December 9, 2023 | Rome, Italy

Dear Amazon

By |2018-03-21T19:46:41+01:00November 8th, 2015|Area 51|
Thanks but no thanks.

ear Amazon: You asked me a fair question the other day. I know you ask it a lot. I don’t flatter myself into thinking it’s personal. When you say “you,” your second person is a mob. That happens in trying to make a billion people happy at once.

In any case, after I ordered a book, you asked me this question: “Why wait until November 17 2015?” Never mind that you left out a comma between 17 and 2015. Why wait, you asked, when I could “Read the beginning of the book for free,” which is a little odd since I’d just bought it, but again, I get it — it’s a digital world and you’re keeping it simple. What you’re asking me is whether I want an online sneak preview so I don’t have to wait the god-awful two weeks before the actual book arrives.

So, here’s my answer. No thanks. And here’s why.

I enjoy the wait. I know it’s not very instant of me, but what the wait does (in case your research people care) is whet both my appetite and imagination. Since I know the author and his work, I can think back (in my mind, mind you) to what he’s written before and anticipate with delight what might be headed my way. I have two weeks to imagine his newest tale based only on a title and the few words I’ve read about this latest book. It’s the act of savoring before the fact, or the act, a sort of foreplay I highly recommend to you and other Amazonians (is that what you call yourselves, I wonder?)

There’s also the more tangible matter of the passage of actual — not virtual — time. Waiting is its own delicacy. It’s like Peking duck before the sauces aggregate and the duck simmers and the knives and sticks get to work. This lyric ensemble of expectancy has its own beat. Waiting is music. If you don’t like Peking duck, think of the first flush and rush of love. A too-quick kiss too-fast answers a coy question — is she interested? Will she — or yes, he — go through with it? Excise doubt and you drain away tasty juices. Absent doubt, and the juices, both kiss or duck are less delicious when served.

Eliminating the lapse between wanting and having also cancels considered alternatives. If in the end there is no kiss, or duck, do you instead go for kebab and handholding? Or do you just munch on fries and hope she’ll at least watch a movie with you? Or sulk over whether she likes you at all? Or think about what it might be like to go hungry? All these asides happen, seemingly at once, while you wait.

But if you nix the wait, or nix the need to wait, all you get is the fleeting satisfaction of possession. You get to duck or lips immediately, both of which are gulped, and you’re ironically the poorer for being sated so fast.

So, no thank you Amazon: I’ll wait until comma-less November 17 2015 for no other reason that to fill that wait with something you don’t sell, or don’t sell yet: anticipation. I will deliberate and wonder. I will think about other good writers. I will appreciate the dark arrival of late autumn days. I will fry up the smell of fresh paper mentally harvested from the new book you’re about to deliver. I will revel in what I think might be just around the corner, and the feel of that reveling will be mine and mine alone, and if we’re lucky, very lucky, you’ll never own that feeling to sell, no matter how much research you do.

But I do appreciate your offer. And that you’re sending me the book. I respect that you like getting things to me fast. I only wish from time to time that you’d see things from my perspective and, in a moment of Amazonian whimsy, play harder to get.

About the Author:

Christopher P. Winner is a veteran American journalist and essayist who was born in Paris in 1953 and has lived in Europe for more than 30 years.