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"My lower intestine is full of Spam, Egg, Spam, Bacon, Spam, Tomatoes, Spam."
June 17, 2011 8:53 AM   Subscribe

Do you want some Spam with your Kindle? Spam has hit the Kindle, clogging the online bookstore of the top-selling eReader with material that is far from being book worthy and threatening to undermine Amazon.com Inc's publishing foray.
posted by Fizz (95 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh, this is coincidental, I was putting together some links about this topic. I ran into a really weird book on Amazon and thought "High Quality content from WIKIPEDIA? Why would anyone put that on a book cover?"

It turns out that there are a bunch of pissed off people blogging about VDM publishing, who are behind 38 content scraping imprints. The super-odd thing (to me, anyway) is that if you google for most of the imprints (alphascript, betascript), you'll find a bunch of scammy, scummy content farms churning out spam links.
posted by boo_radley at 9:07 AM on June 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Interesting. It's amazing what spammers will latch onto.

If Amazon charged a token per-book "publishing" fee, you'd probably get rid of all the spam. They need to do this sooner rather than later.
posted by seanyboy at 9:07 AM on June 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


Man I hate it when I go into a library and I can't find any books because there are so many pamphlets, brochures, newsletters and delivery menus everywhere. Oh wait, no I don't.
posted by nathancaswell at 9:09 AM on June 17, 2011 [23 favorites]


I don't have a kindle, so maybe this is already done, but the obvious solution would be to tag self-published eBooks as self-published eBooks.

A self-pub sandbox.

Then hang a sign over the gate: "Abandon all hope, ye who browse here."
posted by notyou at 9:11 AM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I know it goes against their business model, but I wish Amazon would have an option for searching Kindle books that are also "real" books. I know vice versa works, but it is really, really annoying to have to wade through fanfic after fanfic when browsing fantasy books.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:12 AM on June 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


Ha. A few years ago, I remember a thread here on the blue about bookspam that was happening via Amazon's print on demand system. (In particular about a charmingly entrepreneurial fellow who had 80,000 books listed on Amazon, with tempting titles designed to lure buyers looking for very specific information, but containing nothing more than automatically-gathered content from the web.)

At the time I speculated that if Amazon didn't nip the behavior in the bud, that it was going to become a real problem, clogging up the catalog and reducing the perceived value of their service to users. However, the Kindle adds an entirely new dimension to the problem ... POD spam is bad enough, but there you at least need to put together a printable book that Amazon can ship out and fulfill. That means there's a certain minimum cost (most of the POD spambooks were fairly expensive); you can't use the usual spam business model of tiny little payments multiplied by lots of credulous rubes. But with the Kindle books, since it's viable to sell them at $1, you can do that.

My feeling is the same as it was in 2008 when the issue was POD books — Amazon needs to take a more active role in maintaining their catalog. Maybe not dropping "spam" items completely, but at least being much more aggressive about putting them at the very bottom of search results, or removing them from search results altogether. It doesn't matter whether Amazon views itself as a neutral middleman, users are going to be angry if they end up buying a book that's obviously a machine-generated piece of crap, and if the Kindle store develops a reputation for being full of that stuff, it's going to hurt the whole ecosystem. It would be in both Amazon's and Kindle users' best interests for aggressive action to be taken early, before bookspam becomes Usenet-level bad.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:14 AM on June 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


I guess they are talking about something like the 2nd result in this search for "girl with a dragon tattoo"? That is pretty iffy that they are using the real cover image from the UK paperback.
posted by smackfu at 9:15 AM on June 17, 2011


This isn't spam really as spam does not require me to make a purchasing decision before being rewarded with shite.

I have bought precisely one non-classic book for <£1 and it is the worst written and edited pile of rubbish it has ever been my misfortune to clap my eyes upon. I bought it solely to see what the standards were and the answer to that is "not very high at all".

Incidentally - where is the Kindle porn market? I might be crap at searching but I haven't seen any "gentlemen's jazz periodicals" with pictures and stories doing the rounds as yet. That sort of product should be on fire with hot e-ink babes getting up to all sorts. Better still, tie that in with the text-to-audio option and get the red-hot robot sex-voice to read it to you.
posted by longbaugh at 9:17 AM on June 17, 2011 [4 favorites]


I've been disappointed that Amazon lets people list those deceptive printed-on-demand collections of wikipedia articles with titles implying that they're great deals on omnibus volumes.

No, I don't have a very good answer for how they'd stop them.
posted by Zed at 9:19 AM on June 17, 2011


Incidentally - where is the Kindle porn market?

While I was just flagging that dragon tattoo crap book, I noticed it is fairly easy to flag a book as having "pornographic" content on Amazon.
posted by smackfu at 9:21 AM on June 17, 2011


Incidentally - where is the Kindle porn market?

It's in the "Romance" section. I don't know about "gentlemen's jazz periodicals" but there are a whole lot of 99c bodice-rippers in there, and that's in addition to the mainstream Harlequin-type stuff.

