Linux For Poets

Alternatives to Amazon

I’ve been trying, little by little, to never buy anything from Amazon again. The list of boycott-worthy companies is long, but Amazon is at the top for me personally, because they are huge and evil. I won’t go into all the reasons they are bad here - take a look at the Wikipedia Controversies section for an idea of where to start researching their practices.

A little time in the park, should have brought my book.

Here are some places I’ve been buying from, in order to avoid Amazon:

Books:

www.powells.com - If you are in Oregon, you know about this one. It's a local bookstore, and they are great. But they ship as well, so they are an option anywhere, at least in the US.

By the same token, any local bookstore you have in your area is fighting against these forces too and is worthy of your support.

I was recently crushed to learn that one of my go-to "alternatives" to Amazon, ABEBooks.com, is 100% owned by Amazon. Dang it!! So they are out.

I need a new option to replace it. Ebay is probably my next choice for used books.

But the more I research, the more I think that we should just use the old classic ways: Buy the good books at the store and borrow books from the library. The few bucks you'll spend a year in overdue fees go to a good cause. And then get DRM-Free books only for use on e-readers.

E-Readers

I don't know that there's a good option here. I haven't found one and we have made choices, but they came with concessions. We are going with what we have, and hope a better option will come along.

Kobo e-readers

Seem kind of sort of okay. I thought my husband wanted things to be easy mode so I got him a Kindle (and didn't feel great about myself). Then he came along talking about Amazon's bad treatment of workers and how he didn't want to support Amazon, (which was very attractive of him), so I enthusiastically returned the Kindle, and we ordered a Kobo Clara HD instead. Kobo has their own store, and can read EPUB, PDF, MOBI formats. And most importantly for us, it connects to the Overdrive system (which is owned by Rakutan, same as Kobo itself), so you can read library e-books. Not all the Kobo readers connect to Overdrive, but a lot of them do. The downside to Kobo is a sketchy privacy policy that says they can share your data with "retailers in your country." After a lot of web searches and swearing, my husband signed up for Kobo anyway, because no one seems any better and Kobo is still better than Amazon and funding their evil empire. It was a reminder that just because a company isn't as pervasive now doesn't mean they aren't trying to be, or have better morals than the big corporations.

Because of Amazon's locked-in system, you can't read Kindle books on other devices. (Just them being evil again). I have only a few Kindle books, and I'll probably try to break them out and see if I can get them into an open format. It may not work. So I'm just glad not to have given them much of my money. I'd rather support ethical companies that let you read the book you bought on whatever device you have. I'll keep my old 4th generation Kindle lying around so I can read those couple of books when I need to, but I'll be Amazon-free going forward.

Another questionable option is the one I have just chosen.

For myself, I just got an Onyx Boox tablet, which is Android based, so I can read books and use note taking functions. It also fulfills my lifelong dream of writing on an e-ink screen with an external keyboard. (I'm doing that right now!) I'll use the Overdrive app there for library books. Note: I much prefer the older Overdrive app, to their new one, Libby, which has a very annoying interface and feels pushy about wanting you to return books early like you're a jerk for having them checked out. But they both work fine.

The downside of this is option, of course, is Android, which is is a Google project and therefore going to be sharing some data with Google. There is really no reason to use Google Play however. Sideloading apps or using FDroid works just fine. Between FDroid and APKPure I feel no inconvenience at all in avoiding Google Play.

Actually Good Things

Project Gutenberg is the best!

I had the best time plundering the Project Gutenberg web site for great DRM-Free epub books to put on my Onyx Boox reader. So many good things out there - Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Bram Stoker, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte. It's all books in the public domain, but a lot of darn good literature happened prior to 1924. Clearly!

As for Buying Non-Book Items

Random stuff:

www.ebay.com - probably most peoples' go to. I've always had good experiences. The one time I had an item not show up, I submitted a complaint and ebay refunded my money right away. It goes without saying to check the rating of the seller and all, but I think they do a good job.

Office Supplies

www.jetpens.com - my favorite place for fountain pens, notebooks, and my stationery addiction in general.

Sometimes local shops are good. Craft Warehouse is pretty good. Michaels has generally not been great for me, but I still haven't forgiven them for the time I went in looking for Halloween decorations a week before Halloween, and found only a couple bargain bins of Halloween stuff, and four aisles of Christmas decorations. That is sheer nonsense. And I'm a Scorpio - we hold grudges. Anywho…

Kinokuniya - Japanese office supplies are the best ones, I think that is obvious to you office supply/planner nerds out there. Kinokuniya is a shop inside Uwajimaya Asian grocery in my area, but they have stores around the world too. Supposedly they have an online shop, but it has been down for maintenance and isn't expected up till spring of 2020 according to their web site. www.kinokuniya.com

Dharma Trading, if you need any fiber art supplies. As a fiber artist, I have been buying from them for years and they are great. www.dharmatrading.com

In Summary

Aside from all this, I'm in favor of applying principles of buying used rather than new when possible, minimizing waste and supporting local shops and minimizing packaging and plastic.

Seriously, we live in a weird time in history. We have to swim against the current to support companies that aren't polluting the planet and abusing our data and it's not easy.

So in addition to trying to support good companies, I am going to be writing to my lawmakers, in the hopes of some intervention on behalf of consumers. The dollar speaks loudest, and I feel no confidence that companies will listen to consumers when they can make more money from selling our data for advertising. (How I would love to have an advertising fast and take a break from that!)

But I hope I haven't depressed you too dramatically. I'd love to know your favorite Amazon alternative places for shopping. Tell me on Mastodon!

A very happy holidays of your choice to you and yours…