Tame Your Amazon Suggestions

My book club mostly switches between beach books and self-help stuff. Sometimes I enjoy these once-a-month reads out of my comfort zone, and even when they're not to my taste, it's still good to try new things. But I recently began to notice a downside from searching for and buying these outlier books.

Amazon got the impression that I was into diet memoirs and contemporary melodramas set in Nantucket. Something had to be done.

After poking around in the site options, I figured out how to wrangle my suggestions back into shape. Here's a guide for anyone else who'd like to try the same thing.

Go to your personalized Amazon front page.

Immediately to the right of the site logo, there should be a link with your first name on it. You may have to log in to see this. All the links we need are there, but you can reach the same options through the "Personalization" section of the "My Account" page.

Nuke your browsing history.

Amazon feeds you some suggestions based on things you've recently viewed on the site, and most of them are crap. Some of my off-kilter suggestions were coming from things that I didn't even buy from Amazon, they just hung around in this section because I clicked on the book.

From that personalized front page, you can reach your browsing history through a link under the search bar. Add anything you want to a wishlist, then hit the button in the left menu that says "Delete all items." There's also a link to turn off your browsing history entirely. Try that, it feels good.

Tweak your recommendations.

You can do this through the "Improve Your Recommendations" link under that search bar. There are categories on the left that let you select your purchase history, ratings, and other categories. This is where you can rate the items you've bought and tell the site not to use them for recommendations.

When going through my list, I marked off those book club buys, any gifts for friends, and some free kindle downloads. I also rated a lot of the books.

Look over the results.

In that same menu under the search bar is the "Recommended For You" page. This is what you're ultimately trying to improve. Going through the previous step should have helped these line up more with things you'd actually be interested in.

If you spot recommendations that are really off, you can tell the site that you're not interested in the listed item. You can also click "fix this" to get straight at the reason that they're being suggested. If you're seeing things that you bought (or borrowed from the library) already, then click "I own it" and rate the book.

I spent about a half hour poking around all these options, and it's improved my suggestions quite a bit (as if I really need more book suggestions). I'm planning to go back through my recommendations page every couple of months to keep things in shape, and I'll be marking off any uncharacteristic purchases as soon as I buy them now. 

Still, I wonder if I can talk my book club into trying some light fantasy...

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