The Kindle is one of the only devices where most of the porn seems to be aimed at women, interestingly enough.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:24 AM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


As mentioned above, a $1 charge per book to put it in the Kindle catalog would probably solve this problem. Amazon could even refund the $1 to the author with the first sale.
posted by COD at 9:25 AM on June 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hah, bookspam, I like it. I wrote a long article a couple of years ago that accused Google and Amazon of deliberately turning a blind eye to these frauds, as long as they got a cut for handling transactions. Oddly enough, it got hung up by the publisher's legal department, which excised almost every instance of the word "fraud."
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:25 AM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I loathe the people who scrape content from Archive.org and put it up on Amazon. I sampled one once to see if they'd done the editing to correct the issues from the scanned version and lo! it had not been done.

Never buy a book on the Kindle you've not sampled.
posted by winna at 9:26 AM on June 17, 2011


where is the Kindle porn market?

"Kindlerotica: The strange but inevitable rise of e-reader pornography"
posted by Trurl at 9:29 AM on June 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


The Kindle is one of the only devices where most of the porn seems to be aimed at women, interestingly enough.

Isn't most written erotica aimed at women?
posted by incessant at 9:31 AM on June 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


If a communication channel exists, advertisers and spammers will pump their "content" through it until you provide sufficient barriers.
posted by adipocere at 9:31 AM on June 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


The battle for the 21st century will be signal vs. noise.

You can read more about this in my forthcoming book, The Battle for the 21st Century Will Be Signal vs. Noise.
posted by Zed at 9:35 AM on June 17, 2011 [28 favorites]


The strange but inevitable rise of e-reader pornography

Why is that strange? The a device for viewing media, mainly books. There's no porn there?
posted by DU at 9:35 AM on June 17, 2011


In December I sent a complaint in - damn hard to find the right link for that, anyone would think they were hiding it.

Sent:
" .... But more importantly this book - which has the same cover, the same title text and the same sample text - on [mental health problem] has such gems as:
Learn the cost of savings analysis.
Discover the fireplace advantage.
Discover how exactly to save big money with windows.
So either the author has made some amazing mistakes while submitting his book or he's just a spammer."

The reply:
"Thank you for contacting Amazon.co.uk and for taking the time to bring
this to our attention.

We build our website information from many sources, and we really appreciate knowing about any errors or issues that have been overlooked. I have forwarded your message to the relevant department so that this item's details can be amended correctly.

If you’d like to give similar feedback in the future you’ll find the Online Catalogue Update Form under the heading "product details" on an item’s main page. You'll see two links labelled "update product info" and ‘give feedback on images’."

The book is still listed exactly as it was, there has been no change.

Go check Amazon's Mechanical Turk - Now with 40.92% spam - and the number of different ways that spamming is being sold. It's turning into a cesspit in places. But it makes them money so why should they care?
posted by episodic at 9:38 AM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Reading porn on an ereader is great! remember when you had to go to video store, back room, to pick out your tapes to take home? Oh. Not that old? Well that was how it was done. Then a couple of young guys created a site similar to Netflix (which does not carry porn) and now biz booming! no more sneaking about Now women can feel at ease!

Problem in paradise? Yea. I download some porn. I read it. I delete it but on my Kindle that porn ends up not deleted but in something called Archives, which, when I die, my heirs can then check out to see how dad's great reading made him such a loving guy. What? What' this? It is mostly PORN! My father read all that shit? Well, let me read it to see what was that he so liked.
posted by Postroad at 9:44 AM on June 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hell yeah. Anything that makes the Kindle more annoying is welcome to me.
posted by ReeMonster at 9:45 AM on June 17, 2011



My big beef with shopping on the Kindle is that there is no option for sorting lists - lists are sorted by "bestselling." Period. So, for example, if you want a list of science fiction, you will have to page through dozens of listings for public domain stuff like Frankenstein and everything Jules Verne ever wrote. Free stuff is always going to be at the top of the list.

I now do my searching and purchasing online, but that kind of defeats one of the pleasures of the Kindle, which is lying in bed at 2 a.m. and deciding you want to read something different and then having it in 15 seconds.
posted by ereshkigal45 at 9:50 AM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Reading porn on an ereader is great!

It's easier to clean plastic than paper.
posted by Trurl at 9:50 AM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is this a problem in the iBooks store? Just wonderin'.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:52 AM on June 17, 2011


It doesn't matter whether Amazon views itself as a neutral middleman, users are going to be angry if they end up buying a book that's obviously a machine-generated piece of crap, and if the Kindle store develops a reputation for being full of that stuff, it's going to hurt the whole ecosystem.

exactly: as was pointed out repeatedly in the Ebay thread, when scammy behaviour is overlooked by the administrators, the brand can get quite a negative reputation.
posted by dubold at 9:53 AM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


Spam or no spam I've never turned up anything interesting by browsing the Kindle store. Direct searches only.
posted by channel-1- at 9:53 AM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


So it turns out that barriers to entry actually have both exchange and utility value. Who would have thought?

