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51OftfuYlSL._SX316_BO1,204,203,200_ So I have an Amazon referrer account. I’ve had one since 2003. Pretty much I use it to get money when people buy books (or other items) through links here. It’s a non-trivial, though not princely, sum of money. Especially since it’s passive. These are books I’ve read and want to talk about anyhow (usually around Christmas someone follows a book link, and ends up purchasing a computer or two, which is a way of “supporting my work” that I can get behind).

But one of the more interesting side effects is that I can see what my readers are buying (or if they are). For example, it heartens me when I see someone purchase Principles of Population Genetics. That means “I’m making a difference,” as I doubt that these are advanced undergraduates or graduate students. An interesting aspect is that I can see what interests people in terms of “clickbait”, before clickbait was a thing. Bobbi S. Low’s Why Sex Matters routinely gets a lot of clicks because of the title, despite the fact that I don’t flog it. In contrast, In Gods We Trust gets a lot of clicks because I tell people to read it to understand my thinking on religious phenomena.

51gYdVvOoQL._SX379_BO1,204,203,200_ As the year ends I like to tally books people have ordered. It turns out that the most purchased book through this website for the year leading into December is The Monkey’s Voyage: How Improbable Journeys Shaped the History of Life. For Kindle, it’s Congo: The Epic History of a People.

Another category is conversion rate. In relation to number of clicks what proportion purchase. Tops for the books in that category is Bioinformatics Data Skills: Reproducible and Robust Research with Open Source Tools. My personal experience is that for technical books many people still prefer print for physicality and rendering of figures and graphs. For Kindle the highest conversion was Intelligence: All That Matters and Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time. I think there was a “daily deal” or something at one point, and that prompted many purchases of the latter.

1846077 Finally, there are books I see which I didn’t recommend, and didn’t know about. An intriguing one off this list is Barry Cunliffe’s By Steppe, Desert, and Ocean: The Birth of Eurasia. The main issue I’ve had with Cunliffe’s work of late is that he doesn’t seem to be reading enough of the Reich/Willerslev duopoly’s papers. Not that everyone has time to engage in such primary literature diving, but at this point you’re remiss if you write about archaeology and don’t include genetics. Unfortunately a search inside doesn’t indicate that By Steppe, Desert, and Ocean is DNA-heavy, but sometimes you take history and archaeology on its own terms and integrate them into your overall model of the world, rather than having someone else do that for you….

 
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  1. Didn’t Cunliffe get burned by the genetic research in the past when he accepted the claims that R1b was connected to Aurignacian culture?

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  2. I have bought a number of books that you’ve recommended, including The Monkey’s Voyage but I can’t seem to use your referral links, probably through a combination of using a non-US Amazon (I’m based in France) and not using Amazon in my browser (I only use the Android Amazon app on my phone).
    If anyone can explain how to send a referral link to the Amazon app I would use them exclusively.
    Edit: Although quite often your referrals are to books that either don’t ship to France or have exorbitant shipping fees.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Razib Khan
    Edit: Although quite often your referrals are to books that either don’t ship to France or have exorbitant shipping fees.



    is shipping a problem if you use a kindle???
    , @Douglas Knight
    If you use amazon.fr rather than amazon.com, Razib won't get the referral fee. So don't worry about the referral links.
  3. @phanmo
    I have bought a number of books that you've recommended, including The Monkey's Voyage but I can't seem to use your referral links, probably through a combination of using a non-US Amazon (I'm based in France) and not using Amazon in my browser (I only use the Android Amazon app on my phone).
    If anyone can explain how to send a referral link to the Amazon app I would use them exclusively.
    Edit: Although quite often your referrals are to books that either don't ship to France or have exorbitant shipping fees.

    Edit: Although quite often your referrals are to books that either don’t ship to France or have exorbitant shipping fees.

    is shipping a problem if you use a kindle???

    Read More
    • Replies: @Vincent Archer
    If you use the Kindle store, you can only use a single amazon store. Basically, if you shop on amazon.fr for your Kindle books, you are not allowed to purchases books for that account from amazon.com. You can create a separate account, but you need to purchase a second kindle to link to the account...

