24 Sep 2009 7:13 am   //   Filed under: Books, Stray data, Technology

Amazon.com’s long memory

Yesterday I got one of those promotional e-mails Amazon sends out all the time….

As someone who has purchased or rated Guide to Venezuela: The Bradt Travel Guide by Hilary-Dunsterville Branch or other books in the South America > Venezuela category, you might like to know that Along the River that Flows Uphill: Between the Orinoco and the Amazon (Armchair Traveller) will be released on October 1, 2009.

So what, right? Here’s what: Amazon is making a recommendation based on a book I purchased in September 2000—Nine years ago!

I guess it shouldn’t have surprised me that Amazon never forgets what you’ve ordered. This might seem creepy, but making recommendations based on purchase history is a pretty benign idea, and a smart business strategy. But do people really have the same interest in books after nine years? In this case, no. I bought a book about Venezuela for a vacation I was taking then; I have no plans to take another vacation there today. (If it could, I bet Amazon would make travel book recommendations based on plane tickets people buy.)

Realizing that Amazon keeps such meticulous records, I wondered: What’s the first thing I ever bought from Amazon?

The answer: The Associated Press Stylebook and Libel Manual (1998 Edition) (Spiral-bound), which I ordered on July 20, 1998. It set me back $9.75, plus $3.95 shipping. I bought this book for school, but I still use it today. It’s one of about six reference books I have within arms reach at my cubicle at work. Maybe it’s time to buy a new edition.