It's Gresham's Law for information markets.

Another way to put it: Given low enough transaction costs, laissez-faire markets turn to shit. Street drugs get stepped on, Kindle gets spammed and the intertubes fill up with dreck.
posted by warbaby at 9:55 AM on June 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


I read this as "Do you want some Sperm with your Kindle?" which made for an interesting thought process in my head.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 9:57 AM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


If they don't watch out, the Kindle bookstore will soon be spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, book, magazine, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, book, and spam.
posted by chebucto at 9:58 AM on June 17, 2011


as was pointed out repeatedly in the Ebay thread, when scammy behaviour is overlooked by the administrators, the brand can get quite a negative reputation

And in both cases, the companies are up against a staggering scale problem.

There are about 60 new listings placed on eBay every second. There is no conceivable way to run critical human eyes over all of them - even with cheap outsourced labor. You have to rely on automation - which introduces its own set of problems.

Also, as our mods could tell you, "one strike and you're out" policies aren't necessarily desirable. They work in the hope that not-so-nice participants can become nicer ones with coaching. And they don't even have a financial incentive for doing so.
posted by Trurl at 10:05 AM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


They don't have a short term financial incentive to do so.
posted by ryanrs at 10:10 AM on June 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


But it makes them money so why should they care?
posted by episodic


I know this is what it seems like, but I would be VERY surprised if Amazon didn't care about this problem. They want repeat, happy customers, and they've historically been a very forward looking company. They have great incentives to battle spam and I have no doubt that there is a group tasked with doing just that. They may not do it as well or fast as you'd like, but I simply can't believe that the people involved don't care about the quality of their product and its effect on user sentiment.
posted by haveanicesummer at 10:12 AM on June 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


The strange but inevitable rise of e-reader pornography

"Any time anyone develops a new technology, one of the first things that people do is figure out how to apply it to sex."

-- EC's college friend K, circa 1993
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:18 AM on June 17, 2011


When you scam customers with spam, don't be surprised when they respond by patronizing pirate sites.
posted by stbalbach at 10:19 AM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm really surprised that this works at all. Do many people really buy books willy-nilly, without being familiar with the author, without recommendations from trusted third parties, etc.?

I generally don't even borrow library books that way. After all, you're not just risking your money, you're also risking hours of your time.
posted by Western Infidels at 10:23 AM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I usually don't purchase any book, kindle or otherwise (I'm new to purchasing e-books) unless I've found it on a list somewhere or it has been recommended to me. Therefore, I don't really browse Amazon for books randomly, so I never run into this problem.

For instance, if I am looking for werewolf books (just an example), I will Google "Best Werewolf Books", and see what people are saying, then make my choices from there. There's just way too much content on Amazon to browse aimlessly. If I want to do that, I'll go to the public library.

Essentially, I use Amazon as an "in and out" store. I go in, find what I want, buy it, leave.
posted by Malice at 10:30 AM on June 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


They want repeat, happy customers, and they've historically been a very forward looking company.

Agreed, and I hope this trend continues. When I had a Kindle (or rather, when I used my Kindle, as I still have it), I felt a certain investment in Amazon's ebook survival, but now that I've switched to reading ebooks on my Ipad, which allows me access to multiple formats, I'll shop wherever the price and interface are most attractive. And ebook browsing on Amazon is frustrating enough as it is, even without the spam.
posted by bibliowench at 10:31 AM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


People hate closed download markets because the companies that run them are censoring content they want. People hate open download markets because they're full of crap content they don't want. It's a no-win scenario.
posted by Apropos of Something at 10:39 AM on June 17, 2011 [8 favorites]


It's not that complicated: People want open download markets with a sort button. My e-mail inbox gets tons and tons and tons of spam, but it doesn't matter because it all goes into a dedicated folder. If the Amazon market had an option to browse lists of books sorted into "spam" and "not spam," this would be a non-issue.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:47 AM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Any time anyone develops a new technology, one of the first things that people do is figure out how to apply it to sex."

Friendlinking, but I refer you to the wonderful Sex, Bombs and Burgers, by a former colleague of mine, in which it is conclusively proven that pretty much everything we love about modern life was initially developed for the military, porn, or fast food industries.
posted by Shepherd at 10:48 AM on June 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


>You can read more about this in my forthcoming book, The Battle for the 21st Century Will Be Signal vs. Noise.

No, you can read more about this in my forthcoming book, The Battle for the 21st Century Will Be Signal vs. Noise.
posted by scruss at 10:51 AM on June 17, 2011 [8 favorites]


ereshkigal45: My big beef with shopping on the Kindle is that there is no option for sorting lists - lists are sorted by "bestselling." Period. So, for example, if you want a list of science fiction, you will have to page through dozens of listings for public domain stuff like Frankenstein and everything Jules Verne ever wrote. Free stuff is always going to be at the top of the list.

