I am Boycotting Amazon for the Holidays

I wrote a book to teach kids and beginners computer programming by making games entitled, “Invent Your Own Computer Games with Python”. After a few months of distributing it online for free, I began to use the print-on-demand service at CreateSpace.com (owned by Amazon.com) to self-publish the book. I continue to make the book available for free online ( at http://inventwithpython.com ), but it was nice to receive a form of compensation I could buy burritos with.

CreateSpace.com continues to be a great service, and it makes it easy to publish on Amazon.com. But after Amazon.com has expelled WikiLeaks from its web hosting service, I have decided to pull my book from Amazon and boycott their site for the holiday season.

I encourage others to do the same.

Disabling the sale of Invent with Python

“Invent with Python” will probably still be for sale on Amazon via third party dealers with used copies, but I’ve instructed the CreateSpace.com to disable selling new copies of the book. I’ll continue to provide the full PDF online for free, because it’s always been more important to me to get it in the hands of readers than to make a buck off of it. (That, and dividing the not insignificant amount of money I’ll make from it by the very, very significant number of hours I put into it would be too depressing.)

In a way, this is an easy decision for me to make. I’m not dependent on book sales to provide me with a living, and boycotting Amazon.com for the holidays will only be an inconvenience. But this makes it all the more important that I don’t simply follow the easy path of silent complicity.

It will cost me over a grand this month to not sell my book, but it will cost Amazon (by my estimates) twice as much. In the end though, it probably hurts me more than it affects a multi-billion dollar company like Amazon. But I feel it’s the right thing to do, and that often doesn’t come cheap.

There are alternatives to the online giant, and I’ll be taking a look at Powell’s Books, Half-Price Books, Borders, Barnes and Noble, Biblio and others for gifts this year.

I understand that Amazon has a duty to its shareholders to protect its business interests and entangling itself with powerful political cronies does not help its bottom line. But this is why it is up to us to make defending freedom of speech one of its business interests. Amazon’s own claims that it pulled WikiLeaks for violation of its Terms of Services and not due to political pressure are equally lame and preposterous. We must vote with our voices and our pocketbooks, and I hope to set an example for others with my actions.

I’d like to thank Daniel Ellsberg (of the Pentagon Papers fame) for his call to boycott.

EDIT: Here's is an interesting and relevant link: Wikileaks Has Committed No Crime

EDIT (12/10): Damn it. I checked my createspace account this morning and found that even though I had the "extended distribution" (i.e. wholesale) channel disabled, they still sold 32 books to someone. I'll be donating the proceeds from that to WikiLeaks. I haven't seen any other sales aside from those.

32 thoughts on “I am Boycotting Amazon for the Holidays

  1. I've been enjoying every chapter of your book so far and I reckon once I'm at the end of it I'll owe you big thanks. I wholeheartedly support you in this boycott, and I think "voting with our wallets" is the most powerful message the everyday consumer can send today.

    I see you already got your book listed with Barnes and Noble, that was fast :) I considered buying the book, but by the time I'd receive it I hope to be more than halfway through, so it would be a waste of paper. Instead I opted to simply send $25 your way, which should get you just enough bad whiskey to forget all about the disappointing direction of the information age as of late for about a day or so.

    And a merry Christmas and happy New Year to ya!

    Sincerely,

    ~ Erlend Sogge Heggen

    Al's reply: Thanks for your support!

  2. You are boycotting a company because they enforce their terms of service? Maybe Julian Assange should have actually read it before he switched hosting companies. Don't get my wrong, I support what Wikileaks is doing, but you can't blame Amazon for enforcing their own polices. Julian should invest in some of his own hardware if he wants to play in the big league.

    Author's reply: Amazon's invoking of its ToS is a technical way that they can comply with political pressure without admitting that they are cooperating. They have had an opportunity to support freedom of speech, and have decided to duck it. This move is the wrong one, and I want to convey my disapproval by pulling my book for the holiday season.

    And considering that WikiLeaks is still online despite censorship attempts, DDOS attacks, and worldwide attention, I'd consider them to already be in the "big league".

