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Saturday, April 10, 2021

Alternatives to Amazon and Diet Coke

A list of vendors that are faster and cheaper and who don't try to interfere in matters they ought not to interfere in

T his morning at the grocery store there were huge pallets of Diet Pepsi in the entranceway, all on sale. At the soda aisle, the shelf containing Pepsi and Diet Pepsi had been stripped bare while the shelf dedicated to Coke, Diet Coke, and Coke Zero was untouched. It was like the Nightmare of the Toilet Paper all over again.


The Coke boycott comes, of course, as a result of their apparent racist policies and the comments by CEO James Quincy against the new voting reform law in Georgia. Coca-Cola thus became a soda non grata among many customers.

Diet Pepsi tastes the same as Diet Coke if you add a touch of instant lemonade mix such as Crystal Lite to it. So I stocked up.

Conservatives are also starting to boycott Amazon, which dropped the social media site Parler from its AWS servers, supposedly because Amazon believed conservatives were using it. Amazon thus used its monopoly power to attack freedom of speech.

I've been dissatisfied with Amazon for a while. Unless you sign up for their Amazon Prime, which costs $119 per year, they purposely delay your orders. I spend literally thousands of dollars per year on scientific and technical books, and book orders from Amazon routinely take two weeks or more, while books arrive from Barnes and Noble within a few days. So you can boycott a company that opposes free speech and get better service.

There are other good places to buy books, including www.alibris.com, abebooks.com (which compares many small bookshops and sells both new and used books) and addall.com (which compares different large vendors including Amazon). Here's a comparison of prices for a technical book I'm reading now, a paperback titled The Quark Structure of Hadrons: An Introduction to the Phenomenology and Spectro­scopy by Claude Amsler.

Alternative book vendors

 Vendor    Price (US$)    Delivery (days)   Shipping cost*  
Alibris   83.15 14 0.00
Barnes & Noble   89.99 5 0.00
Amazon   85.49 10 0.00
Addall (via bookshop.org)   93.49 11 3.50
The Book Depository   92.87 10 0
Abebooks   89.77 15 3.99
Bookshop.org   97.98 6 7.99
Powells.com 107.95 14 0
Springer.com   89.99 5 0
* Some vendors, such as Powells, have flat-rate shipping, which typically costs around $4.00 extra.

From the table, it's apparent that all vendors, except Powell's, have equivalent prices. Most, including Amazon, use US Mail, but publishers often use UPS, which is much faster. Springer has sample online chapters of some books, so I buy direct from the publisher whenever possible.

For hardware, McMaster-Carr is by far the best vendor. Their site is easier to order from than Amazon's, the quality is better, and they often deliver the next day. Grainger, Northern Tools, Online Industrial Supply (good for sandpaper), www.fittings.space (good for brass fittings), and Delvies Plastics (good for plastic raw materials), are all vendors I've had excellent results from, though Grainger occasionally has items that are unusually expensive. Lowes and Home Depot also have online ordering if you'd like to avoid being surveilled suspiciously while shopping.

For optical components there are Thorlabs, Edmund Optics, and Newport. For electronic components: Mouser.com and Digikey. And for junk food, nuts.com is good, though their boxes look weird.

Boycotting is symbolic in a number of ways. Of course it's intended to signal dissatisfaction, but it also represents a bifurcation of the public into two discontiguous segments: people have even stopped talking to friends on the other side of a political issue (mainly because, as I discovered, they'll try to get you fired). We read different newspapers and books, watch different movies, and believe different sets of facts. Soon enough there will be two of everything, including two kinds of science.

Whether splitting the country into two co-existing antagonistic groups is a good thing is left as an exercise for the reader. But there's no doubt about companies using their monopoly power to crush others for political reasons. That must stop.

apr 10 2021, 5:23 pm

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