I have bought hundreds of books from Amazon in the past eighteen years, and while its recommendations were sometimes bizarre, I often enjoyed logging in and browsing through what they thought I might like to read next. For the last three weeks, though, I’ve been unable to do that. Suddenly, without warning or explanation, they started recommending electronics, board games, Hallowe’en costumes: everything but books. And after two long, intensely frustrating online chats with their tech support team, I still have no idea why those recommendations have disappeared or how to get them back.

This may be good news for my bank balance, but it makes me very sad. Someone far away whom I’ve never met has taken something away from me and there’s nothing I can do about it. And yes, they’re a private company, and they’re not obliged to provide me with recommendations of any particular kind, and this is far from the worst thing they’re doing, but I’m weary of how the Internet that was supposed to empower us has instead made us all so helpless.