Someone linked to a post on Facebook, that I just had to respond to it...
It's not something I often do, but sometimes you just gotta rant...
The post is
"Why Amazon Sucks, Pt. 1: Tax-evasion, Bullying, Censorship"
In my humble opinion, this is bullshit.
I don't pay sales taxes when I buy from L.L. Bean online, because they don't have a store in California either.
Ditto for ordering from Wireless, or any other catalog store that doesn't have physical stores in my state.
They don't collect sales tax because Federal law says they don't have to. The Supreme Court, in 1992, interpreting Congressional law, said so too. Yes, they did it to help a fledgling industry get it's feet on the ground, but that doesn't change the fact that Congress and the Supremes took the matter out of the states' hands.
In California, there are 1700 jurisdictions that charge their own tax rates.
Of course, most of them break down to 5 or 6 different rates, but still, a merchant has to keep track of them all? Multiply that by 50 states.
If Amazon has to collect sales tax, so does every small t-shirt or pen or jewelry maker in the country. When I buy jewelry from a little shop I know in Raleigh, N.C., I don't pay sales tax either. Is every person who sells anything on the internet (or by mail order) supposed to track tens of thousands of sales rates?
Based on what... shipping address? What if I live in Oregon, which doesn't have sales tax, and am buying something for my mother in California, which has 1700 sales tax lookups?
Billing address? Fine, I'll do what corporations do, and get a mailbox in a tax-free state for billing.
We don't make laws that only apply to big companies.
Holding Employees Hostage
There's still a legal question about whether having a distribution center that doesn't do any sales is a "point of presence" legally. This, again, doesn't apply only to Amazon. Up till now, a "point of presence" meant a store. Texas said they were going to redefine it to include distribution centers. Amazon said "Fine. See ya."
Why is this Amazon "holding employees hostage", in view of the thousands of rants about raising taxes driving businesses out of a state? Isn't that what Texas is doing in this case?
But the issue 90% of the news stories talk about is the "affiliates". The states are saying that "Because Amazon has affiliates in our state, they have a business presence and have to charge sales tax."
Amazon affiliates are bloggers and other people who have small websites who run ads for Amazon, that have links to Amazon in the ads. That's it. Is The Sacramento Bee an employee of every advertiser that runs ads on sacbee.com? California was saying that when they were arguing about a law that would try and make Amazon charge sales tax in the state,. but it's moot, because our legislature didn't pass the law. They can't pass a law banning burning kittens, they're so completely dysfunctional.
From a sacbee.com editorial:
"Amazon.com, the giant online retailer, is becoming quite the bully.
From its base in Seattle, Amazon is threatening the livelihoods of 10,000 California affiliates if legislators proceed with efforts to force Amazon to collect sales taxes from its customers, something it should have been doing for years.
Amazon affiliates place Amazon ads on their websites in exchange for payments when visitors click on the ads. With its threat, Amazon proposes to further damage California by removing a revenue source from this state's businesses."
They bully publishers
Melville books has to sell its books through Amazon?
The Nation article referenced in the post has this, in the 6th paragraph:
"(Disclosure: the new publishing company with which I am involved, OR Books, does not deal with Amazon. We sell direct to customers, channeling money that would otherwise go on discount and distribution to extensive promotion, primarily on the Internet.)"
So a writer who has a company that doesn't deal with Amazon, but sells their books direct, is doing a story about another publisher, who DOES sell through Amazon, but doesn't like the deal, and will "be forced out of business" unless they succumb to Amazon's evil ways?
I buy TONS of books and ebooks from Smashwords, Baen, Apex Books, Strange Horizons, Orbit Books, Prime Books, Pib Press, O'Reilly, Subterranean Press, Book View Cafe, and authors' websites.
With Macmillan, they had a deal with Amazon that they had been using for years. Apple came along with a better deal with its ibooks store. Macmillan signed up, but also demanded that Amazon go with the same deal. Amazon and Macmillan got into a pissing match with each other for about a week where Amazon was trying to show Macmillan that they needed Amazon more than Amazon needed them, and Amazon lost. Amazon caved, and went with the model that Steve Jobs declared was the new ebook sales plan. Feel better being under Steve's control than Jeff's? Good. Does this make Amazon evil?
Harper Collins made big news a couple of months ago when it announced that ebooks with the Overdrive licensing that libraries use (so they can't lend 20 copies of a book they only have one copy of) would be limited to 26 checkouts before the license would die and the library would have to buy another copy… of an ebook… which is a bunch of data. There was a large uproar among the library and ebook geek crowd.
Oh, yeah… Macmillan won't allow library copies of its ebooks at all. It hasn't found a "viable business model" to make that profitable.
We don't need no stinkin Publishers
"So, Amazon decided that, with publishers finally challenging them, they would just become a publisher themselves and knock out the middle man"
So there's a problem with Amazon OFFERING a self-publishing service that bypasses the big publishers and let's the authors get a bigger cut of the sales? Are they forcing anyone to use this service? Huh?
Wow, they cite a story from April 2009 that Amazon was censoring LGBT titles, which Amazon responded to almost immediately with
Amazon spokeswoman Patty Smith told CNN partner Web site CNET News that the "glitch" was being fixed, but declined to elaborate. "This is an embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error for a company that prides itself on offering complete selection," she wrote in an e-mail statement.
"It has been misreported that the issue was limited to Gay & Lesbian themed titles -- in fact, it impacted 57,310 books in a number of broad categories such as Health, Mind & Body, Reproductive & Sexual Medicine, and Erotica," the statement said.
"This problem impacted books not just in the United States but globally. It affected not just sales rank but also had the effect of removing the books from Amazon's main product search."
I find dozens, if not hundreds of listings when I search Amazon for "Lady Chatterly's Lover". Oh, wait, the article says:
"If you are looking through best-sellers, you’ll be protected from Lady Chatterly (thanks, 1950’s morality court Amazon)."
Um… Is "Lady Chatterly's Lover" still a bestseller?
The article goes on to say that Amazon is "censoring" novels with "graphic sex and/or violence". One reference I found (there's aren't many unique ones in googling this) was an author saying Amazon had removed his titles
How To Rape A Straight Guy
Rape In Holding Cell 6
And Amazon said:
"During our review process, we found that your titles contain content that is in violation of our content guidelines. As a result, we have removed the books from our store."
Another blog post was about "erotic incest fantasy fiction" books being dropped from the store.
I realize Amazon is the largest bookseller in the world, and may even "pride itself on offering complete selection", but it's mandatory that they sell every book in the world? I don't think these titles are available at Barnes & Nobel either. Is B&N "censoring" these books?
Enough rant for one day.