We Need to be Less Reliant on Big Tech: A Tale of Unwanted Disruption: My Week Without Amazon

I stumbled across this story in Apple News and thought I should it share it given prior discussions about lock-in, Big Tech., and the enthusiasm for smart home tech.

The story is on Medium, “A Tale of Unwanted Disruption: My Week Without Amazon.” The Medium link does not work on this forum, so you’ll need to go directly to Medium. From Apple News, the link takes you to the link below (for the record, I’m not a reader of the Washington Examiner, I’m merely following the link). Accessing Brandon’s Medium posts is better because he has a follow-up post; Brandon is a Microsoft engineer and home automation enthusiast.

After reading this and his related story, I have serval reactions:

  • I’m glad I don’t use Alexa devices (I got rid of them some time ago due to privacy concerns)
  • Most of us have more “lock-in” than we may realize, and that is certainly true of the less technically inclined
  • While I trust Apple more than most big tech companies, I, too, am “locked in” by virtue of my reliance on Apple’s hardware, apps, iCloud, etc. For most of us there is little choice if we are going to take advantage of modern technology.

Here is a potential case in point. While I have a large physical library of books, most of my books are digital through Amazon. I could, theoretically, lose access to my entire Amazon library if Amazon decided to lock my account. While unlikely, that is a scary proposition. Likewise, theoretically, Apple could lock me out of iCloud. I have all of my documents in iCloud (though for backup purposes, I also have everything downloaded to my Mac). Google could do the same for my Gmail accounts.

In other words, we are, to an extent more than we realize, at the mercy of big tech. It seems to me we need much stronger legislation to protect consumers who subscribe to big tech services, which is another reason for me to limit the use of subscriptions. :slightly_smiling_face:


We are at the mercy of big tech. Without the AT&Ts and the Comcasts of the world my iPhone is about as useful as my old Palm Pilot. This Amazon case, IMO, is just a reflection of our society. Companies, institutions, and individuals are terrified of saying or doing something that will make them look bad. So their first reaction is frequently CYA (cover your a . .). Welcome to the 21st century.

True. To reduce my risk I keep local copies of my data and back up online. I own my own domain so if I have a problem with Google I can move my email to another provider in a couple of hours. And I used to “backup” many of my copy-protected books until I decided it wasn’t worth the effort.

But now more than ever I need online services to take advantage of existing and future technology. Look at Apple. Their second largest source of income after the iPhone is services. And every computing device they have developed since the Mac depends on software that is only available in the Apple App Store.

Unfortunately, to accomplish that we need legislators that understand technology and are not dependent on corporate money to fund their efforts to stay in office.

The good news is that we have lots of those! :wink:

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This is why I no longer subscribe to any cloud service. All my data is on my devices/ssds. What little I sync is backed up.

All my amazon books are de-drm via calibre. I mostly convert them to PDF.

We no longer buy online movies, but physical disks.

We’ve stopped Amazon Prime after 10 years. We’re now shopping locally first and if it’s unavailable looking at online UK retailers and as a last resort Amazon.

Living without constantly being connected is possible but not convenient. It’s easier for us old boys who did not grow up with the big tech online umbilical cord.

The major thing that would be removed for us would be the communications side of things, but hey, we still have a landline!

I’m less concerned about Big Tech and more concerned about Governmental “benign neglect” of “true” protection of the people.

While i’m thankful that things liked GDPR prevents the warehousing of customer data i’m absolutely OVER the dozen times daily I have to make a decision on cookies. The “all devices must USB-C” stuff coming out is a nontroversy. Secondary App stores are another one. The threat I have today is being stuck in wandering though a megalopolis of paywalls and siloed content. I have 800 + iTunes movies thus from an investment perspective i’m more keen on the thousands of dollars I have locked into a single ecosystem versus the $50 in lightning cables some govt official is trying to spare me from the tedium of purchasing.

Can’t read Twitter without an account. Can’t look at Pinterest for more than a page without the “sign up now” wall. The commercial sector has taken just about every ethos of the early internet with open communication and sharing wherever feasible and pissed all over it.

Now we have AI …I am not afraid in the least of AI (I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion -Alexander). It’s always the people who are engaging in exploitation for profit that are the primary culprit.

I will be de-Googling in the next year or so and likely de-cloudifying to a large extent. I can barely see the benefit of commercial cloud and cloud stuff for residential is even less value IMO. Intel is divesting from the lowend of the computing market.

