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I have always resisted buying books online, despite the allure of much cheaper prices. In fact, I think I just bought one book online in all of last year among the twenty one that I read. Not buying books online means I still read books the traditional way and not on a Kindle or a phone. I like to count it under my time away from the screen, along with running and cooking (although this has stopped after my move back to Bangalore).

Recently, my predisposition or bias against buying books online was re-affirmed. But before I get into how that happened, let me first set the scene (yes, I'm reading Gone Girl without yet watching the movie, where Amy keeps repeating 'set the scene' in her diary entries).

I'm not a big fan of the recommendation engines out there (note to self: design a recommendation engine I might like to use). When I follow an account on Twitter, Chelsea FC, for example, I get a sleuth of recommendations of accounts to follow from Twitter which include Didier Drogba, Oscar, Eden Hazard, Petr Cech, who are all Chelsea players. The same thing happens when I check out a course on Coursera or check out a book on Flipkart or Amazon or listen to a song on Youtube. I get recommendations of other items by the same artist, the same author.

I believe in variety. I enjoy a book when it is quite different in content, perspective, plot or ideas from the previous one I read. And recommendation engines always seem to want to suggest things similar to the previous ones I read, watched, listened to. Which is why I rely on recommendations from people. From people who are like me, from people who like variety, from people who are open to appreciate varying ideas and opinions.

Now, coming back to my bias against buying books online being re-affirmed, I had collected recommendations of books from people and thought I'd order them online for a change. None of the books were available for delivery in under 25 days. Only the bestsellers and certain new arrivals were available for delivery in under 3 days. That's when I started thinking bestsellers are bestsellers for a reason.

We have been voicing our support for having net neutrality, but I have a feeling we are losing neutrality in every sphere. I came across this article by Simon Dumenco voicing a similar emotion and felt I wasn't alone.

Do you really have the variety you think you do while purchasing online? Do you rely on recommendation engines or recommendations from people you connect with? How big of a factor does price play in your purchase decision? All things to ponder. 

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