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Science & Technology

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Books Vs. E-Readers

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Amazon.com Recommendations Understand Area Woman Better Than Husband

SANDUSKY, OH—Area resident Pamela Meyers was delighted to receive yet another thoughtful CD recommendation from Amazon.com Friday, confirming that the online retail giant has a more thorough, individualized, and nuanced understanding of Meyers' taste than the man who occasionally claims to love her, husband Dean Meyers.

Meyers said she was pleasantly surprised to receive three e-mails from Amazon today alone.

"To come home from a long day at work and see the message about the new Norah Jones album waiting for me, it just made my week," said Meyers, 36, who claimed she was touched that the company paid such attention to her. "It feels nice to be noticed once in a while, you know?"

Amazon, which has been tracking Meyers' purchases since she first used the site to order Football For Dummies in preparation for attending the 2004 Citrus Bowl as part of her husband's 10th wedding anniversary plans, has shown impressive accuracy at recommending books, movies, music, and even clothing that perfectly match Meyers' tastes. While the powerful algorithms that power Amazon's recommendations generator do not have the advantage of being able to observe Meyers' body language, verbal intonation, or current personal possessions, they have nonetheless proven more effective than Dean, who bases his gift-giving choices primarily on what is needed around the house, what he would like to own, and, most notably, what objects are nearby.

"I don't know how Amazon picked up on my growing interest in world music so quickly, but I absolutely love this traditional Celtic CD," Meyers said. "I like it so much more than that Keith Urban thing Dean got me. I'm really not sure what made him think I like country music."

Meyers said she was especially moved that the online merchant remembered that she had once purchased an Ian McEwan book, and immediately reminded when the author released a new novel. Moreover, despite only having had 37 hours of direct interaction with Meyers, Amazon was still able to detect her strong interest in actor Paul Giamatti, unlike husband Dean who often teases Meyers about her nonexistent crush on Tom Cruise.

Meyers said that her husband, whose gift choices have never reflected any outward recognition of her desire to learn Spanish, nor of the fact that she looks terrible in orange, rarely, if ever, communicates with Meyers while away on any of his frequent business trips.

"I was having some tea from that Nebraska Cornhuskers mug Dean got me for Valentine's Day, when a little e-mail from Amazon popped up out of the blue," Meyers said. "Just completely out of the blue."

"It was nice to know that on my birthday, someone or something was out there thinking about me, and what boxed sets I wanted," she added.

Though "it could only be a coincidence," Meyers admitted that she became emotional during a recent "bad day" when the site recommended the DVD The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg. "Dean and I saw it on one of our first dates, and I remember it being such a great night not just for the movie, but how everything felt so natural, how we seemed to be on the same wavelength," Meyers said. "It was the first time I thought, 'Yes. This is the one.'"

While Amazon is almost always accurate, the company does occasionally make a gift recommendation that does not suit her tastes, such as a recent suggestion of camping gear and an all-weather backpack. Still, Meyers lauded Amazon's attempts at spontaneity.

"At least it's trying," said Meyers, whose husband will once again surprise her with their fourth romantic getaway to his hometown of Kenton, DE sometime in March. "And maybe I would like camping if I ever tried it. Amazon's usually right about these things."

Meyers, who has spent the past 15 years with a man who still believes she enjoys attending car shows, said she has kept her Amazon recommendation e-mails a secret from her husband so as not to corrupt the "deep and unstated understanding" between her and the popular website.

"Sure, I could send him the link to my Wish List, but that really defeats the purpose of gifts, as far as I'm concerned," Meyers said.

For his part, Dean has promised to make a concerted effort to pay closer attention to his wife's habits in order to choose more appropriate and tasteful gifts. He said that she will be "pleasantly surprised" with his new strategy, enrolling her for the next three years in the Oprah Book Club.

"I know she's really into The View, so I just figured this would be perfect," Meyers said. "And I know she'll love taking moonlight drives on our new riding mower together, too."

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