Why I’m Leaving Amazon — And How You Can Help Starve The Beast

I’ll feel clean, once I’ve left the brown-tinged waters of the Amazon behind.

Let me begin by explaining that I joined the Amazon Associates program in 2007. At that time, Amazon’s corporate management was already liberal, but their politics didn’t influence the way that Amazon was operated to any great extent. And Amazon was not yet a provider of web/cloud computing services. I found Amazon to be a handy place to shop for books, DVDs, and various merchandise. They offered commission-earning links that never expired. By becoming an Amazon Associate, I earned an average of about 7% on any items that SurvivalBlog readers ordered, by clicking through from any of our links. Because I have so many readers, that equated to about $60,000 in income for the blog, in the first few years.

Then, in March of 2017, Amazon reduced their commissions by an average of 40%. And then, in April of 2020, they made a further reduction.  That brought my Amazon Associates income down to about $30,000 per year. But it was still worth the time and trouble to create Amazon product links.

Fast forward to January of 2021, and Amazon.com is now very heavily involved in providing web storage space  — controlling around 45% of the international market. And, in fact, the largest single portion of their revenue comes from web services—even more than from selling their books, bangles, and yoga pants. They now have huge server farms, hidden all over the country that are used for hosting Amazon Prime movies and leased out to a huge variety of corporate customers.

Starting in 2019, Amazon began censoring books and documentary films that were critical of vaccination. That was followed by bans on books that were critical of face mask mandates. They even had the temerity to censor the “Killing Free Speech” documentary about censorship. So much “Freedom of Press.” And it is also noteworthy that Amazon has not fairly-treated outside vendors that sell through their Amazon store. Amazon’s management refers to them as “internal competitors.”

After the November presidential election, but before the January 20th inauguration, Amazon let loose their inner “political activist.” In conspiracy with Apple and Google, Amazon actively targeted the conservative social media service Parler–booting them off of their cloud servers. Because they had used some proprietary Amazon Web Services software, it may take weeks or even months for Parler to get fully back in business. They may even resort to building a fully independent server farm, at great expense. In my opinion, Amazon’s takedown of Parler was a reprehensible form of censorship and prior restraint on the alternative media that depends on free access to social media platforms. I consider this the “last straw”. I can no longer in good conscience ally myself in any way with Amazon.com.

In addition to quitting the Amazon Associates program, I will also cancel my own Amazon Prime membership (now $119 per year), cancel my Amazon account, and stop making any new blog links to Amazon products. And I’ll try to come up with a script that will automatically rip out the thousands of Amazon links that are in SurvivalBlog’s database. (We now have more than 31,000 archived articles, columns, and letters.)

Instead of $30 Amazon gift cards, winners of Honorable Mention prizes in our nonfiction writing contest will receive $50 purchase credits for my spin-off sideline business, Elk Creek Company.

There is an old English saying: “If you take the King’s shilling, then you do the King’s bidding.” My message to King Jeff Bezos is brief and blunt: “I’m no longer your minion.” There is no getting around it, folks: It is time to starve the beast. Henceforth, please do not order merchandise from Amazon.com. Please instead buy locally, from independent retailers. And if you need something via mail, then please order from our paying banner advertisers and our affiliate advertisers. They deserve your patronage.

How We Keep SurvivalBlog Running

As for other blog income, here is where things stand: We earn about $13,000 per year from paid advertising, $4,500 per year in profit from archive USB stick sales, and $3,000 per year from affiliate advertising. Our other main source of income for operating the blog comes from voluntary subscriptions, dubbed The Ten Cent Challenge, wherein I ask readers to pony up 10 cents a day ($36.50 per year.) I’ve asked that same amount since the blog began, in 2005. Those subscriptions presently bring in about $28,000 per year. If you do the math on that, it means that only about 770 blog readers subscribe. (Well, actually a bit fewer, since just a handful of readers generously send $50, $73, or $100 per year. Also, one sends $200 per year, and another very generous reader sends $600 in $50 per-month checks.) We have a readership of about 120,000 regular readers. So based on 770 subscriptions, that means that only 6/10ths of one percent of readers actually subscribe.  A lot of you have been faithfully subscribing for more than a decade. But human nature is what it is, so the other 99.4% of readers have decided that they’ll let “someone else” subscribe.

Staying Afloat

The bottom line is that since we are divorcing ourselves from Amazon Associates, to make up for that lost revenue we will either need to sell a huge volume of advertising (which is not realistic), or we’ll have to basically double the number of people who make Ten Cent Challenge subscriptions. Please note that I’m NOT asking current subscribers to double up their payments. Rather, I’m asking the heretofore silent majority of folks who haven’t ever subscribed to start subscribing, and that everyone keeps renewing their subscriptions, year after year.

I am very grateful to those of you who support SurvivalBlog. In addition to cash-paid subscriptions, many of you also lend your support in intangible ways—such as by sending articles that end up in our bi-monthly writing contest. (If I had to pay freelance writers for all of those articles, then the blog’s annual expenses would vastly increase!) So, for that too, I am very grateful.

Another way that you can help — even if you are on a limited budget and cannot afford to subscribe — is by sending book, movie, and tool suggestions for my Recommendations of the Week column, which appears every Wednesday. Please e-mail me your suggestions for books and quality tools — preferably made in the United States and Canada, along with specific links to sellers OTHER THAN Amazon. Thanks!  Please do not send suggestions for products that are made in mainland China or other totalitarian countries.

I have always lived by faith. I put my trust in God. I am confident that even though I’m divorcing myself from the Tech Overlords of Amazon, that God will provide.

I will do my best not to pester you about this. I don’t want to become a PBS-style beggar.  I’ll just post a new “support” banner ad over in the right-hand column. Initially, that ad will be linked to this article.

Once again, my sincere thanks! – JWR

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