First, a question for readers. Does anybody have a screenshot of an Amazon product page from the 1990′s they can send me?
Update: Bryan came through with the following Internet Archive record from 1999, it pays to have a Geek reading the blog:-)
The reason I asked for a 1990′s Amazon screen shot was that I remembered the publisher, page count, and other book details, once appeared above the fold, just below the book cover image on Amazon.
My own Internet Archive search had only reached back as far as 2004, when Amazon had already moved the Sales Rank and publisher info into a section called Product Details, below the Also Bought. But for a while, Amazon kept a hyperlink for “see more product details” right below the cover images and editions listing, above Better Together.
In recent months, Amazon has been experimenting with moving the Product Details for books below the featured customer reviews. This pushes the publisher name and other “details” well below the halfway point on the page for most books I checked, lower if there are long editorial reviews or other descriptive material in the top section of the page.
This new order has been stable the last couple weeks when visiting Amazon using the FireFox or Chrome browsers, it’s been flipping back and forth when using Internet Explorer. On my Kindle Fire, where I first noticed the move, the Product Details are back up above the Customer Reviews.
So what difference does it make? As a self publisher, I have little objection to seeing the publisher brand devalued, but it must be a hard pill to swallow for trade publishers whose logo appears on the spine of the book, up in the spotlights with the title and the author’s name on a bookstore shelve. Now it’s a mere detail that the vast majority of Amazon shoppers will likely never even scroll past. There’s really no book related information left below the Product Details on the new Amazon page design at this point. All that remains are sponsored link, suggestions for other books, and a page full of Amazon corporate information, if you scroll to the very bottom.
I doubt Amazon would ever remove Product Details from the page entirely, as some shoppers might want to know how many pages are in the book, who published it, and whether it’s a paperback or a hard cover. There may even be some dinosaurs searching for books by ISBN using search engines, who wouldn’t find them without the Product Details. But Amazon’s testing must have shown that shoppers care more customer reviews and information about similar books than they do about what I once would have considered critical information. And there’s nothing wrong with that, I just find it interesting.