And it gets worse: if you're looking for public domain stuff, there are plenty of people who try to re-package and sell what you can get for free, making a search for quality public domain content even harder. Project Gutenberg is great and all, but books (and eBooks) are more than a string of letters and spaces.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:56 AM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


No, you can read more about this in my forthcoming book, The Battle for the 21st Century Will Be Signal vs. Noise.

I'm pretty sure this is more thoroughly covered in my forthcoming book, The Battle for the 21st Century Will be Signal vs. Noise.
posted by TwelveTwo at 10:58 AM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm just going to wait until there's a Wikipedia entry for The Battle for the 21st Century Will be Signal vs. Noise and sell that.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 11:00 AM on June 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


My book Noise Signal [httml:eroticacharmsbracelet.ru] see you when strip mines goal post tree flower. $2 at Kindle.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:01 AM on June 17, 2011 [9 favorites]


Amazon needs to do way better at improving their browsability if they're going to effectively replace the brick-and-mortar bookstores. In the first couple pages of "literary criticism & theory" for the Kindle, you have things like:

-43 Jack London stories
-"This is a Book" by Demetri Martin
-Autobiography of Mark Twain
-Moby Dick, Little Women, The Count of Monte Cristo
-"Mouseschawitz - My Summer Job of Concentrated Fun"
-"When You Are Engulfed in Flames" by David Sedaris
-A novel by Dorothea Frank

Overall, perhaps half of the books that turn up in the first few pages actually fit the category of "literary criticism and theory," however much you fudge the boundaries of the category. There's no separate category for "young adult" or "teen" in the Kindle section -- you have to search through "Children's Books" and wade through the middle-grade ones.

Ultimately I feel like they just don't care about good metadata and good categorizing, and you see that in both the huge amount of Wikipedia spam and in the difficulty of browsing for anything. Good for people who know exactly what they want; not so good for everybody else.
posted by Jeanne at 11:12 AM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


17 of 20 people found the following review helpful

4 1/2 stars out of 5 High Quality Pornogravy, 25 May 2011

By Mr Mark "ovBot" Smeethe (United Kingdom) - see all my reviews
REAL NAME

This review is from : Noise Signal (Kindle edition)

THIS SEEMS TO ME EXCELLENT VALUE. BOOK WRITTEN WITH SPIELBERG. FEATURE PICTURES MANY - LADYPART AND SCHNAUZER. HEARTCORE WITH FAST VERBAL.
posted by longbaugh at 11:20 AM on June 17, 2011 [8 favorites]


Wow, the spam generation program is scary (WARNING: it's a get-rich quick forum):
Publish 100 books and earn about $400/month...
Publish 500 books and earn about $2,000/month...
publish 1,000 books and earn $4,000/month +!!!
How does it work? VOLUME! That's right, more spam, more money!

Crikey, Amanda Hocking's self-published YA vampire novel empire seems a lot more appealing by comparison to utter spam.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:35 AM on June 17, 2011


Is this a problem in the iBooks store? Just wonderin'.

iBooks requires an ISBN, so that's a pretty hefty barrier. Sell your books on iTunes
posted by smackfu at 11:37 AM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


ISBN ... that's the answer.

Easy enough for serious self-publishers to acquire, too much trouble for spammers.
posted by notyou at 11:44 AM on June 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


"And it gets worse: if you're looking for public domain stuff, there are plenty of people who try to re-package and sell what you can get for free, making a search for quality public domain content even harder."

Some of this is actually a pretty good value. I paid $.99 for a copy of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire for my Kindle, where the re-packager cleaned up the OCR errors and/or typos and put in an "active" table of contents so you can jump to various sections. For a book that long it was DEFINITELY worth my $1. There are a number of people providing high-quality edits and Kindle features (like the active TOC) for public domain books, usually for 99 cents, and actually really appreciate it. They're providing added value and charging an appropriately minimal amount for basically editing and correcting the formatting. You can tell the quality by a) a clear description in the book description of what the re-packager did and added (many are quite upfront that it's a public domain book) and b) comments from other purchasers.

Amazon does need to work on its search/browse, though. The results veer from being creepily accurate (when I was browsing twin mattresses for my toddler, it suggested I may also wish to buy a mattress pad and the board book "Big Enough for a Bed starring Elmo!" ... creepy. I totally bought the book, though) to ABSOLUTELY USELESS. I wish at the least they'd let me sort my books by "moods" or something; since I tend to read in clusters of interests, whatever the last thing I bought is what amazon recommends me 400 of. So if I recently bought YA fantasy, that's all it recommends. If I recently bought academic theology, that's all it recommends. And buying in a broad variety of genres seems to make the results less accurate over time and too over-broad. I'd like to be able to see recommendation based ONLY on my collection of YA literature, or my collection of academic theology, or my collection of popular science books.

It could also do with some curators at this point. There's just too much stuff. Some pros who could curate it like a brick-and-mortar bookstore does would be very helpful.

