Yesterday I got a letter from the AmazonSmile Foundation. The international charity that my husband and I had once upon a time is eligible for a contribution. Never mind that the charity was dissolved eighteen months ago, I still wanted to learn what Amazon is doing to support non-profits.

The letter reads “AmazonSmile is a program where Amazon donates 0.5% of the purchase price of eligible products to the charitable organizations selected by our customers.” Note that 0.5% is one half of one percent and the donation only applies on eligible products.

How does this stack up against common practices of independent bookstores when they’re working with schools and other worthy efforts? Indie booksellers will often offer ten to twenty percent.

Here’s the math on a huge purchase of $10,000:
AmazonSmile: $50
Indie Bookstore: $1,000 to $2,000

Indie bookstores are part of the community when Amazon only pays lip service.

Indie bookstores are part of the community when Amazon only pays lip service.

Plus, independent booksellers will also typically offer donations of silent auction items, review copies of upcoming books, materials for teachers, rent a costume character to visit the schools throughout the year, and sponsor visits from real authors and illustrators. Talk about adding value!

Recently I received a newsletter from a local non-profit we support asking us to designate their organization with the AmazonSmile program. While these volunteers work countless hours and do their very best, the decision to promote this program was not informed. Why would they want to support Amazon when the local bookstore offers them so much?

Some say you should be able to have both. Maybe for a while, but not for long. This is another one of Amazon’s maneuvers to eek more and more out of local businesses to grow Goliath. Once it has dominated more and more industries, we’ll all shop Amazon because Main Street shops will be empty and there won’t be any more silent auction items at those charity events.

CNBC will premiere “Amazon Rising” this Sunday at 9 pm EST. Where you shop says a lot about who you are and what you value. Amazon is brilliant at marketing and withholding information from reaching the pages of their annual reports. They’re also wildly successful in undercutting prices since the Wall Street investors are subsidizing their strategies to price below cost. Just how far will this go? Or, maybe the question is how long will governments and people support the race to monopolize shopping … for everything, everywhere.

Our work to spread the logic and wisdom behind shopping local continues against mega funding, predatory pricing, corporate bullying, and the race to own it all. Owners and booksellers of independent bookstores are tenacious, clever, authentic, and involved. I’ve never seen a more impassioned, articulate, and tenacious group of professionals. We’re just not used to the bullying part. Even though we can recommend some great picture books that address this issue, they are not likely the character-building books Amazon execs want to read.