekend. I’ll admit that the article really bothered me. It seems like most of the news about the ways in which Amazon treats its employees, contractors, and suppliers over the last few years has been overwhelmingly negative. Enough that it almost seems immoral to continue doing business with them as a customer.

Some of the reaction to the article has been pretty funny, such as this tweet from Dr. Drang or this article by Andy Borowitz from the New Yorker.

The response from Jeff Bezos seems reasonable, and this second follow-up item from GeekWire gives a little more perspective from the employee level. So the truth is in there somewhere — it’s probably not all as bad as the NY Times piece makes it out to be, but there are likely some bad managers and bad teams at the company, and a culture that sometimes allows that kind of thing to grow and thrive.

So I think I can continue to order my Breathe-Right strips from Amazon without being too concerned that I’m propping up a company that’s completely morally bankrupt. Still, I’ve been thinking about Amazon alternatives for some time now. But there aren’t a lot of good ones, in certain areas.

For books, I was looking at Abe Books and Book Depository, but they’re both owned by Amazon, so that doesn’t really help. Barnes & Noble is an option, but I’m not sure they’re better than Amazon, just less successful. Powell’s is probably a good option, and not owned by Amazon, as far as I can tell.

For ebooks, the picture is even less clear. I’ve had a Kindle since the very first model, and I really like the things. About the only real competitor to the Kindle now is Kobo. They’ve got a pretty good product in the Glo HD, judging from some of the reviews I’ve read. In terms of actual ebooks, Kobo’s bookstore looks pretty good, but I’m guessing their selection likely isn’t nearly as large as Amazon’s.

For general merchandise, I could go to, but I sure can’t make a case for Walmart being a better choice, morally, than Amazon.

So, in a nutshell, I’m not dropping my Amazon Prime subscription just yet. But I am alarmed about how large they’ve gotten, and how little competition they seem to have left, in certain areas, like books and ebooks. I’m going to try to give more of my business to smaller retailers, when I can. And I’m going to continue to try to buy DRM-free ebooks when possible, so it’ll be easier for me to switch away from the Kindle ecosystem if I ever decide to do that.

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