Going forward i’ll be supporting the ideology of the Fediverse more and if young folks are smart they’ll heed the warnings and stop becoming the Fortune 100 fodder than they’ve been forced into.

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The cloud, as invisible as it seems, also has a massive environmental footprint. It’s not a bad idea to think about what we store there if we use it.

See Gerry McGovern, for example.

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How did you do that?

I almost stopped my Prime membership this year, but hesitated since I have about 40 books from them, even though I don’t have a Kindle. When I looked into taking control of books I purchased, I naturally thought of Calibre, but hit a brick wall. At the time, IIRC, one needed a Kindle reader associated with their Amazon account to get the actual files for the book.

Or did I miss something, as per usual?

I believe you are correct. You need a kindle device as every book is keyed to the kindle device’s serial number. This serial number is used by Calibre’s DeDRM plugins to remove DRM. It doesn’t matter which kindle, so it might be worth buying an old second hand one and connecting it to your account.

On your Amazon account you have to download the book for that specific kindle device as Amazon then DRM’s it to that kindle’s serial number. You put that serial in the plug-in and simply drag the book onto the app and it DeDRM’s the book.

You can still do this with the legacy kindle app for mac 1.17, but I’m not sure it will run on newer OS’s

Just so I’m clear, my reason for doing this is as a backup should Amazon ever go out of business or decide to lock me out of my account. I also often need to annotate books and PDF is much better than kindle. The majority of my books are non-fiction. This is all purely for my own personal use.


@CB_Sheridan Aye, as @svsmailus said it doesn’t need to be a Kindle you actually use, it can be a dud one just connected to your Amazon account solely for the purposes of de-DRMing.

I do the same thing with Calibre. I don’t want my books locked into Kindle, I want PDFs I can mark up how I like. I actually have a (somewhat redundant) dual backup system. I save the PDF version, which is the version I usually interact with, but I do also store the DRM file in my file system too. It seems a bit pointless (you can’t read it without Kindle), but it makes me feel better knowing the original file is there too :joy:

For extra security, I also don’t actually read the first PDF - I make a copy that then becomes my annotated copy of the book. So the end result is I have: the original DRM file, a clean PDF, and an annotated PDF.

And if iCloud breaks and I drop my external drive, I shall lose them all :grimacing:


OP, I think about this a lot. I’ve debated going across to Linux a few times, stopped only by my dependence on the cloud platforms - streaming music, syncing my photos etc. It always stopped me as it was a relatively poor experience everywhere else but on Apple’s platform. Lately I contemplated even just going old school and having my phone sync my photos to the laptop, where they would live as opposed to always having it on me. And also just having a synced music library (I’ve bought a tonne of CDs in the past so I’d find ways to download them online and consider it fair). Zero cloud. Zero ecosystem buy in. Just simple solutions to a somewhat digital lifestyle.

Problem being, we’ve got it better than we realise. Ordering via the McDonald’s app when the queue is too long, Starbucks too. We even have this app that locates you and lets you put a number in of a pay point for council owned car parks here, you swipe and timer starts and only pay what you use versus the old putting a coin in, for a ticket and displaying it and either getting caught short or over paying. It’s those little things, not the ‘big’ factors anymore, which hold me to Apple and the likes.


I also use Calibre, strictly for backup purposes (only with books I’ve paid for, of course). I use epub for my backup.

In practice, I still do my actual reading on a Kindle or in a Kindle app; I like the reading experience. But I want the security of knowing I can still access the books I paid for, regardless of what Amazon might decide to do in the future.


This is my approach as well. Every few months I deDRM the books in Calibre and store in iCloud just to be safe, but I truly the Kindle experience and don’t see myself switching anytime soon.

Thank you @svsmailus, @Pupsino and others for the comments and info.

I’ll be picking up a Kindle - probably a Paperwhite - for two reasons. One: to make sure I have the books I buy no matter what happens with Amazon and DRM, and two: I think I’ll read more using a Kindle than I do with my iPad, since I have a nice - but heavy - keyboard/ protective case on the iPad. (Also, I won’t be as nervous about dropping it in the water during long hot baths :sunglasses:).

And I will undoubtedly keep the original file, and maybe adopt the two PDF idea as well, labeling the second as a “DE” copy, to remind me of my days of dog-eared distillations.

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