Skip to Content
Skip to Table of Contents

← Previous Article Next Article →

ATPM 9.10
October 2003





Download ATPM 9.10

Choose a format:

Review: Amazon Hacks (book)

by Eric Blair,

Author: Paul Bausch
Publisher: O’Reilly

Price: $25

Trial: 10 Sample Hacks

Sometimes it seems that has been around since the birth of the Web. Now, I know this isn’t true, but I’ve got invoices going back to 1998. Since then, has gone from a simple online bookseller to a full-fledged online community featuring new and used products, auctions, customer feedback, an associates program, a third-party developer program, and more.


Amazon Hacks tries to provide tips on every major portion of—it covers topics from easily finding the newest Orson Scott Card novel to letting people purchase that book directly from your Web site (while making you a little money in the process).

Though the 100 hacks in Amazon Hacks are split into six chapters, each with their own base topic, the hacks more generally split into two categories: using’s Web site and using’s information.

Using’s Web Site

If you’ve ever shopped at, then the odds are pretty good that at least one of the hacks in the chapters Browsing and Searching, Controlling Your Information, Participating in the Amazon Community, and Selling Through Amazon will improve your shopping experience.

As the name suggests, the first chapter deals with finding what you want. It explains the different search options and tells you how to shorten links so they don’t take up multiple lines when you try to type them in by hand or e-mail them to friends. This particular hint is referenced throughout the book, so it’s definitely a good one to know.

The second chapter deals with many of the different options included with your account. Some of the information may seem old hat to Amazon veterans (how to create a Wish List or turn on 1-Click Buying), but other hints were new to me. For instance, I did not know I could use to get movie showtimes or remind me of people’s birthdays. At the very least, it’s nice to have this information all in one place instead of hunting around to find everything.

The third and fourth chapters are where Amazon Hacks starts to move beyond the basics of shopping and into what makes more than just a virtual shopping mall.

The third chapter deals with many of’s community features. It discusses using and writing product reviews, finding your friends on, and the Listmania! and Guide features.

The fourth chapter extends into selling your own items on It covers the Marketplace option, where your items are listed on the same page as the corresponding items sold by (in the More Buying Choices box), Amazon Auctions, and the Honor System. Topics in this section cover getting your items listed and various ways to try to maximize your profit.

Using’s Information

Amazon Hacks’ transition from a guide to using the Web site to using’s information actually begins in chapters three and four, mixed in among the hints for user reviews and selling your items. Most of the non-Web site hints in these chapters deal with displaying information from on your own Web site and providing alternative interfaces for the various features.

For instance, there are hints for adding pop-up reviews from to your Web site, adding a “Currently Reading” list to your site, using the Honor System on your site, and listing the items you are selling on your site. As for alternative interfaces to, there are instructions for posting reviews and Guides remotely, as well as listing multiple items for sale at the same time. At first glance, these may not seem particularly useful, but they give you the ability to create highly-customized interfaces to For instance, if you are selling something, you could provide the ability to leave comments on directly from your Web site. Another option would be to create a small, text-only page for posting when you are accessing the Internet from a slow connection.

Associates Program, the fifth chapter, is where Amazon Hacks really gets into using information from to your (financial) advantage. Through the Associates program, pays you if the people you direct to their Web site make a purchase. Amazon Hacks walks you through the various ways you can use the Associates program: linking to items, selling items on your Web site, letting users search, displaying banner ads, and a few others. This chapter also points you towards Web sites for creating your own online store and donating to charities. Also, if you run a Weblog using either Movable Type or Blosxom, you are in luck, because Amazon Hacks includes tips specifically aimed at generating Associate links for use with these tools.

The final chapter deals with the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Program, which lets developers access information from in their applications. Amazon Hacks covers both the REST (REpresentational State Transfer) and SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) interfaces to, so the information contained in this chapter is useful for proponents of both protocols. Furthermore, it covers using AWS with scripting languages like Perl, Python, and PHP (as well as Visual Basic, but that’s a Windows thing and, as Mac users, we probably don’t care about that). There are also practical applications of AWS, like generating Web pages, RSS feeds, and Excel spreadsheets on the fly.


If you buy, sell, or develop software using, there is a good change you will find Amazon Hacks an invaluable reference for improving your experience. It covers many of’s features both in impressive breadth and depth. Although a small handful of the hints are Windows-only (like the Visual Basic hints and the hints for searching from inside Internet Explorer), the vast majority are usable by anybody.

When I picked up Amazon Hacks for the first time, I intended to read through it quickly and note the hints that really interested me. I managed to make it through, from cover to cover, and I now own a very dog-eared copy Amazon Hacks. If you frequent, I would not be surprised if your experience with Amazon Hacks is similar to my own.

Reader Comments (1)

anonymous · October 11, 2003 - 17:37 EST #1
This sounds like an interesting and useful resource. I learned just from reading the review.

Add A Comment

 E-mail me new comments on this article