Amazon Freaks Out

In my email this morning, I have a note from everybody's favorite online retailer, informing me that:

We've noticed that customers who have purchased or rated books by Christopher Moore have also purchased Esther's Revenge at Susa: From Sennacherib to Ahasuerus by Stephanie Dalley.

OK, fine, they see a correlation, and are sending me a heads-up. Of course, they then go on to provide the jacket copy for the book being recommended:

Why are the names of the chief characters in the biblical Book of Esther those of Mesopotamian deities? Stephanie Dalley argues that the narrative reflects real happenings in seventh-century Assyria, where the widespread belief that revenge belongs to the gods explains why Assyrian kings described punitive campaigns as divine acts, leading to the mythologizing of certain historical events. Ashurbanipal's sack of Susa, led by the deities Ishtar and Marduk, underlies the Hebrew story of Esther, and that story contains traces of the cultic calendar of Ishtar-of-Nineveh. Dalley traces the way in which the long-term settlement of `lost tribes' in Assyria, revealed by the fruits of excavation in Iraq and Syria, inspired a blend of pagan and Jewish traditions.

Yeah, that has a lot in common with Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Chriist's Childhood Pal and The Stupidest Angel. I can totally see that.


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A few years ago, I bought a book from Amazon on container gardening, because I wanted to grow vegetables on my apartment balcony. The "People Who Bought This Book Also Bought" part of the page listed two other books on gardening, and a third book that was basically "How To Organize a Militia and Live Self-Sufficiently for When The Government Collapses". I'm paraphrasing.

Hey, at least the Christ, Gospel, and Angel keywords make the tie-in comprehensible. I got one once that read:

As someone who has purchased or rated books by Anthony Trollope, you might like to know that "Container Ships and Oil Tankers (Amazing Ships)" is now available. You can order yours for just $23.93 by following the link below.

(And no, the author's name wasn't Trollope...)

Predictive Analytics. Amazon wouldn't have sent you the recommendation if they hadn't seen a pattern. I read an article awhile back on how Amazon does this and its weird. For instance, if they notice a pattern in people buying towels and toaster ovens at the same time, they send out notices to those who bought one or the other recently and increased sales for the other item.

Years ago I bought some CD's for my young neices ('N Sync and Backstreet Boys) and forgot to check "this is a gift" in doing so. It totally polluted the music recommendations for quite some time (not that they are all that useful to me)

It's scary... my ex works as a software engineer in Amazon's 'customization' department, and it really is creepy what they do there. Digital alchemy!

Just goes to show how big a motivation making a dollar can be for free association of A to Z and the first day of the universe to the last! LOL!
Dave Briggs :~)

I've had some interesting recommendations from Amazon as well. Like "Camp Princess 2: Unicorns? Get Real!" I assume it comes to me based on some fantasy books I've rated, you know, like Lord of the Rings. No, I am not a 10 year old girl. However, if you find the title intriguing, you can check out the summary here.

What's really scary about the Amazon recommendation feature is that it sometimes recommends things based on what you've recently looked at, whether or not you actually intend to buy it. Once I looked at an album on Amazon as a result of following a link on a web page: Nena's "99 Luftballons". Amazon proceeded to assume that I was interested in 1980s German rock, at least for a short while.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 08 Jan 2008 #permalink

and a third book that was basically "How To Organize a Militia and Live Self-Sufficiently for When The Government Collapses".

You're snickering now, but you'll be singing a different tune when the government collapses.

Seriously, I've noticed that there is a substantial overlap between organic gardening and militia nuts - I think it's all in the self-sufficiency angle.

For the record, I think "Victory gardens" (or whatever you want to call them) are a great idea.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 08 Jan 2008 #permalink

I think it is. My brother is very much into organic gardening and home crafts type activities and always found a good selection at the local army surplus store. Another of my friends was on a "Build your own house" e-mail list and the two populations were basically hippies and survivalists. They just very carefully talked only about building your own houses...