(As for the porn -- if you browse through the free Kindle books you will eventually get to a place where titles alternate between erotic short stories and Christian romance novels and NOTHING ELSE. The juxtaposition amuses the crap out of me.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:52 AM on June 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


That AlphaScript/BetaScript WIKIPEDIA crap is polluting Google Book Search, too (25,000 titles!). It fills me with Hulk-like rage and I've been inspired to compose A STRONGLY WORDED E-MAIL to somebody.
posted by steef at 11:52 AM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


I sincerely doubt this will have any legs. Despite the stories that come out about ebooks selling millions of copies, most just don't sell that many -- not without a marketing push. Spammers who produce worthless comment are going to find there is almost no return on their investment, minimal though it might be, and go back to peddling Viagra online.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:57 AM on June 17, 2011


It sounds like there's an opportunity here for someone to make a fair chunk of money by doing good third-party curation with Amazon affiliate links. Bookfilter anyone?
posted by sevenyearlurk at 12:00 PM on June 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


Agreed, and I hope this trend continues. When I had a Kindle (or rather, when I used my Kindle, as I still have it), I felt a certain investment in Amazon's ebook survival, but now that I've switched to reading ebooks on my Ipad, which allows me access to multiple formats

For people that read a lot (and that's who the iPad is marketed to) the ipad is such a terrible reading device in comparison (and expensive) that it would be an awful replacement for most people that use a kindle.

Of course, the iPad price will come down, it will get lighter, and the battery will get better, which means amazon will either have to go the tablet slash kindle route as b/n have, or keep the kindle around as a much cheaper alternative, a single purpose device, which I hope they do (and I love apple products).

My point, I guess, is that it's going to suck if the only alternative for someone that mainly wants to read is a device that is expensive and does a hundred things I don't care about. I hope Amazon takes these problems that pop up seriously and continue to show interest in the kindle, because if I have to carry an iPad around just to read confederacy of dunces I might snap.
posted by justgary at 12:02 PM on June 17, 2011


I paid $.99 for a copy of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire for my Kindle, where the re-packager cleaned up the OCR errors and/or typos and put in an "active" table of contents

Or get it free at Project Gutenberg, which is where a lot of the stuff on Amazon originates. (click through: kindle mobi, OCR error free, active TOC, pictures or no-pictures versions).
posted by stbalbach at 12:10 PM on June 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


Eh, Project Gutenberg is great, but there's certainly room to improve their auto-conversion to 9 different formats. For instance, the HTML version on that link has footnotes mixed in with the text after each "page" of text.
posted by smackfu at 12:14 PM on June 17, 2011


Hmm. As a content-provider, you used to have to worry about proving yourself to the man to get access to the public. Now you have to worry about shouting over robots who are selling bags of chicken shit labelled "chicken salad."

Electronic violence is still violence.
I wish these motherfuckers would die in bursts of slow, slow flames.
posted by herbplarfegan at 12:15 PM on June 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


on preview,...(

It fills me with Hulk-like rage and I've been inspired to compose A STRONGLY WORDED E-MAIL to somebody.

)... Kudos for a much more tactful choice of words than mine.
posted by herbplarfegan at 12:41 PM on June 17, 2011


There are about 60 new listings placed on eBay every second. There is no conceivable way to run critical human eyes over all of them - even with cheap outsourced labor. You have to rely on automation - which introduces its own set of problems.

I was thinking more of cases like airnxtz, where there's sellers reported as scammy who, despite being reported, still manage to keep their accounts, or blatant ripoffs like this one.

You might be right about the quantity of listings posted to ebay and the obstacles to reviewing them; it's my contention that by not aggressively seeking ways to cut down on misleading listings, keyword spamming, scam artists and other things that drive away legit bidders, ebay will ultimately lose out anyway.

It takes a lot of effort to get customers back once they feel they can't trust a site - exhibit A being the email I just got from the PSN network promising me all kinds of goodies for coming back. My first thought was "Is this real or not? I'm not clicking anything, DELETE THAT".

Same thing for the Kindle; Amazon might do a great job convincing customers they need to switch from real books to digital versions, but without some way of improving their recommendation system and culling the drek from the search results, they could be the Diamond Rio of e-readers.
posted by dubold at 12:52 PM on June 17, 2011


Eyebrows McGee: I spent a good hour of my vacation at Caveat Emptor--one of those bookstores that fits the Pratchett description "a genteel black hole that knows how to read" that warps spacetime around it--and learned a fair bit about trends in jazz, medieval music, and what he has trouble keeping on the shelf.

dubold: One of the emerging themes of Regretsy is the number of people upselling crap that can be bought from Hobby Lobby for cheap. And amazingly Etsy appears to have a policy of protecting upsellers from negative comments and feedback.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:00 PM on June 17, 2011 [3 favorites]


For people that read a lot (and that's who the iPad is marketed to) the ipad is such a terrible reading device in comparison (and expensive) that it would be an awful replacement for most people that use a kindle.

Well, the iPad's page change is much much faster than Kindle. But however amazing the iPad's battery life is the Kindle's is better tenfold.

