Here are the top nine things that Amazon could do to expand their business model and make book readers’ lives perfect.
- Electronic copies of the books in your library. One of the things that’s keeping me from buying a Kindle is the fact that I have two shelves of books that I haven’t read yet. If I bought a Kindle, I would want to read those books on my Kindle. Amazon should allow Kindle users to scan all their books ISBN numbers and get an electronic copy of the book in their Kindle library. Unfortunately, there’s no information in the barcode that uniquely identifies that book, so it would be too easy for people to scan their library and all their friends’ libraries, somewhat like they do with music CDs today. An alternative would be to have kiosks where you could take your books, they would note which ones you had, give you electronic copies in your Kindle and stamp the inside of the book noting that it had been electronic copied once.
- Acquire Paperbackswap. I hate to mention this one because I love Paperbackswap just the way it is. However, it is the one non-Amazon place where I do significant book related things. I used to sell all my used books on Amazon but now I use Paperbackswap almost exclusively. Why? Because selling used books on Amazon is not easy. Just telling the buyer that I shipped the books takes six clicks plus typing a short message, and that’s if I know where to go.
- Automatic postage. If Amazon doesn’t acquire Paperbackswap, they should at least figure out how to do postage for used books as well as Paperbackswap. When I sell a book on Paperbackswap they use the fact that they know how much the book weighs, where’s it going and what my address is to print out a very nice label that includes postage! It takes two clicks and all I have to do is tape the label to the envelope. With Amazon I have to print their shipping label (multiple clicks since it’s not direct linked from the email notification), weigh the book, figure out postage, tape on the buyer’s address, put my address sticker on and then put real stamps on. Real stamps on any book weighing over 13 ounces means I can’t drop the book in the mailbox but now I have to go to my local post office, walk inside and hand it to a post office employee. If Paperbackswap can do it, Amazon should be able to!
- Manage my own data. Amazon has a lot of data about my books. They have ratings, reviews, books I own, books I’ve looked at, etc. I’d love to be able to look at those lists, edit them, export them, save them, and so on. Because Amazon doesn’t allow me to do this, I double enter a lot of information into LibraryThing. What a pain! I’d love to spend that time on Amazon.
- Publish my data easily. I’d like to keep a recently read list on my blog with my ratings and reviews. Ideally with my associate-id embedded in it. Right now I have to create a widget and manually enter each book. (After I enter my rating and review into Amazon central.) There’s no way to sort chronologically and it adds new books to the end, so if I want to show the most recently read books at the top I have to manually drag the book up the list a few steps at a time. It’s too much of a pain so the widget at the right is now randomly sorted – not exactly the information I wanted to share but as close as I could (somewhat) easily provide.
- Spell checking in the search box! When I use Google search, I know if I
misspell a word or don’t know an author’s name, it will say "Did you
really mean …" and in one click I can fix it. In Amazon it just doesn’t find what you are looking for. Surely they can figure out that when
I type "lois mcmaster bujould" I really meant "lois mcmaster bujold."
Google figured it out. Amazon told me "Your search "lois mcmaster
bujould" did not match any products." The problem for Amazon (and me)
is that if you use Google, Amazon is not even in the top 5 results.
They are in the business of connecting customers to books and they are
- Navigation. In addition to their website being visually cluttered, I find it really hard to find things like: "who just bought that book they said I sold?" and "when is my next shipment of diapers coming?" I can find those now but I had to learn where to look – it wasn’t intuitive.
- Related books. Amazon does a really good job of pointing me at similar books that I might also enjoy. However, if I’m looking at a book in a series, if the book itself isn’t numbered, the only way I’ve found to figure out which book is first is to either compare all the published dates (assuming they went in order) or look for a user generated Listmania that lists them in order. Either Amazon needs to make those lists easier to find or they need to provide the data themselves. That would make it easier for customers to buy the next book in the series.
- User-weighted recommendations. I love Amazon’s recommendation feature – I use it a lot to find books that I really enjoy. It would be even better if I could remove or change the weighting of some topics. Once I’ve looked for barbecue and smoking books for Frank for Christmas, I’m done with that topic. Unless he really enjoys them and asks for more, I’m never going to look at cooking books again. Now I have to manually tell Amazon that I’m not interested in cooking books – again and again for each cooking book they recommend to me.
I like Amazon. I love books and they make it easy for me to find and buy books I enjoy. If they did all the things on this list, not only would I love them more, but their business would get even better!