What would a world without Amazon be like? Following on from a hearing on allegations of tax evasion by Amazon, Google and Starbucks, led by a committee of MPs in Britain, there have been calls for people in the UK to boycott all of the above. I’ve heard fierce debates on radio between critics, who claim that these big company’s are making huge profits from their businesses in the UK but are avoiding paying Corporation Tax by locating their offices in another European country, and supporters, who state that its the job of any corporation to minimize cost and maximize profits, in whatever legal manner they see fit.
Starbucks I can live without, but Google and Amazon have wheedled their way into people’s lives in a much more complex manner. Take Google for example, my phone and my tablet run on Google’s Android platform. My calendar, to-do-list, contacts and email are all synced through Google products. Even across my computers at work and home, I use Chrome (synced so that my homepage apps load up as soon as I sign in) as my main browser. Sure I could probably ween myself off them, but the alternative platforms are Microsoft and Apple, and I’m sure they are just as guilty of minimize costs by exploiting legal loopholes too.
Now Amazon is a little different and perhaps a little more important to writers and readers. Amazon currently holds about a third of the market share of all books sold and its safe to say that Kindle is the leading platform for ebooks. My own book is available on Amazon (as well as Lulu.com and Barnes and Noble), and the ebook version is currently exclusively available on Kindle. Many self-published authors probably depend on Amazon as their main shop front to distribute their books around the globe. So let’s just speculate for a moment what it would be like if the UK government stopped people from being able to purchase from Amazon.
Kindle-owners would suddenly find that themselves cut off from their archived books and would likely have to sell their Kindle’s on ebay and buy a different platform (Nook, Kobo, Sony, whatever) for their ebooks. People who read on phones and tablets could easily switch to another reader app. There is also a chance that readers would suddenly blink and rediscover books that have real paper and ink in them and find that they missed the smell, feel and experience of curling up with a book instead of a plastic and glass slate.
People who have gotten used to shopping for other things on Amazon may migrate to another massive online store, like ebay, or perhaps even make use of the thousands of other, smaller stores that depend entirely on providing a niche market service for their income (which Amazon kindly dumps all over through its affiliate program). Or they may just look out of the window and realize they have legs (or a wheelchair) and that there are real people and real shops that sell things that you can actually look at and touch before you pay at a real checkout.
Without Kindle and CreateSpace clogging up the marketplace with (let’s face it) mostly tack, fan fiction, cons and poorly written books (as well as the small percentage of gems overlooked by publishers, e.g. The Changeling King), publishers may be more willing to start taking risks again and actually read some of the manuscripts in their slush pile. More independent stores will be able to afford to stay in business and self-published writers will start building relationships with them instead of giving exclusive rights over their hard work to Amazon. The high st may even start looking healthier with more small businesses being able to compete again for the punter’s pound.
What are your thoughts on what would change if Amazon were suddenly forced to stop doing business in any given country?