Happy birthday Amazon

Happy Birthday Amazon UK! What a curious brand you are and how significantly you entered our lives. Was it really less than twenty years ago, that when book browsing I was forced to contort my body and my vision, to read spines vertically in Borders and Waterstones? Without destroying the publisher’s greatest asset, the touch, weight and smell of a fresh printed book all of which is impossible to replace, you turned the expectation of the arrival of well packaged cardboard sleeve into a polished pleasure. You also alleviated the pain of wasted hours spent hunting for some spurious title and the cricked neck that such activity entailed.

When it first popped up in the UK 15 years ago, Amazon heralded its arrival with little pomp or fanfare, and not a single clue as to why this genius electronic repository should be called Amazon. Even now I assume that it is something to do with the free running river of knowledge that it provides, but I may be post-rationalising. Certainly for such a public service to be only marked by a rather coy, smiley (or is it embarrassed?) mouth, still seems a rather self-conscious piece of graphic symbolism. The Amazon brand is so underplayed that one could speculate that perhaps it thought it might fail?

But indeed it did not. Emboldened by its literary repertoire, it has quickly added clothes, household goods and even food to its bulging virtual shelves.

Amazon is the beacon for no-fuss service that other e-tailers have since tried to ape in their droves. The introduction of the One-click payment service is still light years ahead of most cumbersome vendors. And should (heaven forbid) Amazon find fault with your credit, it will kindly advise you, not just once or even twice, that there is some form of delicate problem that they will willingly go through hoops to guide you to a creditable solution. How charming and refreshing.

The most amusing perspective is a view of your own account. Forever suggesting and politely prompting products that you find of interest, it is a snapshot of preferences some of which could be construed worthy for the psychiatrist’s couch. Randomly, today it seems (according to Amazon), I am in need of a curious and eclectic blend of art and nostalgia themed items, including music from the old folkster Roy Harper, a book by the rather racy fine art photography, Frank de Mulder, clothing – a pair of Kariban safari pants, films – rather predictably, Series 6 of Mad Men, and curiously in household, a tub of Mauviel Copperbrill Cleaning Paste for Copper 150ml.

Before I tempt you to join the dots, the recommendations are strangely personal and bring a reassuring biographical note to the site, rather like a virtual diary.

It is unlikely that I will purchase Roy Harper again – but he was part of my distant 70s youth, just as the Mauviel copper cleaner is a charming reminder that I bought my wife a much requested omelette pan a few years ago (albeit not purchased on Amazon). Yet unlike the emotionless shop on the high street, where else could I dig a little deeper into the emotional journey and be tempted to re-buy that much loved Disney Classic, Lady and the Tramp for the delight of my daughters (despite both now being in their 20s)? Such a chance and intimate record is simply not available anywhere else. I wonder that the Government or at least Scotland Yard does not make Amazon personality profiling mandatory.

Who knows what Amazon will reveal about me over the next 15 years. I can only hope that it continues to do so with the same quiet charm and gentle persuasiveness that
it uses today. Happy Birthday indeed – what a very sensible place to look for presents!

original posting on Huffington  – http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/howard-milton/amazon-uk_b_4211941.html

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