  3. Congratulations for living up to your values, but I question if you're really punishing the right people.

    Why not boycott Google just because someone used Google Docs to promote hate speech? That would be an analogous to what you're doing, conflating a *service* with a *platform*.

    And in the process, you're promoting an economic harm that would be more brutal to merchants who use Amazon than Jeff Bezos (or any of the executives involved in decisions over the S3 service, which is a completely different segment from the core business.)

    Do you really want to punish small businesses that have nothing to do with your beef?

    Why not boycott local GM dealerships, because GMAC financing is believed to have discriminated against some demographics?

    Same deal.

  4. Ike: It's the patriotic duty of all Amazon merchants to dump that evil corporation. I've canceled my Amazon account and certainly won't shop on Amazon at least for the Solstice season. In fact, I won't go back until Amazon publicly apologizes and puts Wikileaks back up for free to compensate them and all patriotic Americans for this fascist and unAmerican act.

  5. I support you 100%.

    I hope Amazon sees that it was a mistake to take away their webspace in the manner that they did, and I don't believe that you are punishing the wrong entity. Even if AWS is a separate division of the company, they are still representatives of Amazon.

    @John: The policy of: "AWS reserves the right to refuse service, terminate accounts, remove or edit content in its sole discretion..." is a cop out for them. They couldn't handle the political pressure, and it just goes to show even more that freedom of speech doesn't mean anything in this country anymore.

    @Ike: Strawman arguements do not invalidate Al's reasoning for boycotting Amazon. Please stop it.

    Al's reply: Thanks for your support, BJ!

  6. 'Tard.

    Really, it was a "do it now, or be forced to do it later" situation. You know it as well as everyone else, but you're in denial.

    It's shortsighted fools such as yourself that keep Apple in business.

    Al's reply: I am... less than convinced by your argument.

  7. I'm sure this is a gross over-simplification, but if the city of DC wants to push out dealerships that sell stolen cars, it seems reasonable for Amazon to do so with sites that traffic in illegally obtained information. Obviously, I do not support thr Wikileaks concept -- at all.

    Al's reply: That is a gross oversimplification. Why did you use that analogy for your argument? (Note: The email address Helmut provided bounced, so I probably won't get a reply.)

  8. Boycott Joe Lieberman. He's the real problem here.

    Amazon made it clear this was a case of rights infringement. You may argue that's a thin case, but they have terms of service which are clear in this regard.

  9. So you think that Amazon should continue to host classified US documents for the world to see? Many of those documents are SECRET/NOFORN and SECRET. If it's deemed that it's OK and acceptable to host that material without penalty, imagine the issues that could arise.

    Julian Assange is not the great man you think he is. If he truly wanted to help the world he'd be releasing documents for all the countries in the world at once, not just the US. As it stands the large releases have been aimed at the US, and not others. To even begin to believe we're the only "evil" government in the world is biased at best.

  10. I'm happy to find you. I will stand with you in this.
    Any way I can help I will. I will start with buying your book.
    Amazon has proven itself to be an evil entity.
    Standing up to that in leu of revenue is impressive.

  11. Keep it up...

    At least some sane people would be spared of books from an narrow minder idiot. I would encourage and suggest you to pull your book once and for all.

    Al's reply: Harsh. And doesn't really help me understand your position.

  12. I hope the exposure you're getting as a result of this principled and admirable stance increases your sales in the long run. You certainly deserve that.

    PayPal have also expelled Wikileaks on even thinner grounds than Amazon.

    You might want to put the following link somewhere on this post, so likeminded people can donate to Wikileaks: http://wikileaks.dd19.de/support.html

    It is a terrible shame that these companies have done this. I am sure they received clear threats that would have cost them much more than this had they refused to expel Wikileaks, (how I'd love it if wikileaks exposed those threats!), but Wikileaks have done nothing illegal (publishing leaks is not illegal), and for whistleblowers against the deadly tyranny of corruption all over the world Wikileaks are an inspiration. Fortunately I believe that in this age of increasingly easy mass data transfer, leaks are an inevitability regardless of the fortunes of Assange or Wikileaks.

