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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

What's gone wrong with Amazon? Oh and iTunes


I always loved Amazon.co.uk. I started using it soon after it launched, and I made BIG use of it during the 18 months from 1999 that I lived in Germany.
But what's happened to it?
Recently it's become increasingly slow; so slow that I've sometimes had to give up. I notice, as an IT professional would, that it's now powered by a different company. Is this the reason? The whole USP for a site like Amazon has to be instantaneous response and the ability to carry out a meaningful search. But Amazon has become a hopeless jumble sale.
It used to be a well structured and UK focused site (Amazon.co.uk that is).But to share an example, I just carried out a search, one I've done before (it's my Holy Grail), looking for books about the house design in the UK in the 20s and 30s. You would think there would be lots of books but I can never find any. I am fascinated by houses like those in Chingford, where I live, where each street seems to have different designs of stained glass windows. Plus the Tudor effect. Was that an Essex affectation? Anyway, I digress. I narrowed my search down, and I consciously chose not to tick the box "US architecture." So I was surprised that the search seemed to throw up books mostly from, you guessed it, the US.

Then there are all those wretched sponsored links and adverts. Eww. I know we love Google here on Blogger (if only I generated enough traffic to make some revenue from my humble blog!), but it seems to me that Amazon should focus on the areas where it can conquer. It's finally making a profit and to my mind it could do so much more with the books and music side of the business (surely the cash cow). But no, instead there are irritating sponsored links and additional sales lines and credit cards.

And the thing that really gets my goat? You can't communicate with them. I searched through the help topics, thinking that eventually there must be an option to email Amazon. Or a way of giving them feedback. There isn't. It makes me mad, this dissociation with their customers. Presumably we are all idiots who only email them about lost books. We can't give them any feedback or advice. And yes iTunes, you're just as bad. I was furious about downloading "Fooled around and fell in love" to find out it was a naff instrumental version and they didn't have the version that was a hit. That was available on the itunes US site, but of course you can't download from the other sites because they charge us more in the UK. I also wanted to download Bill Nelson (the 80s cult artist not the country & western singer) but his material is also only available on the US site.

So my advice would be: monolithic e-tailers, because we can easily decide that actually we prefer personal service (and bookshops with coffee bars) and leave you to enjoy another internet crash.

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