Supporting the artist, or why I avoid Amazon

12 09 2010

I love books. I loooove books with a passion. Grad school was hard for me, not only because of the inherent complexity of grad school but also because with my meager stipend and little personal time I couldn’t afford books nor had the time to read them. Then I graduated,  got a job and it was like a piece of heaven every month, when I would log into Amazon.com and buy books, $30 per month. Why Amazon? Well, partly for the convenience of browsing their files late at night after work, the possibilities are close to endless and they do hold a great selection, but also because I could find no better price than them anywhere else.

Until one day, my friend Meredith Dillman was publishing a book: “Watercolor made easy: Fairies and fantasy”  and in Amazon they had it 20% less than she would sell it through her webpage. So I asked her why was that difference and she mentioned that the actual price of the book was the one she was giving through her site, but Amazon marks down the prices so much that it makes it hard for her to compete… to sell her own book!

Earlier this year Stephanie Pui Mun Law also released an awesome how to book “Dreamscapes: Myth and Magic” and Amazon marked it down by 34%! She also mentioned the hardships of competing against her own product in Amazon, because, let’s face it, the price difference is quite impressive! Something similar occurred with the book “Dreams of Magic” by artist Michelle Lee Phelan.

These artists, and many others, go through a lot of work to put these books together, hours of painting, writing, preparing the layout, editing, this is a task that usually starts over a year before the book is ready to be released. Amazon is driving the prices down so much that it is not even an advantage to get the books straight from the artist, who being a smaller seller cannot (and should not) lower the price to below what the publisher marks the book for. This gives problems to large publishers as Harper Collins, imagine what it does to a freelance artist! Usually what the artists do is offer a signed book with a little enhancement, being a sketch card, a small print, something extra to make the buyer feel that they are still gaining something from this purchase, even when they would be paying more.

I feel that with our current “Walmart culture” in which cheaper is better we are harming the creative minds that are producing those books, we are killing the hen of the golden eggs. My choice? I choose to buy straight from the artist each time I can, other bookstores when this is not possible, and Amazon when it is the only place where I can find that book. Yes, that means that I will buy  fewer books per month, or that some months I’ll go without books, but I rather know that the great artists that put months of effort, years of learning and sleepless nights will be well rewarded for their efforts, hoping that they will earn a good living and keep creating more awesome art, which is, after all, what we all wanted in the first place.


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4 responses

12 09 2010
Brenda Lyons

“Walmart Culture.” Probably the best description of consumers today. It’s hard since on one hand, it’s smart to bargain-shop and not spend money unwisely. On the other, you have to ask yourself, how low is TOO low? When does bargain-hunting turn into hurting the producer?

Looking at basic products, such as dishes and clothing, sometimes a price is ‘too good to be true.’ Stores that sell at discount like Walmart are able to do so because they cut into the wages and benefits of their employees, not their own profits.

I always wondered how sites like Amazon.com worked, but it makes sense now. It seems like they get their books at wholesale, and since they’re a huge company, they can survive if they only make a small percentage profit per sale. An individual author or artist can’t.

For those who are still stubborn in their ‘Walmart mentality,’ I would suggest treating a book purchase with planning. Buying books spontaneously is fine, but if it comes to buying one at $30 from the artist his or herself or $25 off Amazon, buy from the artist. You may not be saving $5, but you’ll be getting a lot more in karma and good deeds.🙂

12 09 2010
faerywitch

I agree with you, Brenda. How low is too low? When does it stop being advantageous for the buyer to turn into a terrible disadvantage for the producer? A commercial transaction has to be in the middle to benefit both parties, otherwise the artist might just break down and go get a job at a convenience store and do no more art. I understand when the consumer has no more choice but get the cheapest thing out there…. though if you are so broke you probably will not be buying art books, but most people can afford the extra $5 and that makes a world of difference for the artist!

12 09 2010
Brenda Lyons

That’s another good point – art books aren’t necessities like food and clothing, so saving a few bucks on an artist’s book shouldn’t be as massive a priority as getting a pair of pants at a good price.

It’s kind of like eating at a restaurant. Sure, you can ‘save a few bucks’ and not tip the waitress, but is it the right thing to do? Not at all. Eating out is a privilege, an ‘extra,’ and you should be willing to pay the full cost for it.

15 09 2010
faerywitch

Exactly! Except you are an art student there is no need to hunt for bargains in art books. And let’s not get started on the tipping issue! It always gets me in arguments with my family and my husband’s😉

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