Both devices support PDF, but although Amazon has made advances here the iPad is so much better that the Kindle's support is kind of a joke.

For other uses iPad beats Kindle handily, most of the time, but the free 3G on Kindle makes that device oddly better for certain uses (such as, ironically, browsing Wikipedia). (And let me just put this in here: the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks are much better on Kindle than iPad. iPad is just a straight port of the text with color illustrations, the Kindle versions have been subtly redesigned and even provide automapping!)

I find it's much easier to browse through a book non-linearly, such as with programming reference manuals, on iPad. The Kindle's ability to jump to just the part of a text you want is abysmal. However, magazines and the such tend to be much cheaper on Kindle, and a recent update has given mags much better navigation. I get the New Yorker for $3 a month, while the iPad price is ridiculously nearly the same as newsstand. And I'm amazed that iPad readers don't tend to have read-aloud features. Being able to listen to New Yorker articles have kept me awake on more than one long drive. Yes, AWAKE.
posted by JHarris at 1:49 PM on June 17, 2011


How very strange that the Shmindle would be used as platform for intursive spam, porn downloads, crap books, scams and require re-charging and care least it explode into a hundred shards if someone were to sit on it.

My ink and paper books, only give me many hours of serene of un-interrupted, un-distracted, enjoyment.

No spam, no pr0n, no crap, no electrical field, no batteries, no recharging. No no and no.

Just the words, pounding on the page and penetrating the brain and making it happy.


Dang...
posted by Skygazer at 1:53 PM on June 17, 2011


*What was it P.T. Barnum said about ebooks and suckers again??
posted by Skygazer at 1:55 PM on June 17, 2011


whatever the last thing I bought is what amazon recommends me 400 of

They definitely did something to their recommendations over the last couple of years — they didn't always weight recent purchases so heavily that your older ratings seem almost irrelevant, but they do now. It's caused the overall recommendations to become almost useless, while the see-also-style recommendations can still sometimes be a handy way to browse clusters of related or overlapping books.

But frankly I think the weirdest thing this exposes is how little Amazon is interested in books at all anymore, apart from the Kindle. All the rest of their sales and recommendations seem all the time to drift more towards just selling stuff in general, and competing with big-box stores, and it seems like they're happy enough just to view books as one more kind of SKU to stock rather than treating them as a special category that needs a particular approach. I think this is, unsurprisingly, because doing books "right" is just a much more expensive, labor-intensive, complicated-metadata-wrangling proposition than shipping generic widgets in boxes.
posted by RogerB at 2:03 PM on June 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Or get it free at Project Gutenberg,"

As smackfu says, those don't always autoconvert and import very well. I had one in kindle format where the book title and chapter heading were inserted into the text once a page; they were on the OCR pages so the program included them every time they occurred. Very irritating. I make broad use of Gutenberg and archive.org and so on, but a human editor can still clean the text up a lot. If I'm going to spend hours and hours of my life with "Decline and Fall," it's worth my 99 cents to have a clean copy.

Another thing that Kindles are starting to be used for, incidentally, is local government. (Apropos of people discussing what use a Kindle is above.) As a school board member I get maybe 300 pages of documents a week (depends on the week); it's actually cheaper, in many cases, to buy kindles for the elected folks and then turn that all into PDFs or kindle docs and zap it to kindles instead of printing and copying however many copies. It's a pleasant format for reading long documents, the battery life is awesome, and it doesn't lend itself to much abuse of government property like an iPad might. I've seen several articles about it in various school board and local government publications.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:06 PM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


My ink and paper books, only give me many hours of serene of un-interrupted, un-distracted, enjoyment.

Step 1: Cut down a tree.
posted by smackfu at 2:09 PM on June 17, 2011


Step 1: Cut down a tree.

Step 2: Replant a tree.
posted by Skygazer at 2:11 PM on June 17, 2011


And Schmindle, really??? Why do you need to be a jerk about eBooks?
posted by smackfu at 2:16 PM on June 17, 2011


Step 1: Cut down a tree.

Step 2: Replant a tree.


Step 3: ???
posted by gottabefunky at 2:21 PM on June 17, 2011


Both my Nook and my paper books give me many hours of serene un-interrupted, un-distracted, enjoyment. The Nook's a big win for travel, reading things that are available free on-line, and for incremental acquisiton not requiring more bookshelf space. The paper books are a big win for color, interesting typography and graphic design, being available cheap at library book sales, and swapping on Paperbackswap when I'm done with them.

It's almost like they're different things that both have strengths and weaknesses.
posted by Zed at 2:22 PM on June 17, 2011 [5 favorites]


I sincerely doubt this will have any legs. Despite the stories that come out about ebooks selling millions of copies, most just don't sell that many -- not without a marketing push. Spammers who produce worthless comment are going to find there is almost no return on their investment, minimal though it might be, and go back to peddling Viagra online.

