Boycotting Amazon

It was Super Sushi Pizza that got me thinking about this in the first place.

Weeks ago, I came across her video in which she announced that she was leaving GoodReads, citing the company’s acquisition by Amazon as one of her reasons. While I had at that point been aware of Amazon’s takeover, it struck me as weird that I had never paused to think about what I would do in response. I was—and still am—in a tangled, love-hate relationship with the retailing behemoth. As a paying Prime customer, I love love love the free and snappy shipping. I also love their consistently low prices on stuff, especially books, music, DVDs … the things that often make up my wish list. My family does too, which is why I choose to renew my Prime membership year after year. At the same time, though, I was aware of how Amazon made all of that possible—whispers about poorly-treated warehouse workers, unpaid wages, and the bullying tactics towards publishers, brought to light in the recent and still on-going dispute between the retailer and Hachette. Weirdly, I didn’t bat an eye over it.

But that all changed when I watched Susheela’s video. I don’t know why. Maybe I just needed to see someone do something. Maybe I needed to hear someone talk about it in neat, concrete terms. Maybe it was the proverbial straw in the long line of big company takeovers that have been dominating the news—Comcast, Google, the whole thing with Net Neutrality. I don’t know. In any case, something in me clicked, and I knew I wanted to do something too.

While I will still continue to use GoodReads—I just love the platform too much—I have decided to take my book-buying business elsewhere. Thanks to the booktube community, I’ve discovered a fair number of alternative retailers that can help me with my bookish needs. And I thought I would share them with you—if only to expand your purchasing options.

Barnes & Noble – The irony in supporting them has not been lost to me. Back when the turf war du jour was Big Books vs. indie shops, I was staunchly in favor of the the latter. Now B&N has become the underdog, and I’m seriously hoping that they don’t follow in the footsteps of my much-beloved Borders. Of all the alternatives, B&N is I think the only one to offer what I liked best about Amazon—the discounts and speedy shipping. Free shipping is available for purchases over $25, unless you’re a B&N member, in which case shipping is FREE.

Edit 1:42pm – Bethany reminded me of B&N’s partnership with Google Express, to bring same-day delivery to Manhattan, West LA, and the Bay Area. Nifty! But I don’t see myself using it short of an absolute emergency. (Because really, do you actually NEED something delivered NOW?) NYT has a good article about the partnership.

BookOutlet.com – A very new-to-me discovery from Canada, thanks to Sophia from thebookbasement. I really like their business model—purchasing returns and excess inventory directly from publishers, and selling them at a fraction of the retail price. The books are practically new, save for a small dot or mark from the publishers. AND THEY’RE CHEAP YOU GUYS. It’s really quite lovely. Shipping is pricey, alas, and selection is limited. But keep them in mind if you’re down for a bargain hunt.

Half.com – One of my old favorites, discovered during my college days. (Like heck I was going to pay exorbitant prices for school books!) It’s a secondhand market—for books as well as DVDs and CDs—in varying conditions of use. Shipping is done pretty exclusively thru USPS media mail. ($3.49, last time I checked.) But most things are so cheap, they offset the shipping cost.

Powells.com – This legendary Portand bookstore, I recently discovered, avails their unique mix of new & used titles to online patrons as well! Shipping starts at a flat rate of $3.99, with FREE shipping for orders over $50.

Thriftbooks.com – I just discovered them today, actually, thru Sanaa’s haul video. From what I understand, they’re like Half.com … but better, because guess what? FREE SHIPPING IN THE US. Yes, FREE shipping! *air punch*

Your local independent bookstore!! – At this point, any legitimate book retailer who isn’t Amazon is in my good graces. But I will always have a soft spot for local indie bookstores. Or rather, indie businesses in general. (I point the finger at You’ve Got Mail. And the fact that my family’s bread and butter came from running our family restaurant since before I was born.) Online shopping is amazing, and I probably won’t be stopping that anytime soon. But nothing replaces the sense of community that brick & mortar bookstores offer. Much more those that are run by the folks next door who are probably in the business because they are passionate about books. Which is why I make it a point to purchase from my local bookshops as frequently as I can. Nowadays, most indie bookstores are equipped to ship online orders, so even if you can’t stop by yourself you can still support them by ordering from their website. The downside to indie shops is their limited discounts and sales. But considering what their stores offer me and their neighborhoods, I’ll gladly pay full price if it means that they can stay with us for another month.

If you don’t know where to find your nearest indie dig, IndieBound is a good place to start. Just plug your zip code into their handy locator, and presto!

Your local library! – Obviously, you can’t buy books from libraries. (Unless they hold library sales. In which case, scooooore!) But I think they’re worth keeping in mind, esp. for books that you want to read but don’t feel committed to shelling out money for.

