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There is a wonderful column in the Wall Street Journal by Jason Fry in which he considers how e-commerce in general – and specifically – has changed his life…slowly, surely, at first imperceptibly, and finally, irrevocably.

“Over the last couple of years I've come to consider Amazon a PX of sorts -- it's the default place I buy books, electronics, tech gear and housewares,” Fry writes, adding, “I suspect Amazon's increasing presence in my household is a microcosm of its rise in general. Amazon's beachhead was books, which my wife Emily and I buy too many of -- and there, it won us over by being cheaper than our local bookstores, letting us shop at our leisure and delivering reliably. From that starting point, we've slowly but surely followed Amazon's lead into other areas. Its third-party sales and Marketplace program helped -- I now buy the vast majority of my used books from Amazon-affiliated sellers, though some of those sales replace new books I might have bought from Amazon itself. My decision more than a year ago to get Amazon Prime (in which two-day shipping is free) has proved self-justifying, encouraging me to recoup Prime's $79-a-year cost by turning to Amazon for more and more things. Finally, I started using Amazon's wish list as a way to note books I read about and find interesting for myself or our four-year-old son -- instead of forgetting, I can use my wish list to spot a paperback release, a good deal on a used copy, or indulge my own whim.

“That said, it's faintly embarrassing to think I turn to one retailer for so many different things -- amid the digital age and all its wonders, I sometimes feel more like a prairie settler who buys everything from the general store than the shopper I was before e commerce, when bookstores and music shops were a regular part of my rounds.”

Fry found that over the past year, he spent close to $2,000 on – and then, to his utter amazement, discovered that his family spent more than 10 times that on e-commerce in general.

“My first reaction was unprintable,” Fry writes. “Clearly our credit cards should be taken away and we should be locked up for our own protection, lest we wind up in debtor's prison. But when I started looking deeper, I decided the situation wasn't quite so dire, and realized that my family's online-shopping habits had changed without my noticing.”

Fry writes that he simply “hadn't realized just how much of our spending has shifted to the Internet -- and how, inevitably, that's made e-commerce so mundane that I'd underestimated how much we buy online. I now rarely go to bookstores, shop for CDs in actual stores or scour real-world haunts for collectibles. But I also don't go to the grocery store, the travel agent, or the ticket window at Shea Stadium. (And perhaps one of these days I'll get it through my skull that someone who dresses almost exclusively from the Gap/Old Navy/Banana Republic axis can buy clothes online, too.)

“Instead of going out to buy what we need, my wife and I increasingly bring retailers to us by firing up our browsers whenever parenthood and our jobs leave us with a couple of spare minutes. That no longer seems extraordinary -- and that might be the most extraordinary thing of all.”

KC's View:
It is fair to say that Jason Fry may not be reflective of Middle America…but he probably isn’t as far off as some would think. These changes he describes are generational, but they also are cultural.

This is a great piece, because it reflects a shift that is taking place, and that brick-and-mortar stores often don't detect until it already has occurred. Ignore it at your own risk.