Today is the anniversary of the first book sold on Amazon.com in 1995. The title of the book was Fluid Concepts & Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought by Douglas Hofstadter.
Amazon.com was founded in 1994 by Jeff Bezos, who originally called it “Cadabra.” To rename his mega-online store he searched for an appropriate metaphor and rediscovered the Amazon River. The Amazon is exotic, it’s different, and it starts with an “A,” which puts it at the top of alphabetical lists. The Amazon River is not the world’s longest river (it’s the second longest next to the Nile), but it is by far the world’s largest river when measured by water volume. Thus the name for the world’s most voluminous river also became the name of the world’s most voluminous bookstore.
The word Amazon has its origins in Greek mythology. The Amazons were a tribe of female warriors, so ferocious and bellicose that each warrior would cut off and cauterize her right breast to increase her accuracy with bow and arrow. In two myths featuring Amazons, Achilles killed Penthesila, Queen of the Amazons, and Hercules, in one of his twelve labors, stole the girdle of another Amazon queen.
Amazon became the appellation of South America’s great river when explorers noticed a resemblance between the indigenous women of the region and the Amazons of antiquity (1).
In addition to revolutionizing the way books are sold, Amazon.com has also created a whole new world of book reviews. Reviewers rate books on a five star rating scale, and all kinds of reviews are published — the good, the bad, and the ugly. Reviewer’s reviews are also rated based on how helpful other customers find their comments.
Eleven years to the day after Amazon appeared online, another online juggernaut made its debut. Twitter became available to the public on July 15, 2006. What Amazon has done for online sales, Twitter has done for online communication (2). A free online social networking service, Twitter allows users to send and read short 140-character messages called “tweets.”
Today’s Challenge: Brevity is the Soul of Tweets
How would you describe or review your favorite book, or the book you’re reading right now, in 140 characters or fewer? Make every word count by writing a review of your favorite book or the book you’ve read recently in 140 characters or fewer. Write your first draft without worrying about the length; then, edit carefully to reach the character limit by eliminating any unnecessary words. Economy in writing is just as valuable as economy in online purchases.
Quote of the Day: When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes. –Erasmus
1 – Ammer, Christine. Fighting Words: From War, Rebellion, and Other Combative Capers. New York: Paragon House, 1989.