Being an Amazon Junkie

I am an Amazon junkie and my addiction is getting worse. The number of books I ordered last month from 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.

5 Replies to “Being an Amazon Junkie”

  1. Computers and software, when programmed to “think like people”, steer toward mediocrity. Like Bruce Mau says in his manifesto: avoid software. The problem with software is that everyone has it.

    You could see this more widely: because so many of us use the internet, and the sites that you often find there: blogs, news sites, photogalleries, we expect more blogs, news sites and photogalleries. Worse, we start to create content that fits into these formats easily. Everybody will deny it, but subconsciously we do it.

    Now to find some paper, crayons and something unexpected like a snowman to create something new and unexpected. Question for you: how will you write about that? In a blog?

  2. True, indeed.

    So instead of bunkering behind my iMac I built a snow-troll today with some of the neighbor’s kids (my own family got ‘snowed in’ in Zoetermeer’). I didn’t draw one – just built a real one.

    Interesting thought – that’s why from time to time you gotta force yourself into a new, crazy or inappropriate ‘format’…

  3. Pingback: Closing a Chapter?
  4. I too have become an amazon junkie. I have ordered from Amazon, items ranging from DVD moviess, to camera tripods, to helicopter toys, wooden salad bowls, iPhone accessories, name it, Amazon has it. The prices are competitive, affordable and easy to pay. One thing I learned though, if you live in the United States of America or Dominion of Canada, make sure you choose the seller that is local (US or Canada) especially for electronic gadgets, otherwise it will take 4 weeks to arrive.

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