Ah, but there IS no investment. You can publish thousands of books for virtually no cost, all you have to do is sell ONE and you've made a profit. The problem here is like The Tragedy of the Commons. Soon the ebook market will be saturated with crap, you won't sell even one book when it's buried under a million other bookspam titles. Bookspam will be eliminated only when the book market being spammed becomes useless (i.e. unprofitable) to the bookspammers. Unfortunately, it becomes useless to consumers long before that point.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:39 PM on June 17, 2011


But it makes them money so why should they care?
posted by episodic

I know this is what it seems like, but I would be VERY surprised if Amazon didn't care about this problem. They want repeat, happy customers, and they've historically been a very forward looking company. They have great incentives to battle spam and I have no doubt that there is a group tasked with doing just that. They may not do it as well or fast as you'd like, but I simply can't believe that the people involved don't care about the quality of their product and its effect on user sentiment.


The reason I know they don't care is because I sent them the exact links and the books are still there.
Had I sent that report and the bad book was removed I'd have posted here that people should complain, help do their bit.

But my direct information was not acted upon, their email-bot threw me the stock reply.

I use ebay and I can Report a Seller or an Item very easily - links are there on the product page. There is no such button at Amazon which means they just don't want to know. They want me to rate my transactions - which are being gamed to the point of uselessness - but don't want an easy link for people to use to keep their store clean and reputation good. Adding a button (for logged in buyers) will certainly bring it's share of problems but at least you could see they gave a damn. Right now as a consumer I see no effort at all.
posted by episodic at 2:40 PM on June 17, 2011


Step 1: Cut down a tree.

Step 2: Replant a tree.

Step 3: Cut down a tree.
posted by TwelveTwo at 2:42 PM on June 17, 2011


And Schmindle, really??? Why do you need to be a jerk about eBooks?

Cos, they're a joke, and Amazon's attitude towards books as outlined by RogerB above, is a joke. They're just a SKU designation. I'm not going to buy a cooked meal from an internet strategist, and I'm not going to buy ebooks via the Kindle.

They should stop pretending they give a flying fuck about literature, ore books or publishing, outside of it being an easy commodity to send through the mail because of precedent.

Which isn't to say I'm not going to buy a real book from them or watch video's on demand, or download music or buy a toaster from them.

So yeah, I call it the schmindle...what? Can't the poor little schmindle take a little teasing??
posted by Skygazer at 2:43 PM on June 17, 2011


Step 1: Cut down a tree.

Step 2: Replant a tree.

Step 3: Cut down a tree.


Step 4: Replant the tree.

Step 5: Read a book.

Step 6: Hang out on Metafilter, too much, ignoring the book, waxing bout silly schmindles.

Step 7: ????
posted by Skygazer at 2:47 PM on June 17, 2011


Great! Now that we all can e-publish, we all have the joys of wading through the slush pile.
posted by bad grammar at 3:09 PM on June 17, 2011


I spent a good hour of my vacation at Caveat Emptor

Man, I miss that place. Not that we don't have similar places around here, but still.

The Nook's a big win for travel, reading things that are available free on-line, and for incremental acquisiton not requiring more bookshelf space. The paper books are a big win for color, interesting typography and graphic design [...] It's almost like they're different things that both have strengths and weaknesses.

Exactly.
posted by tangerine at 3:10 PM on June 17, 2011


Yeah, like a tomato and an elbow joint.

They both have their strengths and weaknesses, just don't try to make a salad with with the elbow joint...or repair a leaky sink with a tomato...
posted by Skygazer at 3:34 PM on June 17, 2011


I think the umbrage toward "shmindle" is for the same reason people get vicariously embarrassed when they see a dollar sign in "Micro$oft": it makes you look like you're nine, and we are all suddenly associated with a person who does that.
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:13 PM on June 17, 2011 [6 favorites]


Massive corporation in a deft and ambitious branding and media manipulation exercise puts forth a product they herald as Promethean in significance, the natural and inevitable successor to a paradigm going on 700 years of iconic usability and perfection, and calls it the (drum roll please)

The Kindle....

because you see it's like kindling for the brain which is like a spindle of ideas being woven and blah ...blah....blah...etc.....

Right, and I'M ACTING LIKE A 9 YEAR OLD for redubbing it the Schmindle (a combination of schmuck and swindle...clever eh??) Well so what? What if I am? I'd rather act like a 9 year old then take part in the marketing hubris and branding arrogance of Amazon in regards to this overblown piece of plastic...that is not a book, and (as I've said frequently in the past) should only be used by the old and infirmed and students and PHd candidates, all others should be laughed at and made fun of at every chance, especially if they're using the damned thing in public...
posted by Skygazer at 6:47 PM on June 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


And....and...and...here...this FPP shows to perfection why the Kindle and other such e-Readers aren't books...books don't get spammed and ruined by pr0n getting in the way of the experience of reading....because in a book there are two points of reference: The writer and the reader and that is it....ONe gives and the other takes...there is no third consciousness, especially not one who can erase that connection in a heartbeat or interrupt it with spam, or advertisements or for fuck sakes....boobies...