    It's basically due to the way authors and publishers set worldwide licensing. It's quite common to have books licensed for sale in the US thru one publisher, thru most of the commonwealth by another, and worldwide (the rest) thru a third. So, if you purchase from the US, you're purchasing from the first one, if you purchase in UK, the second one, or France, the 3rd.

    Rather than setting up a complicated process which would end up very confusing for the customer (why can I purchase that book for my kindle, but not that one? I can purchase both on paper!!!), Amazon simply set up so that you shop only in your country.
  4. @Razib Khan
    Edit: Although quite often your referrals are to books that either don’t ship to France or have exorbitant shipping fees.



    is shipping a problem if you use a kindle???

    If you use the Kindle store, you can only use a single amazon store. Basically, if you shop on amazon.fr for your Kindle books, you are not allowed to purchases books for that account from amazon.com. You can create a separate account, but you need to purchase a second kindle to link to the account…

    It’s basically due to the way authors and publishers set worldwide licensing. It’s quite common to have books licensed for sale in the US thru one publisher, thru most of the commonwealth by another, and worldwide (the rest) thru a third. So, if you purchase from the US, you’re purchasing from the first one, if you purchase in UK, the second one, or France, the 3rd.

    Rather than setting up a complicated process which would end up very confusing for the customer (why can I purchase that book for my kindle, but not that one? I can purchase both on paper!!!), Amazon simply set up so that you shop only in your country.

    Read More
    • Replies: @phanmo
    Not to mention that I use neither a Kindle nor the Kindle app on my reader.
    , @Douglas Knight
    The French translation is published by a third company, but both the American and Commonwealth publishers have the right to sell English language books in France. They don't usually bother with physical books, but they should jump through the trivial steps of activating their ebooks in France. Often they will do it if reminded by email.
  5. @Vincent Archer
    If you use the Kindle store, you can only use a single amazon store. Basically, if you shop on amazon.fr for your Kindle books, you are not allowed to purchases books for that account from amazon.com. You can create a separate account, but you need to purchase a second kindle to link to the account...

    It's basically due to the way authors and publishers set worldwide licensing. It's quite common to have books licensed for sale in the US thru one publisher, thru most of the commonwealth by another, and worldwide (the rest) thru a third. So, if you purchase from the US, you're purchasing from the first one, if you purchase in UK, the second one, or France, the 3rd.

    Rather than setting up a complicated process which would end up very confusing for the customer (why can I purchase that book for my kindle, but not that one? I can purchase both on paper!!!), Amazon simply set up so that you shop only in your country.

    Not to mention that I use neither a Kindle nor the Kindle app on my reader.

    Read More
  6. I am glad you are making some money out of your recommendations. I have read many of the books you highlighted and found them quite enlightening.

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  7. I believe I am much older than many of the readers of this blog, and some years ago entered a period in which I prefer to deaccession rather than to accession (also, having grown up in an academic household with bookshelves occupying most available wallspace, it took me many years to free myself of my parents’ fetish for owning books). In addition, I work at a college with a very good library and an even better virtual library through InterLibrary Loan. Consequently,I very rarely purchase books anymore although I have read many that were recommended here (most recently the Monkey’s Voyage, and I have MacCulloch’s The Reformation beckoning to me on my night table.) Sorry RK.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Twinkie

    fetish for owning books
     
    I have the same impulse. For me, digital books are very unsatisfying. I love the smell of old books, the texture of the paper, and the act of turning pages back and forth, especially if there are maps and drawings. It's delightful to give and receive books that are signed with personal messages, and to rediscover those messages years later.

    I have an extensive personal library of books on history, especially military history that are stacked on floor-to-ceiling shelves. They are in the second largest room in my house. Some days, my children and I get lost in it rummaging through the bookcases pulling out this book or that all the while having conversations about the topics in the books.

    To put another way, digital books feel like medicine while bound books feel like sumptuous meals.
  8. @phanmo
    I have bought a number of books that you've recommended, including The Monkey's Voyage but I can't seem to use your referral links, probably through a combination of using a non-US Amazon (I'm based in France) and not using Amazon in my browser (I only use the Android Amazon app on my phone).
    If anyone can explain how to send a referral link to the Amazon app I would use them exclusively.
    Edit: Although quite often your referrals are to books that either don't ship to France or have exorbitant shipping fees.

