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Dispatches from the Digital Revolution

The Am-bilical cord: Dependence on Amazon is a tough tie to cut

Sources: Amazon.com, CoolPix.com

Sources: Amazon.com + CoolPix.com

This year, I thought I could cleanly cut my ties with Amazon. I thought that my use of Amazon was limited merely to purchasing books and printer ink on the cheap, and there are other places to do those things. How wrong I was. These last few months, I’ve been increasingly aware that even though I’m not purchasing, my dependence on the website hasn’t lessened. As a reference or a cheap source of amusement, Amazon has become, to me, almost an alternative to Google. 

An alternative to Google for the ultimately lazy, Amazon keeps me updated when my favorite authors are releasing new books, and far before the authors’ own Facebook pages do. (I’m already getting emails about preordering a popular title that’s due to come out in May 2013. And the book, at this writing, is ranked #2,914 in books—more than five months before its release date.)

The ultimate in recommendations, I’ve used Amazon to find gifts for friends and relatives based on the “Customers also purchased” section on items they already own. (Because asking what they want is just so twentieth-century.) In October, I researched Halloween costumes. Why, yes, I do own a striped shirt. Instant Waldo, no purchase required.

I’m ashamed to admit it, but even though I don’t work for a trade publisher anymore, I still use Amazon for research on the job. It’s probably a bad sign when it’s faster (and more accurate) to look up a book’s table of contents on Amazon than on one’s company’s own servers. If I wanted to find the table of contents, formatted for A- and B-heads, I could either tear my hair out accessing our shared files drive (which can take minutes just to open a folder, let alone find the one you want), try to find the print book in our daedalian building (why, yes, the same floor is the seventh floor in one spot and the sixth in another, perfectly simple, just don’t leave your desk without a compass), or stay at my desk swilling Darjeeling and have the table of contents on my screen in ten seconds. Which would you choose?

And Amazon is quickly moving from being an e-tailer–cum–search engine to being a source of free content on its own… No Kindle required. Although many authors do offer their work for free or nearly free through the Kindle store, some enterprising writers have taken to offering free entertainment to Amazon browsers in an unlikely place: the reviews.

Now, say what you will about Amazon’s policy on its reviews (or what you will, Amazon; or you, LA Times; or you, Forbes), I find that Amazon is the site of a burgeoning flash literature genre unlike anything else: the farcical Amazon review.

The Mountain Three Wolf Moon Short Sleeve Tee

Source: Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk enjoyed a fair amount of press for its utterly hilarious reviews section for Bic for Her pens. I was completely disgusted with Americans for our blithe acceptance of sexist writing implements; before Gawker and HuffPo brought the reviews forth for our general amusement, the reviews for these pens on Amazon.com read more like, “These are fun. I like pink.” However, recent reviews for Tuscan whole milk and The Mountain Three Wolf Moon Short Sleeve Tee have renewed my faith in the sarcasm and wit of the United States:

Unfortunately I already had this exact picture tattooed on my chest, but this shirt is very useful in colder weather.

Or again,

I admit it, I’m a ladies’ man. And when you put this shirt on a ladies’ man, it’s like giving an AK-47 to a ninja. Sure it looks cool and probably would make for a good movie, but you know somebody is probably going to get hurt in the end (no pun intended). That’s what almost happened to me, this is my story…

(No, literary agents, this is not a book. It’s fast, it’s a little mean, and it’s free, which is what I like about it.)

In the face of such evidence, I have to admit I’ve got a problem. Even when I don’t buy from Amazon, for free information or free entertainment, Amazon has made itself almost as vital as Google to me.

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This entry was posted on December 18, 2012 by in Opinion and tagged , .

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