** If you’re wondering why I didn’t list Book Depository, it’s because they are an Amazon acquisition. Have been, since 2011. While BD continues to operate independently, their profits funnel back to their parent company. It’s quite sad, really. And ironic. BD was started by an ex-Amazon employee. And they had stood as one of Amazon’s major competitors. So much for that.

* * *

I’m not here to dictate where you take your money to. But I will strongly encourage you guys to look into the matter yourself, and decide where you stand on it. At the end of the day, Amazon is just another legitimate business with great perks. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with acquisitions, or being a big business, or slashing prices to grow your customer pool. But my gripe—and my reason for shunning them—is the human cost at which all these great perks are made possible. Granted, we aren’t dealing with sweatshops, child labor, slave labor, and the terrible environmental consequences that you find at the dodgy end of fast fashion. But we are dealing with blatant bullying, underpaid employees, and a company that may very well fix itself as the world’s sole book retailer, the way things are going. (Read: monopoly. Read: not a good thing.) Whether we choose to believe it or not, the reality is that we do vote with our money. And I for one am not going to support Amazon. Not until they quit their antics and, at the very least negotiate with Hachette—and all other book publishers—in a professional manner based in good faith. Otherwise, I may just pull out entirely from Amazon. No sense in supporting such a business.

If you’re not sure where to start, may I suggest the following:

Cheap Words – A very lengthy piece from The New Yorker, but an excellent read that is well worth your time.

Authors United – This ad ran in last Sunday’s edition of The Los Angeles Times, and features an eyepopping signature list of around 900 authors, all of who have been directly affected by Amazon’s strongarming tactics. Ahem, bullying.

Amazon’s War on Hachette is Vintage Jeff Bezos—Controlling, Ruthless, Vicious … and Probably Good for Customers – A piece from the opposing side, arguing that Amazon is only doing what it does best—putting the customer first.

I want to clarify—I am no longer purchasing books from Amazon, but am still open to purchasing other things from them, albeit as a last resort. It’s inconsistent, i know, but until I locate alternative retailers for my other purchases, I have to consider Amazon.

I’m curious as to where you guys stand on this—if you’re boycotting Amazon or still purchasing from them. Let me know in the comments below. I’d also love to know if you know of any other book retailers that I haven’t mentioned.

Until next time, happy reading!

Advertisements

Ch-ch-ch changes

Hey guys! Hope you have been well. I wanted to check in with you all about some changes that I will be making to this blog effective … pretty much now.

1) No more blogging schedules! As much as I like the idea of having a blogging schedule, I just can’t sustain it. I simply don’t have the time. Nor the energy. And keeping a schedule really wasn’t doing any good for me. Rather than feeling more organized, I felt incredibly pressured and rushed, to the point where I didn’t even care WHAT I posted about so long as I posted SOMETHING to keep this blog “active.” And that, to me, totally defeats the purpose of my blog. I have always maintained my previous blogs on an entirely voluntary basis. If I didn’t feel moved to write something, I wouldn’t. And that has produced more genuine, heartfelt writing than any rigorous schedule ever did. So I’ll stick to that. Don’t care how many professional bloggers tell me otherwise.

2) No more writing like the book reviewer I am not! It wasn’t until, like, earlier this week that I realized for the first flipping time that I haven’t been writing like myself. At least, not on this blog. I think part of it had to do with WordPress—which I never felt at home with in the same way that I did with LiveJournal—but I think the majority of the problem came down to me wanting to write like the bloggers that I admire. I don’t think there’s a problem with admiring people for the way they write. It does, however, become problematic when you—or rather, I—take that to the next step, and start trying to write like them … because you think your own voice sucks. Honing one’s voice is something all writers and bloggers struggle with at one point. But I think it was a particularly difficult task for me because I had, at some point, picked up the notion that to be a proper writer, or a proper blogger, or a proper adult, meant having to write in a certain voice. As a result, I went to war with myself, attempting so so hard to “fix” my voice so that it would sound just as polished and successful and cool as all those writers that I admire. What I failed to understand, all those years ago, is that being a proper writer AND a proper adult means writing exactly in the voice that you have.

So here’s to a new beginning—and to a doing away with trying so hard to be someone I’m not. I won’t ever write like the writers I admire, but that’s okay. In fact, that’s absolutely ideal.

3) In which I plunge into the world of … booktubing? Whoa, didn’t see that one coming, did you? Ha. I didn’t either. In fact, if you were to tell my former self that one day I would not only talk—on my own volition—into a camera, but also upload it onto the Internet for everyone to see … I would laugh in your face. Or spit coffee at you, depending on how early in the morning you decided to approach me. But here we are. Yes, this is for real. Yes, this is not a joke. Yes, I don’t really know where I will be going with it. But I’m excited to find out!