There is a time and a place for boobies...but not in the middle of reading thank you. It's just me and the words and my imagination. and threes a crowd...no Amazon and no boobies and no ads for Viagra....
posted by Skygazer at 6:53 PM on June 17, 2011


Yes, there is much beanplating that goes into my foray into nineyearold-dom. I am not flippant about my immaturity and Bronx cheering...
posted by Skygazer at 6:56 PM on June 17, 2011


Dude, it is totally okay to like things. The trick is in figuring out whether or not people care about your opinions regarding them, especially when unasked-for (and especially when it's a thing you dislike). It is a Journey to the Center of the Mind, or at least the center of the thread.
posted by DoctorFedora at 7:12 PM on June 17, 2011


I don't get why anyone would browse for books using any kind of Amazon interface (Kindle or their website) when you can use Google to browse, grab an ISBN number, and then get exactly what you want from your Kindle or from Amazon.
posted by straight at 8:01 PM on June 17, 2011


Well, that's sort of the problem in a nutshell, it seems. Amazon's own shopping interface should be more useful than just Googling, but it often isn't, and not just because of the virtual slush pile that some categories resemble. For example, my personal pet peeve about the Kindle store is wishlist handling, because I use my wishlist as a general "this looks neat, consider reading it someday" queue, and there are a couple of misfeatures which get in the way of easily converting that "someday" into a Kindle sale (which is likely the only kind of sale they'll get from me on most of these titles).

Also, I wasn't aware that spam in the shopping process is now an interruption "in the middle of reading". I guess something must be wrong with my Kindle, since all I see once I open a book is the text. Perhaps it is only supposed to happen if I brazenly expose my Kindle in public, instead of hiding my electronic shame behind closed doors? I try to be an upstanding and moral person, I really do, but sometimes I can't resist. And when, inevitably, a crowd of right-thinking men and women gathers to point and laugh, I just smile at them like the sort of affable, sociopathic misanthrope you'd expect to own an e-reader, and go back to my reading. Sorry about that.
posted by robt at 9:48 PM on June 17, 2011 [2 favorites]


The reason I know they don't care is because I sent them the exact links and the books are still there.

They don't care yet because it's not affecting their bottom line. When enough people start to defect from their site, then they will start to care. As others here have stated, the solution is very simple and effective (as demonstrated by metafilter itself).
posted by xigxag at 1:22 AM on June 18, 2011


Step 1: Cut down a tree.

Step 2: Replant a tree.

Step 3: ???


Step 3: Identify valuable Kindle demographic of eco-yuppies. Automatically generate guilt inducing Kindle content about impact on environment. Profit!
posted by formless at 1:18 PM on June 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Massive corporation in a deft and ambitious branding and media manipulation exercise puts forth a product they herald as Promethean in significance, the natural and inevitable successor to a paradigm going on 700 years of iconic usability and perfection, and calls it the (drum roll please)

The Kindle....

because you see it's like kindling for the brain which is like a spindle of ideas being woven and blah ...blah....blah...etc.....

Right, and I'M ACTING LIKE A 9 YEAR OLD for redubbing it the Schmindle (a combination of schmuck and swindle...clever eh??) Well so what? What if I am? I'd rather act like a 9 year old then take part in the marketing hubris and branding arrogance of Amazon in regards to this overblown piece of plastic...that is not a book, and (as I've said frequently in the past) should only be used by the old and infirmed and students and PHd candidates, all others should be laughed at and made fun of at every chance, especially if they're using the damned thing in public...


Is this art?
posted by Summer at 3:01 PM on June 18, 2011


Are you reading it while sitting in a white room?
posted by TwelveTwo at 4:00 PM on June 18, 2011


50 years back, if someone said "Spam has hit the Kindle," it might have meant something like a humorously failed attempt at making dinner while camping.

Oh shit. Did I just become Andy Rooney for a minute there?
posted by krinklyfig at 6:09 AM on June 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


When searching Amazon for books and the Android Market for apps, I'm appalled at just how bad the search functionality on each site is. Even worse when using the dedicated interface on the device instead of the web interface on a real PC.

Both Google and Amazon have successful search product (for Amazon it's not the product, admittedly), so why do they have such piss-poor search interfaces to these elements of their offerings? With the exception of crap peddlers it's not clear how this serves the sellers, either.

I don't get it.
posted by jepler at 11:51 AM on June 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, that's sort of the problem in a nutshell, it seems. Amazon's own shopping interface should be more useful than just Googling, but it often isn't

Is there any shopping interface that's more useful than just googling? It seems a little much to expect any online store, even Amazon, to be able to compete with the entire Internet. Newegg, for instance, has a pretty good search interface, but if I'm shopping for computer hardware, you can be sure that when Newegg coughs up some results, I'm going to be googling each product to get more information, reviews, alternate suggestions, better prices, etc.
posted by straight at 9:38 AM on June 20, 2011


Are people really having trouble finding the books though? I haven't had any problems on mine.
posted by smackfu at 10:39 AM on June 20, 2011


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