Swallows and Amazon

By way of some lightweight diversion while I build up the strength for another of those posts and try to direct the course of my future employment, here is a small meme that I found, almost simultaneously, on Got Medieval and The Mixed-Up Bloggings of Annie Em, in which we expose the earliest parts of our Amazon buying history for the amusement of the audience.

Now, I have a complicated relationship history with Amazon. I used to work for a couple of online booksellers, successively, neither of whom would list through it because the margins were so low and the form in which one’s stock was presented so anonymous. They figured that their best means of attracting customers was to look distinctive and interesting and that Amazon prevented that. So I was more impressionable then and also Amazon had not then become the smooth-wheeled engine of delivery efficiency they now aim to be (by terrifying their marketplace retailers with feedback statistics that they themselves aren’t subject to), and I therefore also avoided Amazon. This was actually fairly easy, because I had no money to spare for books and I had access to a legal deposit library, and although Amazon also sold music they didn’t usually have the stuff I was interested in, whereas a couple of online sellers I knew well, had drunk with at gigs etc., did. So I bought from them and thumbed my nose at the would-be retail giant.

Cover of Blue Öyster Cult's Secret Treaties album
Cover of Blue Öyster Cult's Agents of Fortune album

When I broke this resolve, according to my Amazon history, it turns out to have been because of a momentuous event, the remaster and reissue of the first four Blue Öyster Cult studio albums. BÖC were for a long time my absolute favourite band, and I had played my cassettes of these albums pretty much to death. Now they were out, with bonus tracks, and I snapped them up as cheaply as I could, which was via Amazon. So my first two Amazon purchases were BÖC’s Secret Treaties and Agents of Fortune. That was 2001 and then apparently I didn’t use Amazon for about four years. Why? Reader, I was skint. In fact I’d been close to skint in 2001, but those albums were important. After that, however, my funding expired, and I was trying to help raise a child and stay housed on a mix of teaching money and child tax credits, so I stopped buying music, and didn’t start buying books.

Cover of Paul Dutton's Charlemagne's Mustache
Cover of Marc Dubin's Rough Guide to the Pyrenees

I seem to have started again about as soon as I had a steady pay-cheque, in late 2005. Okay, I’ve already given the answer the meme wants, but my impression was that it was really about books, so let’s get as far as the books. I don’t really use Amazon for books, because academic books I get cheaper at conferences and fiction I tend to pick up from charity shops or giveaway groups. So it turns out that unless my history is lying I’ve bought a total of four books from Amazon in my entire life, and the first of those was Paul Edward Dutton’s Charlemagne’s Mustache, very proper for an early medievalist except that it was a present for someone else and I’ve still never read it. So what was the first book I bought from Amazon for me? Well, that was an impulse buy of Marc Dubin’s Rough Guide to the Pyrenees, because I was anticipating getting out to Spain again soon and having to do so on my own and therefore needing some planning help. And deadlines, deadlines, deadlines and commitments have repeatedly put paid to this plan again and again by determining that I must stay in the country to teach or to wait for news of applications or leave the country for conferences and there really hasn’t been a space in which I could have gone. So I haven’t read that either. I don’t really make a good Amazon customer.


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