We were talking about how everything old is new again in The Internet Course yesterday. E-commerce is a new thing, with a huge economic impact, but it’s also kinda like the 21st century version of the Sears & Roebuck catalog. The parallel with Amazon is interesting. Sears got big by offering a wider selection than could be found at general stores, and by undercutting their prices. You could get almost anything through the catalog. I remember watching Jean Shepherd’s Phantom Of The Open Hearth when I was a kid. There’s a scene where a guy says he bought a house from the catalog (YT) and needed his friends to help unload from the the train. I thought it was some kind of surrealist joke, but no, you really could buy a mail-order house. Here’s a copy of their 1921 Honor bilt modern homes catalog. I don’t think Amazon has gotten into the home business yet.
And then this morning one of my co-workers was talking about how she has this whole collection of 45 RPM singles from when she was a teenager. For decades, we used to buy songs in collections, whether on LP or tape or CD, but now iTunes has people shopping one song at a time. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.