Love it or hate it – why I love Amazon

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Hardly a day goes by without someone writing about Amazon. Booksellers complain that the company is a monopoly that will eventually put smaller book retailers out of business. UK tax payers are incensed because Amazon has found a way round paying all the tax it owes to the UK government by selling to UK customers via Luxembourg. Employees complain about poor working conditions. Everyone has an opinion on this increasingly powerful behemoth and many are legitimate complaints but I’d like to give you the opinion of a humble customer and independent author for whom Amazon has made the world a much simpler place.
I lived in Spain in the late eighties and one clear memory of that time is how every trip to England meant filling my suitcase with paperbacks to bring back to Spain. If friends came to stay they would arrive with as many paperback books as they could carry. The only alternative was to drive to Gibraltar and buy books in English there. Then 
Amazon.com was formed in 1995 by the entrepreneur Jeff Bezos, followed in 1998 by the formation of amazon.co.uk. So when I moved to Spain for a second time in 1997, it wasn’t long before I was trying out this n ew internet  company as a ready source of reading material. That was the beginning of my love affair with Amazon. Nowadays I can buy books in paperback, audio or as ebooks from a number of on-line booksellers and the service is as good, but I still go back to Amazon, partly from habit but also because I haven’t been disappointed with their service, yet. Now I have a choice – I can buy from amazon.co.uk and pay UK postage or I can go to the Libros en Idioms Extranjeros on amazon.es and have them delivered free.
Over the years I have come to depend on my Amazon account for two main reasons – one is the ability to buy books second-hand very cheaply. You might think this is a strange comment from an author who needs people to buy her books in order to pay the bills, but living in Spain I do not have the same easy access to public libraries of books in English that I would have in the UK. So when I am doing the research for a new book, it is extremely useful to be able to buy a number of books at economic prices that will help me. They do not need to be in pristine condition – only readable. Sometimes they are not that cheap. I remember spending £25 on a very battered old copy of Spanish Testament by Arthur Koestler, published in 1937. It seemed expensive at first but turned out to be extremely useful for my research into the Spanish Civil War – the setting for the novel Spanish Lavender.
The other reason is much more personal – buying presents for the grandchildren. Not only are the books delivered to their door but I can check on my account to make sure I am not duplicating a present that I sent the previous Christmas.
Of course as a self-published independent author, I find Amazon KDP easy to use. The set-up of an ebook is not complicated, and if you need to make revisions they are quick and easy to implement and, more importantly, free. They also pay your royalties on time, every month. That is not to say that some of their more recent ideas, such as KDP Select, have worked for me, nor the marketing suggestions such as using a sliding price scale on a Countdown basis, or giving away free copies to the first few people that apply under the Amazon Giveaway. Even putting a book up for pre-order did nothing to improve my sales, and put me under extra stress to make sure I didn’t miss the release date.
​Having said all that, love it or hate it, Amazon – as tax-dodger, monopoly, or a ready source of reading material –  will I’m sure be here for many more years.
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Author

Joan Fallon is a writer and novelist living in Spain.

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