  13. You think you are acting rationally, but you are acting as a tool against the United States. Look at what Assange has said publicly that he is trying to shut down the flow of information in the USA government to make it dumber, slower, and less capable. Out of all the countries in the world, is the USA the one you wish to target? Because that is what you are promoting, his agenda. Not free flow of information, nothing because damaging the US government to make it have less internal communication to make it weaker. Think before you leap, and know your friends before you become their personal army.

  14. Go You. I will boycott Amazon also.

    And here I was thinking that everybody else believed their little PR speel about violation of its Terms and Services.

    +1 Karma

  15. @Ike
    Your reasonings are ridiculously flawed. Why boycott Google because someone posted 'bad content' there? God damn; he's boycotting amazon because they killed the right to distribute free information, or 'freedom of speech'; not what the website posted. Plus Amazon gets most of its revenue from selling their service to other websites, which is an configurable online store. I weep for your intelligence.

    Jordan

  16. Jordan, you are a moron! "he’s boycotting amazon because they killed the right to distribute free information, or ‘freedom of speech’"

    Rubbish! Amazon hasn't killed Wikileaks, just one tiny part of it. Amazon is a BUSINESS, not a government agency. Oh, yes, one more thing - it's not "FREE INFORMATION", it's stolen secret documents.

  17. I just bought my kindle when this whole fiasco started. However, I might be able to return it and get a Nook now that Google's book library seems to support it. I really loved my kindle too, but I can't put up with hypocrisy like this.

  18. Ahhh of course, trolls come out in full force! But the thing is, none of them properly defend their point of view, and when they do (or when they THINK they do) defend their side, it's muddled and makes little or no sense. Likewise, they also completely skew, misrepresent, make terrible (or false) comparisons or interpret your argument incorrectly. Oh well, it keeps me entertained, at the least.

    Al, keep up what you're doing! I'm behind you, and the decision you've made!

  19. I've closed all of my accounts with Amazon. It's a shame they claim TOS violations without any actual proof. Unfortunately I couldn't use your "Donate" button when I downloaded your book because we no longer have PayPal accounts around here either.

  20. @ George: It does release articles on other governments. They just get more articles about the US than any other country. They have won awards for releasing information about police killing and other disappearances in Kenya. They released confidential records kept by the UN, published lists of forbidden and banned sites by country, listed membership of BNP (UK politics) which got some police fired (They aren't allowed to join, but were still involved), released documents showing wrong-doings of a Swedish bank, and a Somali "assassination plot".

    Yet the White House can release documents about a CIA agent that cause 70+ deaths and NOONE is brought to trial.

    You know, I wouldn't be so for Wikileaks if the news wasn't splattered with the unnecessary news of the drama-filled lives of celebrities. It's funny how the media was so FOR Wikileaks up until recently, but I believe that it has to do with how it's now showing the news corps for what they really are...Puppets.

  21. Hey Al,

    Just wanted to chime in and offer my words of support. I'm in the process of learning Python and your book has proved to be a very valuable resource to me in my programming endeavors. I'm glad you are a supporter of truth and not bound by greed. Keep it up and others will too.

    Go Al!

  22. Holy shit, an American with principles who's standing by them. Good on, mate! Ignore the trolls. Those who defend the government blindly are no more than mouthpieces for the very stupidity they profess to hate.

  23. Hey Al!

    Support you all the way man! Have cancelled my amazon account and haven't bought anything from them this season (which is a first).

    WikiLeaks is a shining example of freedoms that have slowly been whittled away by governments in the interests of 'national security' and 'anti-terrorism'.

    All the best mate, good luck with your book!

  24. I applaud your effort with this decision.

    In regards to the whole WikiLeaks issue, it can easily be summed up by saying that if the journalists, news organization, and politicians were doing their jobs properly in the first place, there would be no threat from a site like WikiLeaks.

    Aside from this, I have started looking over your book as a possible book to introduce programming to my son. Thank you for this.

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