up the Amazon

I find that life is full of lines, lines I may not even know the existence of until I cross them. There’s an annoyance, say, an annoyance I can live with until one day something happens and I can’t live with it any more. The line has been crossed. Sometimes it’s not a thick clear line; it may be as thin as a hair. But once it’s crossed it’s crossed. 

Buying from Amazon has, for many years now, made me uncomfortable, but I’ve continued to do it … until now. I have had plenty of reasons to ditch Amazon — it is obviously, and in multiple ways, a predatory and intentionally unethical company — but I could never quite resist the convenience. But when Amazon decided to memory-hole a perfectly reasonable book simply because it outrages a handful of “activists” who claim — primarily on Twitter, and quite falsely — to represent all trans people, that brought me right up to the invisible line.

And then, oddly enough, the thing that pushed me across it was the deletion of Anderson’s book from AbeBooks — which is to say, Amazon decided to prevent hundreds (thousands?) of independent used bookstores who post their inventory on AbeBooks from selling When Harry Became Sally, obviously without asking those bookstores their views on the subject. 

(By the way, I don’t think the loud activists who have enlisted Amazon to act own their behalf really want to silence people like Ryan T. Anderson. The people they desperately want to muzzle are the detransitioners Anderson cites and quotes.) 

Anyway: I won’t be buying anything else from Amazon. I have canceled Amazon Prime, and the only reason I haven’t closed my account altogether is that, as Amazon helpfully explains on this page, if I did so all of my Kindle books would disappear. (I could actually strip the DRM from my older Kindle books, the ones in the .azw3 format, but as far as I can tell no one has figured out how to strip the DRM from the newer .kfx format. The various apps and sites that claim to de-DRM Kindle books are reluctant to admit this, but it’s true. Also, I could disconnect my Kindle from the internet, which would keep Amazon from erasing it, but that’s a solution that would last only as long as the Kindle itself is functional.) So I figure that if I never give Amazon any more of my money, that is a compromise I can live with. But goodness, I wish I had never bought a Kindle. 

All this is a reminder — as if we needed another one — of how deeply implicated we all are in Big Tech. There’s a new plug-in for Chrome and Firefox called Big Tech Detective that “will alert you if the website you are on is exchanging data with Big Tech by identifying and measuring connections to internet protocol (IP) addresses owned by Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft.” If you have any doubts about how much of the so-called “open web” those companies control, an hour or two of using Big Tech Detective will eliminate them. 

But we’re not completely helpless. I can decline to give another penny to Amazon, and you can too. I encourage you to make your own break. It feels really good to be out of the Amazon orbit, in much the same way, interestingly enough, that it feels really good to have achieved escape velocity from the gravity well of Twitter. These days, whenever I take a look at Twitter I think, “I can’t believe I ever tweeted.” Maybe next year I’ll take a look at amazon.com and think, “I can’t believe I ever bought stuff from this place.”