Friday, July 08, 2011

Amazon Dumps Us

Now that California has signed into law a tax reform that counts internet business associations as establishing legal "nexus" for state taxes to apply, Amazon has dumped all of its California internet sales associates. That means I can no longer earn a commission on referring you to Amazon to buy my books, or other books that I think are worth reading (which I had been doing in my Richard Carrier Recommends Amazon store, with my top recommendations in history and philosophy, as well as my favorite films and novels). This isn't because it costs Amazon anything (sales taxes are paid by the customer, not Amazon), but solely because Amazon wants to maintain it's edge in price competition with other vendors (like Barnes & Noble, which, having brick-and-mortar stores in California, already had nexus and thus was already paying California sales taxes on its internet sales).

I think that's lame. Amazon is actually going to lose a lot of business and market share to Barnes & Noble and other vendors, as Amazon's 10,000 abandoned sales associates in California switch to the competition, which I doubt is worth the tiny advantage they can offer in pricing. But there's nothing I can do about that. Except dump Amazon in return and associate with Barnes & Noble. Notably this switch has occurred in many other states, due to similar laws passing all over (it's why the Secular Web was forced to switch to Barnes & Noble over a year ago). Even Texas forced Amazon to close a warehouse there after sticking them with a massive back-dated tax bill. And it seems apparent already that Amazon is actually starting to lose market share in the online book market, just when it had started to dominate there. If Amazon recognizes this grave error and comes back to California, I'll switch back to them, because I think Amazon is a superior service organization in every other way. But until then, I have relaunched my bookstore with links to Barnes & Noble, and will continue hereafter hyperlinking all books I recommend on my blog to Barnes & Noble.

So if you want to help support me, please don't be afraid to complete your purchases through Barnes & Noble when using my links and bookstore. Note that my commission comes out of their end, not yours, so you don't pay any more buying through me. You pay exactly the same as if you came to Barnes & Noble yourself, so the fact that I get a kickback is purely a bonus result of buying from them when you click through me. With Amazon, the income I earned from this was small, but enough to buy a few books every month on the cheap (at Amazon!), and that's how I will likely use my Barnes & Noble money, too.

I can't afford the labor to go through my last 150+ blog entries and rewrite the URLs of all book links from Amazon to Barnes & Noble, so old blogs will still point to Amazon, and I just won't get any commission from those referrals. But I have updated all my permanent links (in the template and margins of my blog, and on my official website) and have created a new Richard Carrier Recommends bookstore, all linked up and ready to go. If you haven't perused that before, please do (I've also made a few additions). I apologize for the inconvenience of having to buy through B&N. But I sincerely thank you for all your support. Enjoy!


curious cuber said...

Shit. My wish list on Amazon is HUGE! But if possible I will try to purchase through your B&N connection.

Cameron said...

Why not place blame on the state government for passing the law? Amazon is merely reacting to it.

Pikemann Urge said...

Slightly off-topic, but one of Amazon's mistakes was ditching their superior branding (of being 'Earth's biggest bookstore'). When your brand loses focus, it loses sales.

Richard Carrier said...

Cameron said... Why not place blame on the state government for passing the law? Amazon is merely reacting to it.

Because the state law was correct and ought to have been passed (which is why similar laws are passing in states all over the country). It closed a loophole being exploited unfairly. Amazon should be paying sales tax on sales in states where it has nexus, just like everyone else. It's unfair otherwise, as then Amazon can avoid taxes its competitors can't.

Indeed, Amazon isn't the one who has to pay the tax. It simply has to collect the tax from Californians who buy on their site. So it's not even like it affects Amazon's bottom line. Their only reason for avoiding it is to try and get an edge in price competition.

Which in effect is cheating: companies in California have to pay the tax; so Amazon wants to "bootleg" goods into California to avoid that tax and thus get an unfair advantage. That's what this is, bootlegging. Alexander Hamilton made it his mission to fight bootlegging in every form, even establishing the Coast Guard as the first standing U.S. armed force specifically to combat it, and this fight was one of the primary concerns of all the Founding Fathers (contrary to idiots who think they were anti-tax).

This modern "mail order" bootlegging has since been tolerated in law on the grounds that it is unconstitutional for one state to force a company in another state to pay taxes on mail order goods (this was not the founders' intent, it's just an accidental byproduct of the commerce clause, which puts all interstate commerce in the jurisdiction of the federal government--so the federal government can tax interstate commerce, but the states themselves cannot).

So the workaround developed nationwide over the last two centuries has been that "nexus" removes the commerce clause provision from play, since taxes are then levied on the company in the state they are in. The way to abuse the commerce clause to avoid this fair taxation is to then have no established business reps in the state, thus preventing the state from enforcing its own tax laws.

The federal government could have remedied this absurd situation, but as we all know they rarely do what's right, they usually do what corporations like Amazon pay them to do, so they've sat on their asses, while states try to fend for themselves and close all the loopholes they constitutionally can. California is actually a latecomer to this trend.

Amazon is simply being a douchebag about it.

Joe-sf said...

Would it be possible for you to use Powell's. It's privately owned and a great bookstore. I used to live in Portland and I try to buy from them whenever I can.

Anyway, just wondering.

Richard Carrier said...

Do they have an online sales affiliate program?