What can you do? Shop at Amazon.

This seems to be “Web 1.0″ week here at Skeptools, quite by accident. My last post was about hyperlinks, which is about as simple as you get. And I continue today with another very simple early-web technology. Fear not, I’ll get more cutting edge as we go on.

Near the end of my interview on the Skepticality podcast last week, we talked about skeptical activism. Many skeptics wonder what they should do to advance the cause. “What can I do?” For me, What’s The Harm is the first of my personal answers to that question.

What’s a good answer for you? Well that depends on your interests and skills. I will post more on that in the future, as I have many ideas that might appeal to you.

But until then here’s something very simple that any skeptic can do that supports the skeptic movement in a very real way. It requires little additional effort from you, assuming you already occasionally buy things from Amazon.com.

(For those of you who have been netizens since before Amazon started, this post may seem really obvious. Sorry about that, but trust me that there are newer people out there who are not aware of what I’m suggesting here).

Amazon affiliates

Amazon has one of the more successful internet affiliate programs out there. Unlike the brand new “Web 2.0″ technologies I talked about in my TAM6 presentation, this is not new at all. It is old technology, but it is effective technology.

You’ve probably seen these affiliate links to Amazon products on many websites and not thought much about them. You may have even thought they were merely ads. But when you click these links and order a product, a small referral fee is paid to the website where you clicked. There’s no change in price and you get the same product you would if you ordered directly. The money comes out of Amazon’s marketing budget. This isn’t just advertising, it is a great pain-free way to support skeptical websites and organizations. In effect, simply by being careful of where you click, you can get Amazon to donate money to your favorite skeptical cause.

But here’s something of which you may not be aware. The affiliate fees are not limited to products directly linked by the affiliate website. Almost any product you put in your shopping cart after clicking an affiliate link can count. In fact, mere days after I put a store up on What’s The Harm, I got an affiliate credit for 64 cents from a black T-shirt someone ordered. I have no shirts in my store!

So here’s the big tip: even if you are not intending to purchase something skeptic-related, you should start your shopping session at a skeptic website! Are you intending to buy some big-ticket item like a home appliance via Amazon? Head on over to your favorite skeptic website’s Amazon store first, and find an item there to buy first or use one of their other links to Amazon.

Websites are not free, and many of the great skeptical websites are run by non-profit organizations or individuals donating their spare time. Every little bit of support can help.

In addition, by buying skeptical books, videos and so on, you help create market forces that will guarantee that we get more of them in the future. For example, if Michael Shermer’s books don’t sell well, his publisher may not want to release his next one. That would be a bad thing for skepticism. Demand creates more supply of good content that can be used in fighting our skeptical battles.

Which sites can I support?

The affiliate programs are divided by country, so you need to find a web site which is affiliated with the country-specific Amazon store that you normally use. The countries currently supported by Amazon’s affiliate program are United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Japan and Germany.

My skeptical reading is limited to English, so the sites I am going to list here are limited to that language. I did some quick googling using my skeptical custom search, and tried to find every skeptical, science or consumer protection site I could which had an Amazon affilliate program set up. All of the ones I found happen to link to the US and UK Amazon stores.

If you are aware of good skeptical sites that I missed, particularly ones which are affiliated with the other supported countries, please point them out in the comments.

Amazon U.S. Affiliates

Robert T. Carroll’s Skeptic’s Dictionary is an excellent reference site for skeptical topics. I link to it on most of my topic pages on What’s The Harm. His Amazon store is here.

The James Randi Educational Foundation can be supported via the book review section of their forum. Read the reviews, and if you like one of the books buy it with the link supplied at the bottom of the review.

The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe is a great weekly skeptical podcast that I highly recommend. They run an Amazon store here.

Dr. Terry Polevoy runs a number of good health related sites in Canada including HealthWatcher and Chirowatch. I think of him as Canada’s counterpart to Dr. Stephen Barrett here in the U.S. Dr. Polevoy has an Amazon store here. NOTE! Although he is based in Canada, his Amazon links go to the U.S. store.

