ethics

Posts: 3

Reducing my utilization of Amazon products, step 3

After cancelling my Amazon Prime membership and making efforts not to shop on Amazon.de if at all possible, and having changed the way I handle Audible audiobooks, the last two pieces of the puzzle concerned my Kindle.

These two pieces for me are: 1. letting go of the Kindle and finding a different device/app to read ebooks and 2. finding a new source for ebooks in the future.

With the lessons I learned in dealing with Audible audiobooks and making them easier to use for me across all of my devices, getting Kindle ebooks into a state allowing me to untether from the Kindle itself was quite easy and a personal use backup of my entire library of Kindle ebooks was quickly set up.  

There are many good ways to read ebooks and my current choice is the Books app on iOS devices. I‘m happy with the reading experience and should I want an E Ink display again in the future, there are a good number of E Ink-based ePub format-compatible eReaders that are close enough in display resolution and hardware quality to the Kindle Paperwhite.

Obtaining ebooks is a different, less headache-inducing matter. Unlike audiobooks, where Amazon has a de facto monopoly with Audible, ebooks are regulated differently in Germany: we have a fixed book price that applies to (e)books, which mitigates competition based on price in the German market and prevents absolute market dominance from Amazon. With price differences not being a consideration, there's a wealth of places to buy ebooks from.  

There is a catch, though: outside of the Kindle store many publishers insist on ineffective and reader-hostile Adobe DRM. I'm going to try to favour those that either don‘t use DRM at all or simply add a watermark to ebooks. Still, Adobe DRM isn‘t more difficult to handle than Kindle DRM and not buying from Amazon is big enough of a benefit for me to tolerate Adobe DRM for a moment after purchase.

I‘ve already bought two ebooks in the online shop of my book retailer around the corner and getting them into Apples Books app was a breeze. I‘m going to sell my Kinde Paperwhite in the next few days.

Reducing my utilization of Amazon products, step 2

Back in January, I cancelled my Amazon Prime membership, beginning a process to reduce the number of Amazon services I use. About a month in, I have missed neither Prime Video nor the Prime shipping options. For shopping I've used both Google Shopping and idealo.de to find online shops with good prices, fast shipping, and sensible return policies.

Audible was going to be more challenging to let go of — and I suspected this beforehand. The search for alternatives yielded almost nothing viable for the following reasons:

  1. Audible have a de facto monopoly on audio book sales.
  2. Audible are the largest producer of audio books and they sell exclusively in their own shop.
  3. Prices for audio books outside of Audible are close to prohibitive.

While this means that I won't be able to let go of Amazon for obtaining audio books, there is a silver lining that lets me claim a partial victory:

Getting the media fully under my control is easy, almost trivially so.
Yes, Audible files have copy protection but in the end the AAX file type they're using is just a slightly modified M4B (MPEG-4 Audio Book) file, which in turn is just an AAC audio file with some extras like support for chapter markers.
With a tiny bit of work, I managed to get a personal use backup of the Audible files into Apple's Books app on my iPhone and even onto an old iPod (both using iTunes, of course). Now I won't have to worry about Audible's copy protection locking me out of the media I bought if their licensing servers go down or the company goes under.

Next step: Kindle eBooks…

Reducing my utilization of Amazon products, step 1

I just cancelled my Amazon Prime membership.

As for so many other people, using Amazon's consumer facing services has started to leave a bad taste in my mouth, seeing how atrociously they treat warehouse staff, the negative impact their business has on the delivery drivers of various logistics companies, and the myriad of other small or large bad things this company is doing or is complicit in because it makes them money.

A few weeks ago I received an email telling me that the credit card Amazon had on file for Prime membership payments was no longer valid and to update the payment settings lest I want to lose my Prime benefits by 12 January 2019.
The holidays gave me some time to think about how many of Amazon's services I use daily and consciously and I found that it was too many. Ignoring Amazon services I use by proxy, like AWS servers, here goes:

  • Amazon.de and Amazon Marketplace for shopping
  • Amazon Prime for fast shipping
  • Amazon Prime Video for streaming
  • Amazon Kindle for reading ebooks
  • Amazon's Audible for audio books.

With cancelling my Amazon Prime membership, I'm losing access to Prime shipping and Prime Video. Since I've started reducing the amount of things I buy on or through Amazon about a year ago, the former isn't too much of a loss for me. When streaming through Amazon Prime, my partner and I have used her Prime account anyway, so there's no loss for me there, either, until she makes a decision regarding her Amazon Prime account. This could happen sooner rather than later because we use Netflix much more than Prime Video.

It's going to be interesting to see how easy it'll be eschewing shopping on Amazon.de entirely and choosing different online shops but I'm not worried about this. The more difficult task will be finding proper replacements for getting ebooks comfortably and finding a good ereader for them. Finding a replacement for Audible will be similarly difficult. And with the latter two there's also the problem of DRM for the things I've already bought on the platforms.