Let’s start with how I destroyed my eyesight last week, spending approximately 50 hours cut-and-pasting ASIN’s (unique Amazon product identifiers) in the course of four days to update the linked lists of free classics I sell through Amazon for 99 cents. The reason I temporarily unpublished my lists and updated over 3,000 entries is simple. Last weekend Amazon removed the vast majority of free classics that they published (adopted from Project Gutenberg) prior to 2011, after replacing them with the same books using new ASIN’s, meaning new product pages. In doing so, Amazon orphaned millions of links from the web, which now arrive at a “Can’t find what you’re looking for” page, not to mentions tens of thousands of customer created Listmania lists, So You’d Like To guides and Customer Discussions. They are orphaned because Amazon does not redirect, or forward the ASIN’s of eBooks removed from their catalog.
As this gets around, Amazon's detractor's are going to imply that Amazon relisted the pd ebooks on purpose. For reasons that aren't clear (other than to sell more paid ebooks), he thinks that Amazon deliberately changed the ASIN (product codes) for all these ebooks. I'm not so sure Amazon intentionally relisted the pd ebooks because frankly I don't see a motivation.
Moving the ebooks broke the incoming links, and that's the part that makes little sense. I remember when Amazon added the first large chunk of pd ebooks. It was in late 2008, I believe, and the ebooks were simply copied over from Mobipocket.com. At the time it was clear that Amazon was offering these ebooks as loss leaders. Sure, it cost Amazon a small amount to host them but it also tied the owners into the Kindle system and gave them a reason to come back.
Morris points out that any external link to one of the pd ebooks is also broken thanks to the relisting. This in particular is why I think it makes little sense for Amazon to have done this deliberately. Each of those links was an opportunity for someone to come get a Kindle ebook and be tied into the Kindle system. It makes little sense for Amazon to give up that aspect of the loss leader ebooks, especially considering the ebooks are still there.
And how many sales would you expect this generate? Again, I have to agree with Morris in that I don't see that the financial gain outweighs the frustration felt by Amazon's customers.
Furthermore, when it comes to nefarious misdeeds, Amazon doesn't screw around. Do you recall the lawsuit that case maker M-Edge filed against Amazon in December? Or perhaps the time Amazon blackmailed POD publishers might ring a bell? Neither of those misdeeds were half measures, and that shows that Amazon can be quite meticulous and thorough if and when they want to be evil.
My point about Amazon being meticulous is that had they relisted the ebooks on purpose, they would have done something about the broken links. That is why I think it's much more likely that this was a screw-up on someone's part. I just don't think the potential financial gain is high enough for this to be worth the aggravation.
via Foner Books
image by pietrozuco