*Update Update Dec. 2012 Tags Gone Forever?*
For Indie authors who want to sell ebooks and for readers who like to browse by subject matter, the tagging function for Amazon Kindle ebooks is… or should we say, was… a nice feature. Maybe a little too nice. Just last week this blog posted an entry on Indie writers using tags and even joining tag parties for compiling lots of tags quickly and making any ebook more visible to Amazon search engines. That may all have changed entirely, or at least for the near future.
Why? Because Amazon has removed the tag section from their Kindle ebooks for US authors. While the tag function still exists currently for Amazon UK, Germany and other countries, it is presently not existing here in America. Interestingly enough, the Amazon US paperbacks are still functioning as usual with tags, so perhaps this is either a temporary thing or perhaps those will soon disappear as well.
We don’t really know the exact reasons, and Amazon hasn’t come out with an announcement, but there are a few obvious possibilities being widely discussed in the forums. Here are the most accepted Kindle-tag-killing culprits:
1. The boycott anything over $9.99 thread and others like it. Kindle readers often complain about the high price of some ebooks, especially those from the big publishing companies, which tend to represent best-sellers and tend to be similarly priced to paperbacks. These ebooks also cost the publishers hardly anything to produce – so the obvious complaint becomes, why should an ebook cost the same as a paperback? Some of the more outspoken readers promoted boycotts and left tags for high priced ebooks including “9.99boycott,” “ripoff,” “agency 5 price fixing,” “kindle swindle,” etc. Their efforts were not small ripples in the pond either, as many readers simply refused to buy ebooks with high prices, especially if they were tipped off with these tags. Result: big publishers complaining to Amazon.
2. Indie authors and tagging parties. A verified book purchase is not required to tag a specific book. Since any purchase (ever) on Amazon is the only requirement to be a customer in good standing and to enable tagging, many authors (including yours truly) participated in tagging parties to boost the number of tags by subject matter and (hopefully) appeal to more customers. Done with integrity, this seems like a rather harmless practice to help the small self-publisher compete with the traditional publishing houses. Done without integrity, this practice can be riddled with abuses. For example, fake tags, like award winner (for books without awards), romance (for a book that is not romance genre), Harry Potter (when the book has nothing to do with Harry Potter), or Stephen King (you get the picture), or any misrepresentation of a book to capitalize on all the common searches that occur for popular subjects and authors is a bad practice. Once a book is tagged with a misleading tag, and all the Indie authors are blindly copying and pasting tags to help each other… a book may rise to top of search results under false premises. Result: disgruntled readers complaining to Amazon.
3. Mean-spirited tags. It’s a shame that people can become bitter enemies through forums and online chats, but it happens often. When that occurs with authors and readers, one way for readers to lash out is to leave bad tags on an author’s book. These could be anything from “spammer,” “Christian crap,” “author fakes 5 star reviews,” “author behaving badly,” “shameless self promoter,” etc. Of course, sometimes the tags are true while sometimes they aren’t. It’s hard for a reader to know what to believe these days when it comes to tags (reviews too). But when mean-spirited tags get left on an author’s book (especially to a self-published author), it hurts. Result: Indie authors complaining to Amazon.
What’s the future for all these tags and all these complaints? Don’t know but interested. One solution echoed by many is to design a system which only allows verified purchasers of a book to leave tags for it. That should cut down on the tagging done without integrity. In the meantime, readers and authors and publishers will be watching Amazon closely to see how this pans out.
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