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.
“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.