14 May 2018

Overdrive

At the end of last month, Jeff Bezos gave an interview where he said:

The only way that I can see to deploy this much financial resource is by converting my Amazon winnings into space travel. That is basically it.

How much financial resource? $130.8 billion dollars. As one person worked out, that’s enough money to buy an entire house, at median US real estate prices, for every single homeless person in the USA — and still have $19.2 billion left to retire on.

Now, that’s a little misleading, of course, because a lot of his riches are tied up in Amazon’s stock price. Still, in 2017 alone he got $35 billion richer. That’d be enough to buy every homeless person in Washington State a million dollar house.

Instead, Amazon has decided to put its expansion plans in Seattle on hold, because the city had the temerity to propose a tax on large corporations in order to try to fund aid for the homeless. The proposed tax is a mere $500 per employee per year, and only for corporations making more than $20 million annually. That’s basically small change for any large corporation when reckoned against total cost of employees; Amazon’s Seattle employees earn a median of $110,000 per year. Clearly it’s the principle of the thing.

It wouldn’t be quite so galling if it wasn’t for the fact that as with Walmart, thousands of Amazon employees rely on food stamps to get by. I mean, clearly it’s crazy to expect Bezos to end homelessness, but couldn’t he at least pay his employees a living wage?

I could also mention the fact that Amazon is basically the only big company willing to keep funding Breitbart in spite of protests and the harrowing work conditions warehouse employees are subjected to.

Put it all together and the news put me at a tipping point: I decided it was way past time to stop buying books from Amazon. So I gave in and bought a Kobo e-reader, made sure all my e-books had the DRM stripped, and converted the books in Kindle format to ePub. I figure that if I have an e-reader that makes it actively inconvenient to buy from Amazon, I’m less likely to be tempted.

The new device also lets me do two things I couldn’t do on a Kindle: buy e-books from my local independent bookstore, and borrow books from the Austin public library right on my e-reader.

© mathew 2017