Fifteen Years of Amazon (and Eleven and a Half Years of Amazon and Me)

By  |  Friday, July 16, 2010 at 9:55 am

According to Esquire, today marks the fifteenth anniversary of’s first sale. (Wikipedia says the first customer bought a copy of Douglas Hofstadter’s Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought, a book which Amazon still sells–hey, it’s even available in a Kindle edition.)

Esquire is marking the anniversary with a slideshow that pays tribute to a dozen e-commerce sites that didn’t make quite as big an impact as Amazon. (Poor Beenz is always in these retrospectives, but Flooz escaped this time around.)

Me, I thought back to the first time I bought anything from what was to become the Web’s biggest merchant. When you log into your Amazon account, you can get a very, very thorough recap of your past purchases. In fact, as far as I can tell, it’ll show you everything you ever bought, back to the very first item.

Which in my cases happened to be a lavish, expensive book of art from Mickey Mouse cartoons. I bought it in December of 1998. (And still have it–in fact, I think I’ll go reacquaint myself with it.)

At first, I was startled by the idea that it took me three and a half years to buy anything from Amazon. But in its earliest days, the site sold only books, and Boston, where I lived, was full of excellent bookstores–at least one of which offered discounts comparable to Amazon’s. Besides, I liked seeing books before I bought them and giving my business to mom-and-pop retailers. So as I think it over, I understand that I knew about Amazon for quite a while before I did business with it.

Since 1998, I’ve bought countless books (dead-tree and digital), CDs, DVDs, and tech products from Amazon–I’ve bought more computers from it than from any other merchant. But you know what? Even though I’m a happy Amazon customer, I still buy a high percentage of my books from local shops–here’s a great one–and always feel better when I do.

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  1. Jeff Hayes Says:

    Yeah, Harry, WHO ever uses Amazon to buy BOOKS?!? I mean, heck, they sell computers, TVs, softcore porn — all that good stuff — why buy BOOKS?!? 🙂

    Actually, seriously, I've bought rechargeable batteries and a battery charger from them (best deal), and a variety of different things (videos — good deals, sometimes). But quite frankly, I DO buy a good many of what few books I buy from Amazon because, also quite frankly, when I actually want to buy a book, they usually have THE BEST deal around, with free shipping for orders $25 or more, which usually takes only a couple books even with paperbacks… If I can't find enough things I really WANT to make $25, unless I really need it bad, I just put it in a wish list and WAIT.