Phil Plait the “Bad Astronomer” is also a fantastic skeptic as well as the incoming President of the James Randi Educational Foundation. He has an Amazon store here.

Peter Bowditch’s The Millenium Project and the Australian Skeptics are two great Australian skeptical sites. You can access their shared Amazon store either from here or from here. (Both stores credit against the same affiliate account). NOTE: Although these are Australian web sites, they route you to the U.S. Amazon store.

F.A.C.T.net is an organization and website that fights abusive religious practices and cults. They are in a number of affiliate programs, you can get to all of them from this web page.

If you refer people to The Fallacy Files to explain logical fallacies, you may want to support them using this link.

MLM Survivor is a good news and reference site for those victimized by multi-level marketing schemes. You can purchase via the Amazon links on their main page.

The Nizkor Project is a site that fights the Holocaust denialists. You can purchase on Amazon via a link on this page.

Neurodiversity is a great site on autism that fights the good fight against the “mercury militia” and so on. They have an Amazon store specializing on autism here.

The Secular Web (Internet Infidels) also has an Amazon store and other stores here.

Finally, as I mentioned earlier I recently added an Amazon store to What’s The Harm? as well. If you want to support that site or this one you can find my store here.

Amazon U.K. Affiliates

There are two skeptical sites I was able to find that are affiliated with the Amazon U.K. store:

Ben Goldacre is a fantastic columnist for The Guardian and has his own website dedicated to Bad Science. He has an Amazon store here, which is worth visiting just to read the hilarious rationale for using it which he gives on the front page.

The UK Skeptics have a great website with plenty of good content. They have an Amazon store here.

Bookmark them!

Pick out the sites or organizations you want to support and bookmark their Amazon links! Delete any other bookmarks you have that go straight to the Amazon store. And from now on, you will know that the money you spend at Amazon is helping to support the skeptic movement.

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About Tim Farley
Focused on online misinformation, Tim Farley is a software engineer, computer security expert and scientific skeptic who created the site What's The Harm. He is a Past Fellow of the James Randi Educational Foundation.

7 Responses to What can you do? Shop at Amazon.

  1. Jolly Bloger says:

    I’m a little confused. I’m in Canada, so if I use the Amazon link on a US affiliate, then redirect to the Canadian Amazon, the skeptical site does not get the benefit?

    We should pressure the skeptical sites to become affiliates of all Amazon sites for this reason!

  2. Tim Farley says:

    I suppose that it is possible for a single website to be an affiliate on multiple Amazon stores, you would have to have multiple affiliate accounts with Amazon. You’d have to do a bit of fancy footwork with your web site to present the appropriate country-specific link to a customer based on where they were coming from, but there are tools to handle that.

    You’d also run into some problems with products that are available in one country but not another. Even between the U.S. and U.K., the same book is often published in a different edition (therefore different ISBN) for the other country.

  3. Tim Farley says:

    I just noticed one I overlooked in the main article. Rick Ross runs a great site devoted to cults and other religious abuse. He has a bookstore here:

    http://www.rickross.com/reference/books/reading_list.html

  4. johnsonhaas says:

    Thanks for all the great information. I saw your talk this summer at TAM 6 and after much dithering I’m now starting my own skeptical/science blog (obligatory plug: planetologist.net). Yes, another blog to join the 6.022e23 other blogs out there. Your articles are really helpful to someone like myself who never touched a news reader or filter before I went to Vegas this summer. I’m now on the learning curve. At some point in a faraway future age, I shall perhaps even have readers. Anyway, thanks much, your work is most appreciated!

  5. Tim Farley says:

    I just noticed that the excellent Quackometer site also has a UK Amazon store, so there’s another option for those in the UK.

  6. Tim Farley says:

    The James Randi Educational Foundation also has an Amazon store set up, a little easier to use than the book review section mentioned above.

  7. Pingback: Please Don’t Start Another Blog or Podcast! « Skeptical Software Tools

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