I am an Amazon junkie and my addiction is getting worse. The number of books I ordered last month from Amazon.com is higher than the total number of books I purchased during the whole of 2006. I didn’t become a more avid reader. I simply bought more books. Unread books are crowding my bookshelves.
Why? Amazon knows how to play my addiction. That’s why.
Amazon customers will recognize this. When you log on at Amazon you are instantly greeted with a perfect selection of personal recommendations. Amazons keeps record of the books you looked at, the ones you bought and the ones you didn’t buy. Your personal profile is matched to the profiles of people ‘just like you’. Some Amazon-algorithm is then able to predict which books suit your interests and personal taste. The cunning people at Amazon are clever. Very clever.
But recently something started to itch. When comparing a list of our favourite recent non-fiction books a friend and I noticed that 24 out of 37 on our list were the exact same books. We both shop at Amazon.
Amazon hasn’t just learned to tap in to our predictability; they have actually made us more predictable, less unique. I am not saying the books I bought are bad books; I enjoyed most of the ones I read. They are just too to much like the ones I bought before and too much like the ones the ‘people like me’ are buying.
And that’s exactly the problem; Amazon is all about expanding its share of wallet, they are not about expanding your mind. They won’t surpise you with books that are ‘clearly not for you’. They won’t try to convince you to pick up a book you wouldn’t even touch, because they think ‘you might find it interesting after all’.
They know exactly what you want. What’s worse: the more you shop at Amazon, the better they get at knowing you.