In 2018, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was interviewed about Amazon’s success and its impact on Bezos’ space travel company, Blue Origin. In this interview, Bezos was quoted as saying:
The only way that I can see to deploy this much financial resource is by converting my Amazon winnings into space travel. That is basically it.Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO
Amazon and Labour
We love space travel and space research, but there are a lot of problems with this statement. Firstly, Bezos displays a shocking lack of imagination for someone with so many resources. He actively undermines his workforce when he clearly has the money to pay them more. Amazon’s warehouses in the midst of the pandemic are increasingly sites of unsafe contact, which Amazon workers protested on May 1st. Amazon’s response to union organization among its workers is to quibble about sick leave, remove union literature and fire organizers who agitate for health and safety improvements in the workplace.
That Bezos refers to the money Amazon makes as “winnings” demonstrates an understanding of economics divorced from human labour and the human lives his policies affect. That Bezos looks to space before tending to those affected by his choices on Earth is a grave failing.
Amazon and the Environment
Attending to its responsibilities on Earth would mean first taking stock of the ways that Amazon’s business choices are ecologically unsustainable. Amazon has not disclosed the information needed to get a complete picture of its environmental record, but various non-profits have done that work and ranked Amazon in the public interest. The Guardian collected rankings from Climate Counts, The Carbon Disclosure Project, and Greenpeace‘s How Clean is your Cloud report and found Amazon ranking among the worst environmental offenders. In this article, BuzzFeed reporter Nicole Nguyen details the ways in which Amazon Prime’s shipping contributes to emissions, traffic congestion, and waste, while locking consumers into a system that is undermining public delivery services.
Amazon and Publishing
When our editorial team first spoke with other local publishers, we asked “is it necessary to have our books on Amazon?” The resounding answer was “yes.” But we’re committing to revisit this question for the reasons listed above and because of the effect that Amazon has on small publishing.
When people buy books from our website, we receive 100% of that money. From that money, we buy our printed books and supplies, pay our authors and artists, and invest in marketing and publicity. When people buy from Amazon, we may receive 50% or less of the money we would for a direct order. Under Amazon’s model, we publish and publicize less, and authors and artists get paid less for their work. For many small publishers, having their books listed on Amazon costs them money.
Our Statement on Amazon
At this time, we are selling our books on Amazon. Amazon has many negative impacts on our society, but it also provides some good: quick delivery of essential items for people with disabilities, or cheaper items for those who can’t afford to shop elsewhere. Amazon also provides some semblance of legitimacy for new authors. These authors need to be accessible to their readers at a central web location, not relegated only to the small-press-corners of the Internet. While we hope you will choose to support us and our authors by purchasing books from our website, it is important for our books — and our ideas — to be available to a wider public, which is access that Amazon provides. Indie publishers are beginning to make dents in this monolith. This is work to which we will contribute as we grow.