By Harry McCracken | Friday, July 16, 2010 at 9:55 am
According to Esquire, today marks the fifteenth anniversary of Amazon.com’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.