The downside of Amazon …

So, if you’re a regular reader of this blog — and if you are, thank you! — you’ll recall that I started doing Not-So-Casual Commentary on shows as a semi-regular feature, and that right now I can only do half-hour shows due to my time constraints. I also used to do a lot of shopping, especially around Christmas, at HMV, which usually had some really great deals on some box sets which let me pick up shows like WKRP in Cincinnati and Charmed, and a number of others over the years. It was a pretty good place to browse for things, although for me that was mostly TV shows and sometimes music CDs (especially Christmas CDs).

And, as I discovered this year it closed.

Now, the big reason given for stuff like this is the growth of digital distribution and on-line shopping. Since I buy a lot of things directly from Amazon, this seems not unreasonable. But in looking for either a new store — which is hard to find outside of Walmart, that doesn’t have as good a selection — or a new way to buy these sorts of things, I’ve discovered a major issue with Amazon, at least for me: browsing on Amazon really, really sucks.

If I know what I want to look for, Amazon is usually … well, not great, but generally quite serviceable. I type in what I want to look for into the search engine, select the department to search in, and let it go. Yes, there are often duplicates and it doesn’t always get what I want, but it’s usually pretty good, if they stock it. However, what I really liked with HMV was the browsing, which let me find things that I didn’t even know existed … and didn’t remember that I wanted. And if they were on sale, the sale prices were listed on the box, letting me do a quick calculation of whether or not it was worth it. This is why I could justify wandering into there (or, at times, Best Buy) every six months or so and see what I wanted, often coming out with a lot of things (and sometimes coming out with nothing).

I tried doing some browsing on Amazon. I browsed in the DVD category, and in box sets specifically. And found that it often considered full season sets to be box sets, which is not what I wanted. I also thus got a lot of repeats if there were multiple offers for the same series, including different types of box sets. And that made it difficult to simply quickly skim the shelves looking for something that stood out. At the end of the day, it seemed that Amazon’s browsing worked better the more I knew what I was looking for, which is precisely what I didn’t want.

Is this generally the case? Are we going to sacrifice easy browsing for extra convenience when we know what we want to buy? Are we going to get browsing improvements that end up proving that the business heads here were right, but way too early? Or am I just missing the wonderful options out there that already exist? I have yet to see any online shopping system that had any stock where browsing wasn’t a pain, if for no other reason than that there was always too much stock to look at to make sure that you found everything you might want without using specific search terms that leave things out.

If this can’t be done online, and more and more stores move away from stocking these things because of online competition, then I have to say that I’m gonna miss browsing.

3 Responses to “The downside of Amazon …”

  1. Thoughts on “Thunder and Lightning” | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] really find anything that seemed interesting. But then I decided to browse on Amazon and despite my noted issues with browsing on Amazon managed to find a couple that seemed interesting. This is the first of those, a retrospective by […]

  2. Thoughts on “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] for cheap horror movies — but I am picking up a few things from Amazon every month or so.  I dislike browsing on Amazon, so what I’ve been doing is making a list of things to search for — it’s pretty […]

  3. Losing Sports Showed Me … Just How Much Available Entertainment Sucks | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] do pretty well just with the DVDs I have and perhaps some new DVDs that I could buy through Amazon (although I still hate browsing through them).  So it turns out that if it wasn’t for game shows I might not watch anything on cable at […]

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