We’ve all seen this. Anyone who has bought a book or some music online, or indeed any product, will have been given some suggestions as to what to buy next. It’s a popular way of trying to upsell. The assumption is that if you bought one thing you must have liked it and so would like to buy something similar. These choices are all driven by algorithms and their developers have assumed certain criteria on order to make them work.
This all makes sense in certain circumstances. Those who bought Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone may well wish to go on and buy the Chamber of Secrets. I say may as the reader might not have liked the first book and so probably would not like the second either. But that is getting off the point. It is quite understandable that people’s tastes can be similar and expressing a preference for one item could indicate a similar penchant for another.
Yet this is a worrying trend. If all we ever bought were recommendations based upon what other people bought then we would end up in an ever narrowing spiral of choice. Sticking with books, if a person buys book A and is recommended to buy book B etc. etc. then with each recommendation the choice would be honed down until the reader would eventually end up reading ostensibly the same book over and over again. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If the only books you read are those that are recommended to you and those that are recommended are based upon your previous choices then you will reading canon will become restricted over time. You may end up reading nothing but wizard fiction. In the end nothing but wizard fiction may be published.
What we need is to take a chance from time to time. We need to browse about, pick up those things which may not appeal to us at first glance and give them a go. We never know, the book we picked up may be the best thing we have ever read.
Perhaps we need a section Customers Who Bought This Item Never Considered, or Customers Who Bought This Hated These, or Customers Who Bought This Didn’t Go On to Buy the Sequel.