Buy this!

I’ve often wondered why Amazon don’t have a single page for every item.

Take books for example. Amazon appears to do a decent job of aggregating different versions of a book into a single page; here’s the page for The City & The City by China Mieville. That’s good — it lists the Kindle, Hardcover, Paperback and Audio versions on one page. It gets more complicated with different publishers’ editions and Amazon Marketplace sellers throwing up slightly different listings. But it’s a good start, maybe it’ll get better, and this makes it easy to link my readers to one page for a book.

Assuming all my readers are in the US that is.

If I also want to link to that book for UK readers, I have to link to a similar page on For Canadian readers I’d link here. There are also other countries whose inhabitants buy things on Amazon.

This seems clumsy. It results in either a bunch of links to different Amazons or, more usually, a single link to the authors’ local site, leaving foreign readers to manually find their version. Or not bother.

This isn’t good for website authors — making a lot of links is tedious. It’s not good for readers — they’re either confronted with a list of links or with one link that may be no use to them. And it can’t be ideal for Amazon — many readers don’t have a simple, friction-free route toward buying something.

It would be great if I could link to a single page that showed the user a choice of Amazon sites on which to buy the product, maybe with their local one most prominent.

It’s been a long time since permalinks became de rigeur, a necessary part of The Age of Point-at-Things. One page for every thing. As the years go by, it seems increasingly odd to have Amazon’s products exist in separate region-specific silos. There’s no way for me to point at one item on Amazon. Unless I use each of my fingers to point towards a different country.

When I mentioned this on Twitter a while back, a couple of people suggested pointing at The Open Library, where I can point at this page for The City & The City. It’s a great idea but it’s little use for this purpose at the moment. The links are all US-specific and it lacks all the extra information — blurb, reviews, etc — that makes Amazon so useful.

I don’t want to dismiss how difficult this would be for Amazon to achieve. There would be many, many awkward issues to tackle, both technically and organisationally. But I want it to be easy to say to everyone, no matter where they are, “BUY THIS!”, and send them to one place. That’s the kind of thing Amazon is usually very good at.

10 Sep 2012 at Twitter

10 Sep 2012 in Links

On this day I was reading