Why I’m Leaving Amazon — And How You Can Help Starve The Beast

I feel clean as I leave the brown waters of the Amazon.

Let me start by explaining that I joined Amazon Associates in 2007. Amazon’s corporate management was liberal even then, but their policies had little impact on how Amazon was run. And Amazon wasn’t a web/cloud computing provider yet. I found Amazon to be a convenient place to buy books, DVDs and other items. They offered links to commissions that never expired. By becoming an Amazon employee, I earned an average of about 7% on all items that SurvivalBlog readers ordered by clicking on one of our links. Because I have a lot of readers, the blog had sales of about $60,000 for the first few years.

Then in March 2017, Amazon cut its commissions by an average of 40%. And then, in April 2020, they made further reductions.  This reduced my Amazon Associates sales to about $30,000 per year. But it was worth it to make links with products from the Amazon.

As of January 2021, Amazon.com is very active in the online storage field and holds about 45% of the international market. And in fact, most of their revenue comes from web services – more than from selling their books, bracelets and yoga pants. They now have huge hidden server farms all over the country, which are used to host Amazon Prime movies and are rented out to a large number of corporate clients.

Starting in 2019, Amazon will censor books and documentaries critical of vaccination. Book bans criticizing the ban on face masks followed. They even had a penchant for censoring the documentary Killing Free Speech about censorship. So much for freedom of the press. It should also be noted that Amazon does not deal very fairly with outside sellers who sell through the Amazon store. Amazon executives call them internal competitors.

After the presidential election in November, but before the inauguration on the 20th. In January, Amazon released its in-house political activist. In partnership with Apple and Google, Amazon has actively targeted the conservative social media service Talk and downloaded it from cloud servers. Because they were using proprietary software from Amazon Web Services, it could be weeks or even months before Parler is fully operational again. They can even build a completely independent server farm for a lot of money. In my opinion, Amazon’s acquisition of Parler was a reprehensible form of censorship and pre-emptive restriction of alternative media based on free access to social media platforms. I consider this the last straw. I can no longer in good conscience associate with Amazon.com.

In addition to canceling Amazon Associates, I will also cancel my own Amazon Prime membership (now $119 a year), delete my Amazon account, and stop posting new blog links to Amazon products. And I’m going to try to develop a script that automatically pulls thousands of Amazon links from the SurvivalBlog database. (We now have over 31,000 articles, columns and letters archived).

In lieu of $30 Amazon gift cards, winners of the Off-Game Essay Contest will receive $50 in purchase credits for my spin-off company, Elk Creek Company.

There is an old English saying: If you take the king’s shilling, you do as the king says. My message to King Jeff Bezos is short and clear: I’m not your lackey anymore. There’s no other way: It’s time to starve the beast. From now on, do not order from Amazon.de. Instead, buy locally from independent retailers. And if you need something by mail, order from our paid banner ads and our affiliate advertisers. They’ve earned your favors.

How to make SurvivalBlog work

As for other blog income, everything is in place: We earn approximately $13,000 per year from paid advertising, $4,500 per year from the sale of archival USB sticks, and $3,000 per year from affiliate advertising. Our other major source of blog revenue is a voluntary subscription called The Ten Cent Challenge, where I ask readers to donate 10 cents a day ($36.50 a year). I’ve been charging the same amount since I started blogging in 2005. These subscriptions currently bring in about $28,000 per year. If you do the math, that means only about 770 blog readers have a subscription. (Actually, a little less, since only a handful of readers generously send in $50, $73, or $100 a year. In addition, one of them sends $200 a year, and another very generous reader sends $600 in checks for $50 a month). We have a readership of about 120,000 regular readers. In terms of 770 subscriptions, this means that only 6/10ths of one percent of readers are actually subscribers.  Many of you have been with us for over a decade. But human nature being what it is, the other 99.4% of readers decided to let someone else register.

Keeping afloat

Ultimately, as we divest from Amazon Associates to make up the shortfall, we either have to sell a huge amount of advertising (which is unrealistic) or double the number of people who sign up for the Ten Cent Challenge. Please note that I am NOT asking current subscribers to double their payments. Instead, I ask the still silent majority of people who have never subscribed to start doing so, and each of them to renew their subscription year after year.

I am very grateful to those of you who support SurvivalBlog. In addition to cash-paid subscriptions, many of you support us in intangible ways – for example, by submitting articles that lead to our bi-monthly essay contest. (If I had to pay a freelance editor for all these articles, my annual blog costs would increase significantly!) So I’m very grateful for that too.

Another way to help – even if you’re on a tight budget and can’t subscribe – is to submit suggestions for books, movies, and tools for my Recommendations of the Week column, which appears every Wednesday. Please email me your suggestions for quality books and tools – preferably from the US and Canada, as well as specific links to OTHER Amazon sellers. Thank you!  Do not send offers for products made in China or other totalitarian countries.

I’ve always lived by faith. I trust in God. I am convinced that even if I separate from the Amazon Tech Lords, God will take care of me.

I’ll do my best not to bother you. I don’t want to become a PBS-style beggar.  I’m just going to add a new support banner in the right hand column. This announcement will be linked to this article for the time being.

Again, I thank you from the bottom of my heart! – JWR

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