I’ve long known about this thing called vlogging—which I understood to be blogging … but on video—but I never, ever felt any interest for it. This all changed earlier this year, when I watched and fell in love with The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. Suddenly, vlogging looked … cool. Fun. And incredibly doable. This feeling continued as I got into Emma Approved, and intensified when I found out about Booktube-a-thon* and discovered that, lo and behold, there is a THRIVING community of bookworms on Youtube that absolutely rocked my socks off with their enthusiasm, passion, positivity, and inclusiveness. From there, it didn’t take much self-persuading to set up a channel.

I’m still in the processing of setting everything up, but once I’m done—namely designing and uploading a channel header that doesn’t embarrass me—I’ll share the link with you guys. I’m super excited to start my journey into booktubing, and I can’t wait to share this next chapter of my bookworminess with you guys.


And … that’s it! I’m excited for all these changes, and hope that you’ll stick around to see them in action.

Happy Friday!

* Thanks to Carina for the head’s up!

In defense of Vine

By all rights, I shouldn’t even be worked up about the Vine vs. InstaVideo thing. The latter only just rolled out a few days ago, and I didn’t even touch Vine until today. And yet here I am, reclining on my bed with my cranky laptop, broadcasting to the world my befuddling strong opinion about this issue. Which, incidentally, I was cognizant of only moments ago.

Basically, I don’t agree with this whole “Vine is obsolete” stance. Yes, both Vine and Instagram allow you to post videos. And yes, Instagram is the more popular of the two. And yes, Instagram has filters while Vine does not. So I do understand why people would think that Vine is going the way of the dinosaurs. But at the end of the day, Vine is entirely different from Instagram, and in the best of ways. Which is why I believe that Vine is here to stay. At least for now.

First of all, let’s talk identity. Instagram is, first and foremost, a photo community. That’s what it was created to be, and what it has built itself to be. And it has done a fantastic job at being that. Vine, likewise, is a video community. And likewise, it is pretty kickbutt at being that. Granted, there’s nothing inherently wrong in branching out, but in my opinion you’ve got to have a pretty darn good reason to do so. Otherwise, you’ll end up like Jamba Juice, which used to be this amazing smoothie place until they went bonkers and started serving pastries and breakfast foods and pizza and pretty much anything and everything that wasn’t a smoothie. And now, I don’t know what Jamba Juice is anymore. Not a smoothie shop, that’s for sure.

There’s also the difference of vibes. Instagram is strongly documenting-minded. People who use Instagram don’t post their photos—and now videos—because they’re trying to build a portfolio, or create an art gallery. They post what they want to remember, as well as share with friends, of their day-to-day moments. In other words, Instagram acts as a visual diary. Or a series of digital polaroids. Or photographic telegrams. (Which, by the way, is what inspired the founders to make Instagram.) Vine, on the other hand, is more of a creative community. And I think this is due to Vine’s primary features: the loop, and the six-second time limit. The features certainly don’t stop users from shooting and posting videos of the straightforward, documenting, shaky camcorder variety. They do, however, encourage users to incorporate them in their videos, and subsequently active, deliberate storytelling. They also lead to some pretty clever Vines, like Table Toast by yelldesignMoving Image by origiful, and Tape Drivers by Yves Das.

Lastly, InstaVids are obnoxious. Like Jack-in-a-boxes that go off unexpectedly. Granted, this is more of a whine than a legitimate complaint, but honestly it bothers me that I can no longer scroll through my Instagram feed without worrying about a video playing suddenly—and loudly. If Instagram decided to shut off the auto-play feature, and allow volume control, I would be much happier.

“But isn’t Vine the same way?” you ask.

To which I answer: yes. But the difference is I come to Vine with the expectation that everything on my feed will be auto-playing and loud. That’s not the case on Instagram.

I should clarify, I didn’t set out on this post to bash InstaVid. I think there’s a time and place for (almost) everything, and InstaVid certainly has its place amongst the Internet denizens. The ability to share videos—moving pictures—opens up a great deal of potential for storytelling and memory-catching, and I for one am interested in seeing where the masses decide to take this new feature in the months ahead. I’ve already come across some pretty cool vids, including this one shot by Yewon Kim. I’m sure there will be more to come from other users. I just wanted to put it out there that, contrary to popular belief, Vine is not obsolete. To believe otherwise is to think in overly simplified terms. Vine and Instagram are similar, but very different platforms. They each have something to offer that the other doesn’t, and I think that difference is exactly what will keep Vine relevant for a good length of time.

