Why We Love Email from Amazon and Hate Email from Barnes & Noble

Here’s a recent email that I received from Barnes & Noble:


The problem is I haven’t purchased a classical CD from Barnes & Noble before…for that matter I don’t think I’ve purchased a classical music CD from anyone…ever. I don’t think I have one piece of classical music in my iTunes library…and I’m probably not about to start now. My wife on the other hand loves classical music. Perhaps if this email had gone to her…

Now…here’s an email I received the same day from


The main difference…Amazon is actually recommending things to me that I’m interested in. In fact I have four of those books on my shelf by my desk. Sometimes it seems as though Amazon can actually scan my bookshelves and see what I own. Here’s the ironic part…two of those books I purchased at my local Barnes & Noble because I picked them up while browsing the store (I didn’t have the patience to wait for shipping).

Barnes & Noble’s problem is that they don’t seem to keep track of what I’m buying and if they do they’re not using the information to recommend products I might actually be interested in. The result…I treat B&N email as spam. On the other hand, I love to see what Amazon is going to recommend to me next. Amazon takes full advantage of the permission I’ve given them…and I order books from them on a weekly basis…often based on their recommendations. Barnes & Noble only wastes my time with the emails they send.

My suggestion to Barnes & Noble…stop charging $20 a year for a B & N Membership (their discount program that offers an in-store discount)…instead give the membership away for free (with the discount) and use the data I allow you to gather to send timely, relevant recommendations that are based on my previous purchases. Sure…send me those printable coupons…but send them for the latest Grisham novel (I bought the last two from you) not a special on classical music.

Here’s a great post from Seth on Permission Marketing.


5 thoughts on “Why We Love Email from Amazon and Hate Email from Barnes & Noble

  1. I wish Amazon could do this with my fridge – recommend and ship food before I run out.
    Predicting when someone was out of milk possibly could have saved

  2. @CVOS I’m thinking you innocently mentioned WebVan, and there’s some funny irony there in a conversation about major booksellers. See, WebVan was founded by Louis Borders, who’s perhaps better know for the founding (yep) the bookstore by the same name.
    *Cue dramatic music

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