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A new reality: spam books? — 4 Comments

  1. Aaron nails one of Amazon’s worst faults, how it handles search results, with this remark:

    “Despite the growing numbers of spam books, they might still tend to sink out of sight from lack of reader enthusiasm, if not for one influential promoter: Amazon. All these books are signed up for Kindle Unlimited, Amazon’s subscription service, so that they can make money even if no one wants to pay for them—and Kindle Unlimited is where Amazon has decided its future lies. So, Amazon gives them priority in search results. Books with fictitious authors, minimal value, no real fans, and mediocre sales are featured more prominently than top titles in their field.”

    With its Kindle store, occupies the role of a publisher, but lacks professional ethos of all but the worst publishers. They care about what appears under their name. Amazon doesn’t. If fits perfectly into the role Oscar Wilde ascribed to a cynic as, “a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

    Worst still, that price over value mindset drives its search results. Amazon hides quality books loved by readers to display books, however poor in quality, that make it more money per sale. And it will go to considerable extremes to do that.

    My Across Asia on a Bicycle is a good example. It’s a well-done and well-researched new edition of an 1892 original with two additional chapters published elsewhere by its authors. Last time I checked its page on Amazon was the top hit on Google, probably because bicycling sites recommended it. And as best I could tell by Amazon rankings, some 80% of the sales were mine, probably due to those bicycling site recommendations.

    And yet there are times when Amazon totally, utterly removed it from their search results for “Across Asia on a Bicycle.” Not on the first page. Not on the second page. Not on any page. And yet the first page would list old, out-of-print editions not even available used.

    It would seem to be madness but for one factor. Someone else was selling a poorly done POD replica at over twice my price. In fact my hardback edition was selling for only a little more than than their cheap paperback copy. You can see it here:


    Rather than remain perpetually ticked off at this scamming of their customers—selling them inferior editions because they have inflated prices—I avoid monitoring that a a regular basis. It seems to come and go, perhaps as Amazon tests how well their nefarious schemes work.


    Incidentally, defenders of Amazon claim that, however bad Amazon might be treating suppliers, including authors, it’s not breaking the law because that law only protects consumers. That’s not true. In this case it’s consumers who’re being deceptively sent to higher-priced items.


    Amazon’s willingness and even zeal to distort search results pose a serious danger to authors. Aaron has mentioned that Amazon privileges Kindle Unlimited ebooks in search results even if they’re spam books disliked by readers. Amazon can easily set up a host of other criteria that determine whether an author’s book is displayed or hidden. If you don’t jump through their hoops, your books become invisible. Scary!

  2. I remember from my Chinese art history courses an interesting tidbit. The ancient Chinese had four classes of people. I hope I’m remembering it properly.

    1. Poets and calligraphers
    2. The nobility
    3. Craftspeople and laborers
    4. Businessmen

    Businessmen were seen as parasites on civilization, because they didn’t make anything but profited from what others made.
    Sometimes I think marketers are a lower subset of business people…

  3. The problem is that many craftspeople are hopeless at selling their work – like me, for instance – so business people are a crucial part of the mix.

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