Letter to the Editor: UMass should renegotiate its deal with Amazon

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The new Amazon @ UMass virtual bookstore, located in the Campus Center. (Shannon Broderick/Daily Collegian)

The new Amazon @ UMass virtual bookstore, located in the Campus Center.
(Shannon Broderick/Daily Collegian)

The University should renegotiate its deal with Amazon and reopen the Textbook Annex with another third party partner for three ethical and economic reasons.

First, the arrangement with Amazon represents the complete commodification of literature.
As Karl Marx systematically explained, the institution of capitalism, whether in private or public organizations, will perpetuate the de-humanization of all goods and services. As a public institution dedicated to critical thinking and higher education, I expect my university to protect the human aspects of labor and literature instead of giving into the machine of capitalism.

By disintegrating the process of creating and disseminating literature into corporate controlled publishers, inhuman supply chains, exploitative labor practices, online shopping, and ultimately a disconnected online financial transaction that sends a book through Amazon conveyer belts to the Amazon pick up station, the University and Amazon have fully disconnected the consumption of literature from the production of literature.

Second, the arrangement establishes a bureaucratic monopoly.

Amazon offers a series of services that many students found beneficial, and so those students elected to purchase those services, but now, students must purchase those services regardless of the student’s preferences.

We are now, through no agency of our own, a captive audience to Amazon.

Although Amazon claims that students will save an estimated 30 percent this year through Amazon, there are little mechanisms to monitor or ensure these savings, and no competition for students to turn to if these savings don’t appear.

Third, in a blatant marketing ploy Amazon and the University have obliged students to purchase Amazon Prime.

In corporate advertisements sprawled across our University, and in the Amazon link sent to students last week, the company claims to provide personal delivery to UMass students to the “following zip codes” in the Amherst area, and if you “don’t live in those zip codes” you can instead get one “day delivery to the campus store;” however, conversations with the store employees and Amazon customer service reveal that one can get one-day shipping to their address or to the store for one day pick up only if they are UMass student who elects to pay for Amazon Prime.

I can’t afford, and don’t want, to purchase Amazon Prime, but, since Amazon and the University have effectively established a monopoly, I must purchase Amazon Prime or be at a disadvantage to students who got their books expediently. If the textbook annex were still here I would have had my books on the first day of the semester, now, I will be waiting until mid-September.

Considering the commodification of literature, the limiting of choices and uncertain savings, becoming a captive audience, and the blatant marketing ploy, does this deal really help students? I feel as though I have been forced into purchasing from Amazon with little benefit to myself.
In light of the broader narrative of the corporatization of higher education, the monopolization of industry, and the reportedly unfair labor practices at Amazon, this deal is just another machination of capitalism commodifying human labor and its product.

Michael Havlin