Is Amazon really the place we should be buying our digital books?

Amazon is the Internet equivalent of fictions Lord Voldemort. As of late, many authors have complained about the bad treatment received by Amazon. I can’t claim the title author. I claim the title reader and consumer and it is from this point of view that I approach this subject.

A few years back I purchased myself a kindle. Back then Amazon’s Kindle was the only brand name worth remembering when it came to e-book readers. While the Nook Book started making a name for itself, here it has still not reached the same statuesque as Kindle. I happily found my Kindle at one of the IT shops. Happily yes. I don’t like purchasing on-line.

You may think that I’m contradicting myself. The whole point of a Kindle is to purchase on-line. Yes. But there is a difference between purchasing digital content and purchasing physical items. Physical things such as a printed book or a device such as a kindle can be lost or stolen in the mailing system. In this part of the globe, that tends to happen a lot.

The first tablet I bought, for the mere purpose of reading, was a cheap android thing manufactured in China. Albeit it was not all that expensive, I was still very upset when the thing did not reach its destination – which was me. I bought a second of the same type of item. I found its battery did not last longer than two hours and reading was strenuous on my eyes. So when I ventured out to buy another product, I did my research. I was willing to pay a little more for a quality product. Still the problem remained. Where to source this device? If a more expensive thing went “lost” in the mailing system, I’d have thrown my money down the drain. So yes, I happily stumbled across the Kindle device in a physical retail outlet.

amazon-logo

Reading on my ‘Kindle Paperwhite’, was a dream compared to the previous device I owned. At first, I was very happy with my purchase. After all, I was not obligated to purchase all my books on Amazon. I could source from other places as well. Some were purchased or “won” from the author directly. Yippy me.

That is until Amazon quite without my permission did a software update on my kindle.

One day I opened the Kindle to find that its entire content had been changed. For one, things did not work the same as they usually did. What is more, I found that all my books not purchased from Amazon were gone. GONE! In their place books, I’d purchased but had thrown off my device (I had my reasons).

It is then that I started looking with a more critical eye at the Internet giant. The things authors complained about, frankly sucked. Readers being able to return a digital book after purchasing and reading – for one I find that not quite right. Additionally, I found many authors complaining about copyright infringement or having their books “pirated”. The complaining authors sold exclusively on Amazon. You have to ask yourself, why does this happen to authors who publish on Amazon? Search the Internet. There are many sites offering books free. While these sites claim to be legitimate, when one can get a reader’s entire Amazon library of 600 books for absolutely nothing – one needs to wonder:

Is there something wrong with the customers who buy on Amazon or is there something wrong with Amazon?

Having had my kindle content altered by Amazon made me look at said content in a new light. It is quite evident to me that the content does not belong to me. The physical Kindle may belong to me. But, anyone knows the hardware is worth nothing without functioning software. The software on my Kindle belongs to Amazon.

As for the books, I have purchased?! I do not have a special kindle account. So, I can’t loan my book to a friend – as you would be able to do with a real physical book. I’ve come to the realization that the content or books I’ve bought don’t really belong to me. They belong to Amazon. I’ve merely purchased the right to read them. It’s like lending a book from the library for an undefined time. At any point, the library can demand to have its books returned. Worse, what should happen if said library suddenly burnt down? Would the content on my Kindle disappear if Amazon took a bad turn?

big-library

A brave new world, it is coming

In light of all points mentioned above, some brave authors are now venturing into a No-Amazon territory. One of these is Waylon Lewis, whose book “Things I’d like to do with you” is exclusively available on his site Elephant Journal. In a post titled “10 Points to Writing, Marketing, Publishing, Touring and Selling a book post Bookapocalypse” he points to this New yorker Article. Therein lies the inside scoop, from former Amazon employees who lay it all bare in how horrible the company treats its own and how they view business.

Waylon most defiantly has it right in his title “Bookapocalypse” world. Writing has become a cutthroat type of business. There are fewer readers and more books than ever, to choose. As readers, we have become more selective on how we spend our precious time. With all the “smut” out there, I really do my research on a book before I purchase it, even if it were only a digital copy. I’ll read the reviews on Goodreads. Check out the first chapter and hop over to the Author’s website. You have to.

Physical books versus digital?

With all that I’ve now told you on Amazon, digital has somewhat lost its sparkle for me. A physical book is yours once you’ve bought it and it is in your hands. There are however a few problems that come with it.

  • Bookshelf space is limited.
  • Books are expensive.

I went to a local bookshop the other day, just to see if they stocked a book I really wanted to read. I was appalled to find the average paperback will set me back nearly US$13. That is a lot of money when your priorities are food, diapers and education for your child.

Books have always been a luxury. Most of the physical books I own were bought at the second-hand shop, where the average book would set me back about US$6. The problem is that this shop does not stock the latest books. I’m a fussy reader. I want to read what I want to read.

Digital makes it so much easier. You can get a book right off the Internet within minutes. No need to worry if the thing gets lost in the mail. In addition, digital books are usually cheaper than their paperback counterparts are. I can get the latest book for the same price a dated book at the second-hand shop would cost me.

reading-outside-on-kindle

So, we are stuck with Amazon?

Many authors sell exclusively on Amazon. If that is the only place you can get your beloved new read, then as a reader, you will just have to go there. You may also be stuck with the same problem if you own an Amazon Kindle. There is a way around the Kindle monopoly.

With digital content not purchased on Amazon, you would simply need to make doubly sure you have it backed up some place, or you run the risk of losing it forever.

Even with my newly acquired knowledge on the evilness that is Amazon, the snake has me trapped inside its lair. From a consumer’s point of view – if you own a Kindle it simply is easier to buy on Amazon. If within reasonable price limits, on the other hand, my newly beloved read were not available on Amazon I would venture out to the other side to buy what I want to read. Sincerely, I would – if it is something I want bad enough.

When the day comes that I would need to buy a new e-book reader – I would not go for the Amazon version. In addition, by the time that I make the switch, I hope to see much more, brave author souls – boycotting Amazon, or at least offering readers other shopping outlets.

This should not be very difficult with so many other book-selling platforms out there.
As many others and I have come to the same realization, I predict there will eventually be a shift in the on-line book market. Do not be caught unaware when it does.

 

About the Author

profile-pic-2Sarina often sat on the peaks of the dunes of Southern Africa watching the ocean tide drift in. A daydreamer, often dreaming up stories for lands somewhere over the rainbow. She is a mother, a wife, a blogger and an overall creative spirit. Above all, she is a human being.

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2 thoughts on “Is Amazon really the place we should be buying our digital books?”

  1. Sarina a) You raise some really good points. I’ve always tried to offer the e-book versions of my books direct to the reader for this very reason. I make multiple formats and give them out so that they are universal. Any device can read them. While I wish EVERYONE had iPads (I can do such fun things with iBooks) I have to realize my audience.
    b) Your writing is getting VERY good. I’m proud of you for working on it.

    Liked by 1 person

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