Three days ago, I had a quintessential digital experience. I bought my father, 93, living in Los Angeles and suffering from what was once called “failing legs”, a gift for Father’s Day, specifically two books from Amazon. The whole experience took a total of three minutes. To explain, I perused a review of a book in the New York Times edition that I receive via email. I then logged into my Amazon account, wrote in the author’s name, clicked “add to cart”. I magically saw a related book that I knew my father would like and added it to the cart. I then placed my order within 30 seconds as the site remembered my address and credit card number. Instantly, I received an email from Amazon that my order had been placed. All this is 180 seconds. For some people, it is the epitome of the modern age, instant pleasure.
However, I cannot say that it was a pleasure. I am not alone in thinking so either. Strange as it may seem to some people, I would have preferred driving my father to the bookstore, finding parking, wheeling him around the store, glancing at books, both relevant and irrelevant, waiting to pay at the cashier, and driving him back home. I say so not only because I live in Israel, rather far from him physically, but also because I enjoy the book buying experience. The books that are purchased are only the icing on the cake. It is touching the books, seeing books that I may (but probably won’t) buy in the future, and soaking in the environment. Two years ago, I was in a beautiful, huge bookstore in Dublin. Due to weight limitations for my valise, I was limited a few paperbacks but I felt that I could have bought half the store. I became outright euphoric.
Alas, I cannot say that about my Amazon experience. I can describe the latter as time-efficient, convenient and even hassle free. I am sure that the books will arrive on time and that my father will like the books. Yet, somehow, my virtual shopping was so emotionally sterile. Sterility is very desirable in operating theatres but fundamentally less so in the act of purchasing. I am truly looking forward to going to that bookstore on my next trip to LA.