Irritated at Amazon’s Associates Program

I get about enough money from Amazon’s Associates program every quarter to make sure that the shelves in my home office (which were full to begin with) stay full, but that’s about it. While that’s a fine thing, the program itself is vexing in more ways than one.

For example, why can’t I have Amazon Associates syndicate back to my site in widget form my top-selling books? That’s valuable information being generated by readers — the books that they like enough to have bought — and yet there is no straightforward way to peel that Top Ten list out of Amazon’s Associates online and embed a live version in my site.

What kind of bizarro merchandising illogic is this? Who would run a store where they didn’t put top-selling products in the high-traffic areas of the store?


  1. Yes, it’s not that easy to get that data from your Amazon reports. I think Amazon is somewhat concious about not letting you gather that data easily – for example their “TransactionLookup” API call won’t return the list of items in the transaction. Your best option would be to scrape your own reports…
    Amazon Omakase links do something similar to what you are asking though – they are behavior-targeted (i.e. based on the user’s buying history), so your readers get stuff they are likely to be interested. You and your readers wouldn’t get to see it in aggregate, though.
    I’ve built an ad system that uses the Amazon API along with / Ebay. I can see how it would be possible to gather the data you need, but not sure how people would react – privacy wise.
    If you ever want to try my in-text targeted ads, it’s at

  2. That “service” is a pain.
    I tried to sign up because we are continually reviewing and recommending books on the FreshBooks blog. I could not find and easy way to get a “referral link” I could put in my posts…they wanted design control and they made it hard to find a format that even came close working for me.
    What a bad experience. Waste of my time. What a lost opportunity.
    P.S. I tried to order Burn Rate from your site Paul…it’s basically out of print so it’s not easy to get copies these days, just so you know.

  3. Agreed Mike. WHile I use it, it’s way more complex than it needs to be to link to books of interest. I now use a bookmarklet that makes it somewhat simpler. I simply click on it when I’m at Amazon viewing a book of interest, and then use that link on my site.
    Here is the bookmarklet:
    javascript:(function(){var referer=’myuserid’;var prefixes=new Array(3);prefixes[0]=’/ASIN/’;prefixes[1]=’/-/’;prefixes[2]=’/product/’;var asin;for(i=0;i%3C3;i++){prefix=prefixes[i];index=location.href.indexOf(prefix);if(index%3E0){asin=location.href.substring(index+prefix.length,index+prefix.length+10);}}var asin=prompt(‘Confirm ASIN’,asin);if(asin){prompt(‘Here\’s the link’,’’+asin+’/’+referer+’/ref=nosim/’);}})()

  4. Thanks Paul – I’ll give that a try.
    P.S. Kathy showed up at the office today with a copy of Burn Rate…that she checked out of the Library. I guess it’s not availalbe in print. Cheers.

  5. Good idea, Paul. I’ll pass your suggestion on to people at Amazon.