Falling Uphill book cover and Scott standing on the edge of Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa
Sad face Amazon logo
Sad face Amazon logo

The high cost of low price

CAVEAT EMPTOR — Let the buyer beware or be aware

Faceless corporations versus buying direct from your local entrepreneur

I don’t like to be preachy, but I also believe that it is important to be aware — to be informed. It can’t be understated that if we want to live in a great community full of independent businesses, authors, artists, sidewalk cafes, clean air to breathe, etc., we have to spend our dollars in those places. Every dollar you spend is like voting for a business. And every vote has an influence on the community we live in, which eventually raises or lowers the standard of living for everyone. No one is immune. When I was living in India, I witnessed very rich locals who seemingly had millions, but they lived behind walls with gates and guards and were surrounded by poverty and the pollution and the smell and the cries.

As an aside, I should state my own caveat: There are many reasons why Amazon.com has been a great resource to book lovers everywhere. One reason, besides the convenience and seemingly cheap price, is the selection of rare and used books and the worldwide network of resources, and their innovations in the e-boos and e-book reader. Amazon has even helped authors earn higher royalties with other publishers like Barnes & Noble and Apple. However, along with this came a host of parasites. So, all I really ask is for the buyer to be aware and please make informed decisions.

We recommend the movie above. Wal-Mart: the High Cost of Low Price. You’ll see one small friendly bookstore be driven out of business and the owners become employees of Wal-Mart.

Example: mega-stores and online bookstores are driving your friendly corner stores out of business, and seriously impeding an author’s ability to earn a living wage and bring new products to the market. Not only are the online bookstores impersonal, automated machines, but they take up to 8 times the profit that the author earns (depending on the cost of printing, discounts, service fees, et cetera). In addition, with the growing number of competing online stores (computer programs), most offer bargain discounts that further undercut authors and entrepreneurs. Ultimately, these tactics drive down the entire economy by reducing the cash flow and de-motivating innovation.

Here’s how it works: Some of the country’s largest bookstores are Amazon.com affiliates with no actual brick-and-mortar store or helpful staff. Many online stores, believe it or not, don’t even have any books. A very simplified version of their business model looks like this: After the author/publisher invests the time, money and effort to produce a book (which can take years and thousands of dollars), they upload the book into the book distribution database and begin their marketing efforts (spending additional time, money and effort). Meanwhile, online bookstores have automated systems that download the book database, posting thousands of books on Amazon.com, and just wait for the author’s marketing efforts to begin to reap rewards. Every time a potential customer searches for a book, it appears as “in stock” in various online bookstore warehouses across the country; however, most new books are actually printed on demand (POD). There is NO stock. Likewise, if it says “Used — Like new” it is also probably being printed new on-demand. So, when a customer purchases a book, the online bookstore’s computer relays the order to the author’s publisher/printer. The printer prints the book (on-demand) and ships the book to the customer on behalf of the online bookstore.

Since there is little to no human effort these online companies can afford to offer huge discounts, spend extra money on commercial shipping and the additional printer service fees for individual or rush orders, not to mention the dozens of other costs of doing business to simply piggyback off someone else’s efforts. In fact, I have calculated that most online bookstores are earning roughly $0.25-1.25 per book. Some online bookstores I suspect make zero profit on books while compensating with inflated shipping prices. A nickel here and a dime there adds up to millions—so they hope!

These tactics artificially inflate book prices and drain the cash flow away from the people who created the product, which eventually reduces the cash flow for the entire community, because, in turn, the entrepreneurs have no cash to invest in their own community.

There are many good and bad reasons to use Amazon, we just request that you make informed decisions.

Thanks for your support,

Authors, artists and small business owners everywhere

PS. Thanks for supporting your local community when you can, but if you choose to purchase through Amazon, please click here. Then I get 1-10% of my book back. Don’t worry it doesn’t cost you extra.

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