By Fran Simon, M.Ed.

The biggest consumer season of the year is on now! It’s the perfect time to learn what happens to innovation when you buy Early Childhood books and resources from Amazon. It’s not pretty.

I know, you want to save money

It’s true that you can sometimes find lower prices on early childhood books and resources on Amazon. Prime memberships often offer free shipping (but not always.) And, yes, some of our favorite early childhood companies sell their products on the site. But, there are really devastating consequences for the companies that have been developing products specifically for early childhood education for decades. Amazon, like most retail outlets, takes a share of every purchase. In Amazon’s case, the share is massive and the volume is overwhelming. Because Amazon sells so many more of everything, the early childhood specific vendors earn much less on every sale than when you buy from them. I know, you think books and classroom materials are just too darned expensive, and you have to save where you can. I hear you!

So, what’s the big deal?

The amount of money smaller publishers give up with every sale on Amazon eats up the money they ordinarily use to reinvest in new products. They lose so much of their revenue in transactions through Amazon, they have less money to sustain their companies. Their employees, including editors, authors,  and other staff members (who are often early childhood specialists) feel the pinch, and often lose their jobs. The loss of money also impacts all of the other elements that it takes to create and publish quality books. An entire ecosystem of people whose careers are invested in our field are impacted by the loss of revenue to one of the the wealthiest companies in the world. And Amazon grows more powerful each day. For a much more in-depth description and accounts from small companies appeared in the New York Time. Read it for the real nitty-grittyMost importantly, the resources designed for the specific needs of early childhood classrooms, playgrounds, and professional development will eventually disappear.

Big, wealthy publishers that have more money don’t take interest in early childhood education. They do not invest in publishing resources for our profession. But there are some smaller companies that do nothing but create and distribute to our sector. Publishers like NAEYC, Redleaf Press, and Exchange Press, which are non-profit organizations, regularly hire early childhood experts to write books and develop resources specifically for our industry. Brookes Publishing, Gryphon House, Free Spirit Publishing, Teacher’s College Press, and other small publishers also continue to invest in innovations and support authors in our field to bring you the best resources to inform the workforce. Another excellent resource, Bookvine, which is one of the most beloved booksellers in our field, founded by Isabel Baker, has earned your support for decades of devotion to early childhood education.  This is also true of curriculum companies like Teaching Strategies, High Scope, Tools of the Mind, InvestiGator Club, Frog Street, Conscious Discipline, Second Step, and more. You know the publishers and they will eventually no longer be able to afford to bring you the materials you have come to rely on if you buy them from Amazon. 

What about classroom materials, furniture and playground equipment? The same is true. Think about companies like Nature Explore, and Community Playthings, which are known for decades of  producing the highest quality furniture, materials, and playgrounds available to early childhood programs. Kodo Kids, a newer innovator in our industry develops extraordinarily beautiful and high quality products that support thinking skills. When you choose plastic toys from Amazon over products developed by a compnay that is solely focused on early childhood education, essentially your purchase contributes to choking out innovation. Companies like Kaplan Early Learning, Lakeshore Learning, Discount School Supplies, and Becker School Supplies, who have all invested heavily in supporting our community will suffer.

Here’s what you can do

The entire ecosystem of people who work for all of the companies and publishers feel the impact when you purchase from Amazon. And we all lose critical assets we need to do our jobs when this ecosystem is disrupted. We are an intentional and resourceful community of professionals when it comes to working with children and families. We need to be just as intentional about how we spend our money. I urge you to buy products from companies that care about your work and young children, not an amazonian company that does nothing to improve early childhood education. Your purchases from these fine smaller companies can be investments that ensure a legacy for early childhood education instead of a transaction.