    If you use amazon.fr rather than amazon.com, Razib won’t get the referral fee. So don’t worry about the referral links.

    Read More
  9. @Vincent Archer
    If you use the Kindle store, you can only use a single amazon store. Basically, if you shop on amazon.fr for your Kindle books, you are not allowed to purchases books for that account from amazon.com. You can create a separate account, but you need to purchase a second kindle to link to the account...

    It's basically due to the way authors and publishers set worldwide licensing. It's quite common to have books licensed for sale in the US thru one publisher, thru most of the commonwealth by another, and worldwide (the rest) thru a third. So, if you purchase from the US, you're purchasing from the first one, if you purchase in UK, the second one, or France, the 3rd.

    Rather than setting up a complicated process which would end up very confusing for the customer (why can I purchase that book for my kindle, but not that one? I can purchase both on paper!!!), Amazon simply set up so that you shop only in your country.

    The French translation is published by a third company, but both the American and Commonwealth publishers have the right to sell English language books in France. They don’t usually bother with physical books, but they should jump through the trivial steps of activating their ebooks in France. Often they will do it if reminded by email.

    Read More
  10. I picked up The Shape of Ancient Thought after you brought it to my attention; I can’t remember if I went through your referrer account, though. I even—after letting it languish on my virtual shelf for who knows how long—finished it within the last month. I found its claims intriguing, even if my near total lack of familiarity with the Indian side of things left me feeling unable to assess them with any confidence.

    Read More
  11. Like phanmo and marcel proust, I haven’t bought anything via Amazon, because I live in another country (Canada) and have often borrowed from libraries rather than purchased. Sorry about that.

    Still I often found book recommendation to be profitable for my need for knowledge. I read Replenishing the Earth, 1491 (haven’t finished 1493), The Great Arab Conquests, The Nurture Assumption and A Farewell to Alms and found they were all informative readings.

    Read More
  12. @marcel proust
    I believe I am much older than many of the readers of this blog, and some years ago entered a period in which I prefer to deaccession rather than to accession (also, having grown up in an academic household with bookshelves occupying most available wallspace, it took me many years to free myself of my parents' fetish for owning books). In addition, I work at a college with a very good library and an even better virtual library through InterLibrary Loan. Consequently,I very rarely purchase books anymore although I have read many that were recommended here (most recently the Monkey's Voyage, and I have MacCulloch's The Reformation beckoning to me on my night table.) Sorry RK.

    fetish for owning books

    I have the same impulse. For me, digital books are very unsatisfying. I love the smell of old books, the texture of the paper, and the act of turning pages back and forth, especially if there are maps and drawings. It’s delightful to give and receive books that are signed with personal messages, and to rediscover those messages years later.

    I have an extensive personal library of books on history, especially military history that are stacked on floor-to-ceiling shelves. They are in the second largest room in my house. Some days, my children and I get lost in it rummaging through the bookcases pulling out this book or that all the while having conversations about the topics in the books.

    To put another way, digital books feel like medicine while bound books feel like sumptuous meals.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Talha

    To put another way, digital books feel like medicine while bound books feel like sumptuous meals.
     
    Mmmm-mmmm! Well said!

    Peace.
  13. @Twinkie

    fetish for owning books
     
    I have the same impulse. For me, digital books are very unsatisfying. I love the smell of old books, the texture of the paper, and the act of turning pages back and forth, especially if there are maps and drawings. It's delightful to give and receive books that are signed with personal messages, and to rediscover those messages years later.

    I have an extensive personal library of books on history, especially military history that are stacked on floor-to-ceiling shelves. They are in the second largest room in my house. Some days, my children and I get lost in it rummaging through the bookcases pulling out this book or that all the while having conversations about the topics in the books.

    To put another way, digital books feel like medicine while bound books feel like sumptuous meals.

    To put another way, digital books feel like medicine while bound books feel like sumptuous meals.

    Mmmm-mmmm! Well said!

    Peace.

    Read More

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