Amazon Hacks: 100 Industrial-Strength Tips and Tools

Author: Paul Bausch
List Price: $24.95
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ISBN: 0596005423
Publisher: O'Reilly & Associates (20 August, 2003)
Edition: Paperback
Sales Rank: 12,459
Average Customer Rating: 4.75 out of 5

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Customer Reviews

Rating: 4 out of 5
For Customers, Sellers, Amazon Associates & Web Developers
In "Amazon Hacks" author Paul Bausch presents 100 "hacks" that will help customers and sellers get the most out of Amazon's vast database. The book is organized into 6 chapters. The first three are dedicated to hacks that customers will find useful: "Browsing and Searching", "Controlling Your Information", and "Participating in the Amazon Community". Chapters 4-6 present hacks that will be useful to Marketplace Sellers, Amazon Associates, and web developers: "Selling Through Amazon", "Associates Program", and "Amazon Web Services". The complexity of each hack is rated beginner, moderate, or expert. Most of the hacks in Chapters 1-3 are suitable for beginners, with some moderate and advanced hacks in there as well. Chapters 4-6 contain mostly moderate to expert hacks, with Chapter 6 leaning toward expert.

I commonly spend several hours per day on Amazon (ahem, cough, cough!). The site is constantly changing, and there is always something new to discover. But I have acquired a decent familiarity with Amazon through all of my countless (and they shall remain that way) hours of clicking around the site. From this standpoint, I would say that the first 3 chapters of "Amazon Hacks" don't provide any understanding of the Search, Community features, or Account information that someone who has been around a while would not already have. In fact, the book's information on Amazon Community features isn't comprehensive. On the other hand, there are hacks for getting additional utility out of Amazon such as: configuring Internet Explorer to search Amazon from its address bar or any web page, adding an Amazon sidebar to Mozilla, prioritizing your wish list using a third-party service, sorting recommendations and items by average rating, finding a purchase circle by zip code, tracking the sales ranks of items over time, and how to perform a lot of tasks remotely.

I am not a programmer or an Amazon Associate, so I am not in the best position to judge the helpfulness of Chapters 4-6. But it looks to me like Amazon Associates who want to integrate more information from Amazon's database into their site could benefit immensely from Chapter 5. You will find how to: allow customers to purchase items or add them to Amazon wish lists through your site, do that using pop-up windows, create Amazon banner ads that include product recommendations, show Amazon search results on your site, add an Amazon Box to your site, measure and publish your Associates sales statistics, and more hacks along these lines. Chapter 6, "Amazon's Web Services", basically provides hacks that web developers can use to acquire any information from Amazon's database in machine-readable format. Amazon released their Web Services API in 2002, so they are inviting developers to build applications using the Amazon platform. You will need a developer's token, which you get by opening an Associate's account, then screen-scrape to your heart's content!

Rating: 5 out of 5
Turning an Amazonian-sized Store Inside out
This book joins the O'Reilly Hacks series, a worthy series. The name Hacks in the series isn't synonymous with "bad" because a hack is also known as a trick or add-on for adding more power to a program or system. The tech-speak is kept minimal, which makes the hacks easy to read and reference. The series has tips for beginners, moderate users, and experts and each hack is represented by thermometer's temperature (high for expert and low for easy) for easy reference.

Amazon lives up to its name as it has grown to Amazonian proportions with the addition of apparel, toys, sporting goods, wish lists, reviews, listmania, and marketplace. That barely scratches the surface and it's easy to overlook many of its features.

The first part of the book provides hacks for customers as chapters 1 through 3 address browsing, personalization, and community. Each product's page is flowing with plenty of details. The first few pages of the book explain the features that typically appear on a product page. Products have a unique name and it's not just the product name, but rather an ID in the form of an ASIN. Knowing the ASIN unlocks many shortcuts.

Many of us, me included, have probably made it a habit to just enter the product's name in the search box and go. A couple of hacks demonstrate how to search more effectively to get the results you want and fast.

One of the powerful features of Amazon is the ability to adapt to your preferences so it can make recommendations. Fine tune those recommendations and check out the movie show time listings. Be on time with birthday and event reminders.

"What do you want for your birthday?" It's not always comfortable to answer that question, so Wish Lists come in handy. You can do much more than just add items to the wish list. Get hacks on prioritizing it, adding multiple items, and managing it.

If you've posted reviews or created lists, then you're already part of the Amazon community. Since you're reading this review, you must value such reviews in helping you decide whether or not to make the buy (I hope this helps!) Chapter 3 covers the community features of reviews, Listmania!, guides, friends, product advice, and sharing the love. Those familiar with these features might be in for a surprise on additional things they can do.

Amazon isn't the only one that sells products as anyone can be a seller or an associate as explained in chapters 4 and 5. Explore behind the scenes of selling with details on billing, inventory, and marketing. Get the lesser known secrets for developing a store and sharpening recommendations for improving linking and referrals.

Just one chapter covers Web Services, so customers and sellers not interested in it won't feel slighted when they buy the book and have no use for the last chapter. However, the introduction will help anyone better understand Web Services and what Amazon can do with it.

Though the book does its job in acting as a help manual for understanding Amazon's features, it does more by sharing tips and tricks you might not have considered until reading the book. My knowledge of using Amazon has grown over the years and the book pleasantly surprises me with things I didn't know. Amazon Hacks has done justice to the O'Reilly Hacks series.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Use all that Amazon provides
To start, it must be mentioned that the usage of the word hacks in the title does not refer to the media, "unauthorized access" form of the term. It is used in the classic sense in that is describes ways to quickly and efficiently perform authorized operations that are not otherwise available. The managers of have demonstrated a great deal of foresight in making so many of their methods of doing business freely available for all to use. Therefore, all of the tips and code in this book are authorized and encouraged by Amazon. The only "restrictions" are that they want you to perform timely refreshes, so that the information you obtain is current. Given that the data available on is so volatile, this can hardly be classed as a restriction.
As someone who is very active on the Amazon site, I was impressed by many of the tips in the book. There have been times when I have wondered if it was possible to extract specific types of data from, in other words treat it as a database and perform additional queries on it. With the code given in this book, it is possible to extract and organize a great deal more information than can be obtained by using the online tools on the site. While most of the code is Perl script, there is also some ASP code in VBScript and a few segments of XML and XSL code.
With this book, you can become a power user of Amazon, taking full advantage of what is offered on the site. If you are someone who relies on a great deal, then you simply must read it.

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