Amazon Product Advertising API

This post is intended to provide a high level introduction to Amazon's Product Advertising API. Part of my initial confusion was that the Wikipedia page I first found described features that did not match the current Amazon's documentation that I found next. Wikipedia seemed to imply that the Product Advertising API provides vendor marketplace support. It does not. Amazon is very clear about what the Product Advertising API will do for you (well, mostly for them):

"The Product Advertising API provides programmatic access to Amazon’s product selection and discovery functionality so that developers like you can advertise Amazon products to monetize your website."

What does this all mean? Amazon wants you to advertise Amazon products on your website. They want you to help sell stuff already listed on their marketplace website. The Product Advertising API is all about more eyeballs. They are also very clear about "what's in it for me?":

"You can make money using the Product Advertising API to advertise Amazon products in conjunction with the Amazon Associates program."

But why all of the confusion? Maybe it has to do with the history of the API? Wikipedia indicates that it was formerly known as Amazon Associates Web Service (AS2) and also Amazon E-Commerce Services (AES). I am not aware of the full history. I am aware that Amazon still is contributing to the confusing by semi-branding the Product Advertising API as part of Amazon Web Services. The Product Advertising API landing page does not hint at an AWS affiliation. But once you dig into the lower level technical documentation you are presented with AWS branding.**,***

So what is it? In reality the Product Advertising API provides access to Amazon's existing product catalog. It is not vendor focused at all. It is the opposite. It is "Amazon the seller" focused. It is a fairly simple, powerful, easy to use, well documented API that allows you to search products already listed on an Amazon marketplace. Nothing more.

If you dive into the technical documentation you will quickly discover that it is a simple API with only a few calls. You can search items, drill down in a category or add something to an Amazon Cart. You can not use it to list your product on Amazon. It does not seem vendor friendly.

Given this level of knowledge, the obvious question is: "Why would a vendor be interested in the Product Advertising API?". It cannot be used to list stuff, or do any other vendor related operations like list orders. Why would a vendor need to care about Amazons Product Advertising API?

The key interest point is Amazon's ASIN: Amazon Standard Identification Number. If you want to list products on Amazon, then you should conform to using existing product ASINs.

The Amazon Product Advertising API provides a very powerful catalog search function to allow a vendor to query Amazon's current catalog for existing products. And determine the ASIN.

** To utilize the Product Advertising API you will need to obtain Amazon Web Services credentials.

*** And even more confusing, you will also have to also obtain Amazon Affiliate Program credentials to use the Product Advertising API.