Seth Godin of The Domino Project posted last night about an email he got from Amazon. It seems that Amazon is making another kill-sweep of the Kindle Store as part of a new effort to clean out junk ebooks.
Like any of the major self-pub platforms (except Smashwords), Amazon has a perennial problem with spam ebooks. Well, it’s not spam so much as its public domain ebooks that were grabbed off Project Gutenberg, content that has been scraped off of websites, as well as computer generated nonsense text. All this stuff can be vomited into the Kindle Store with little effort (it’s one of the downsides of the self-pub revolution).
Amazon wanted to make sure all authors were aware of their current policy:
Some types of content, such as public domain content, may be free to use by anyone, or may be licensed for use by more than one party. We will not accept content that is freely available on the web unless you are the copyright owner of that content. For example, if you received your book content from a source that allows you and others to re-distribute it, and the content is freely available on the web, we will not accept it for sale on the Kindle store. We do accept public domain content, however we may choose to not sell a public domain book if its content is undifferentiated or barely differentiated from one or more other books.
While some might applaud this move, I can recall that Amazon had reportedly pulled junk ebooks before. Back in December 2010, Amazon made a lot of noise about pulling public domain titles from the Kindle Store. I reported at the time that one small publisher had gotten the following letter:
We’re implementing a new policy that addresses the customer experience problem caused by multiple, undifferentiated copies of public domain titles in our Kindle catalog.
Our vision is to have high-quality editions of every public domain title in the world available on Kindle, including a free edition of each, and to avoid the confusion that is caused by having a large number of undifferentiated (or barely differentiated) versions of each.
I can tell you from personal experience that Amazon didn’t stick to their guns. In the summer of 2011 I downloaded a number of public domain titles so my younger brother could use them for school. For every one title I got there were at least 4 options, including paid ebooks. What’s more, I own copies of a dozen or so freebie Kindle ebooks which are based on content compiled from Wikipedia. I got all of those ebooks this year. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but clearly Amazon wasn’t being all that careful about their filters.
While I am hoping that Amazon will get it right this time, it does not seem likely. I suspect that Amazon doesn’t want to push too hard to get rid of the junk. It might thin out the number of titles on their virtual shelf, but Amazon might care more about keeping their numbers up more than they care about removing each bad title.
image by brewbooks