I close this unexpected post with an invitation. Or rather, a plea. I’d invite you guys to follow my Vine account, but I’ve no idea how to make my profile linkable. So here’s a screenshot from my phone. Figure it out if you can.

In the meantime, get out there and make good art!

Hello summer!

As much as I want to gripe and moan about how time needs to slow the heck down because by Jove I am so not ready to face my next birthday in my current what-have-I-been-doing-with-my-life-I-need-a-new-job stage, I will instead keep positive and do what I can to work productively, but also enjoy these next few months. After all, it’s summer! And really, how can you stay glum when WATERMELON OMG is in season? And when there’s sunshine galore, and the days are extra long, and the evenings are lazy and cool, and you are practically judged if you don’t go to the beach at least once before Labor Day?

Also, something tells me I’ll be needing a Zip Car.

* * *

Readers — What are your plans for the summer?

Scriptwritering

We’ve been scriptwriting! It’s been a challenging process, but I’m loving every single moment of it. With only a couple weeks remaining before D-Day, I’m beginning to feel the pinch. There are props to be figured out, dialogue still to be written, lines to be memorized … but it’ll all work out in the end. (I mean, it kinda has to… hah.)

One of the things that I’ve been learning through this writing process is that collaboration is a constant give-and-take. You chip in your thoughts and opinions, and you push for them, but you must always be open to those of your team members, and weigh them equally with yours. Also, you can’t have an ego trip. Your end goal is not to show off, but to create something amazing as a team. I’ll be honest, working creatively in a group setting has not always been easy for me. I’m too used to working solo, and when it comes to anything artistic my natural reaction is to want people to do things my way. But I know that’s not a good attitude to foster. Quite frankly, it’s destructive. And it more often than not robs the project of some potentially awesome ideas! Consequently I have been making an effort to change. Hopefully, the progress shows.

THE WEEKEND : Memorial Day

I had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend. There was sun, and cuddles with the family dog, and random movie classics that our dad would leave playing on the television. There were hours spent in the sweetest of company: my sisters, whom I love to the ends of the earth. Seriously, no one gets me laughing, crying, fuming, and talking—and I mean, talking—like they do. And they get me. There were also mini adventures that were had: 6 AM hikes, a much-too-brief reunion with a dear friend, and a trip out to Newport Beach, which I have to say was surprisingly delightful. I was never much of a beach person, but now I find myself craving white sands and sunblock and the lapping of the salty Pacific.

On the other hand, there were moments that left my heart feeling bruised and stretched: the relearning of family customs, the typical squabbles, everywhere I turn the echoing reminders of time passing and time long past. And of course, there were the inevitable goodbyes. You would think by now that I’d be used to the ritual. But for whatever reason, it never gets easier. In fact, I feel it only gets harder.

But such is life, and family. It’s a hard reality to swallow sometimes, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

* * *

Readers — How was your Memorial Day weekend?

The Great 16-Hour Writathon

Junia and I have, for some time now, talked about doing a writing session: an extended amount of time in which we can unplug from the Internet and just write. That idea never fully realized until two weekends ago, when a group of our intrepid writerly friends hunkered down with us in our cluttered living room to participate in what I’ve since termed The Great 16-Hour Writathon. Our goal? To emerge, after a night-long writing spree, with the completed first draft of an original short story. While I can’t say that we were entirely successful—I don’t think any of us finished our first drafts—we did have a blast that night.

I can almost swear that there was something in the air. There was not a drop of liquor between any two of us, and yet somehow we all laughed uproariously at seemingly everything and anything for the better part of the evening. Even when we got serious, there was never an extended stretch of time where someone wasn’t doing something silly, or saying something ridiculous. Junia, for example, would randomly puncture the silence by breaking out in song, or else do spot-on impersonations of Russell Crowe’s rather unfortunate singing in Les Misérables. And then there were the endless hipster jokes. And Paul’s unflinchingly snarky and hilarious remarks. All in all, there was a LOT of madness. But I liked the madness. It was so unlike what I was used to—lots of quiet, lots of solitude—but it put me at ease. It also put me in that perfect state of mind—that writerly sweet spot—where one’s ambition and drive to create a completed story is balanced by the desire to be creative and to have fun in the process.

Looking back, what I appreciate the most about the Writathon was the people. I know, kind of a corny thing to say, but it’s true! The Writathon wouldn’t have been as enjoyable or productive or inspiring were it not for my fellow writers. I love that we were all having fun, embracing the craziness, but all the while working hard at our respective stories. I also love how we were able to approach each other at any time, whether for help or constructive criticism, or for thoughtful discussions on the nature of storytelling. We were friends first and then writers, and that made all the difference.

===

Many thanks to all who was a part of this! Especially Junia, who organized the event. Let’s do this again, yeah??