I’ve been buying books from Amazon since the days when the company didn’t make a profit, and the pundits thought that Jeff Bezos was mad. That’s a long time and an awful lot of books. Yet suddenly I can’t be trusted to choose books for myself????
For those who do not yet know, Amazon has a new ‘feature’ whereby an algorithm decides which books you should see when you go to an author’s ‘Author Page’. The ‘feature’ is called Top Picks and:
‘…allows Amazon customers to see personalized recommendations from your catalog of books. Customers will see this on your Author Page and it will suggest books based on these traits:
• New releases and pre-order books matching their interest.
• Unread books from a series they started.
• The customer’s reading and purchase history.
The goal is to help them find more books they want to read from you. Each customer will have a different recommendation, including you, if you’re logged into your Amazon account.’
That quote comes direct from a reply I received from Amazon support just this morning.
Sounds reasonable, kind of, until you realise that these Top Picks aren’t simply the first books you see when you go to an author’s page, they’re the ONLY books you see.
My Author Page is now more ‘normal’ than it was a few days ago when I took this screenshot – amazing what an angry email will do – but I’ve just looked at Robbie Cheadle’s Author Page to see her latest release, ‘Haunted Halloween Holiday, and this is what I see when I go to Robbie’s author page:
No Haunted Halloween. I have to scroll to the right on the carousel to finally see the book I’m looking for:
But what if I scroll down? That should bring it up shouldn’t it? Nope:
There are only three ‘Sir Chocolate’ books shown in the list, and NONE of them is her new one. Oh, but it’ll be on page 2, right?
Wrong. There is no ‘page 1 of 2’ at the bottom of the list the way it used to be.
Why? Because the list is automatically set to display by Kindle and popularity. When you try to change the ‘Sort by’ you get this:
Oh, ok, so a new book would be the one most recently published, right? If I sort by ‘Publication date’ I should see it straight away…
WTF? Why am I still not see it?
The reason is that Robbie’s new ‘Haunted Halloween Holiday’ is a paperback. So no matter what I sort by, it won’t show because the category is automatically set for Kindle…and only Kindle.
To see all of Robbie’s books I had to click ‘All Formats’ as shown above.
But what if I didn’t realise that the book was paperback only? Which I didn’t. Or what if I didn’t try the ‘All Formats’ option just to see what would happen?
Amazon? How is this feature supposed to make finding and buying a book easier?
First, I had to click twice just to get to Robbie’s author page…
CORRECTION: on amazon.com and amazon.co.uk you no longer have to click twice. BUT… you no longer get the little popup box that says “Find all the books….” either:
The screenshot above was taken from the amazon.com.au website which is still displaying the old, pre ‘new feature’ interface. I guess someone at Amazon finally realised that promising to show all books AND THEN NOT SHOWING THEM would be….misleading.
I repeat, how is this new feature making it easier to find a book on Amazon? Why do I have to work this hard to find a book when I already know the author and the name of the book?
effing stupid new feature was dumped on us, an author’s page automatically showed all of an author’s work – including all of the available formats. These formats used to include paperbacks and foreign language editions. Now, I have to know how to work around the ‘feature’ in order to find what I want.
But what if a reader doesn’t already know that an author has a heap of other books? Why would such a reader go to so much trouble to find what’s been hidden?
The answer is that they wouldn’t.
Instead of making things more convenient for readers, Amazon’s new feature has made it harder.
And just for the record, how in heck is a new book supposed to ‘compete’ with an author’s older books for visibility? How can a new book be ‘more popular’ on launch? More importantly, how does it become more popular when it can’t be seen, even on the author’s own page?
Lack of visibility is hard enough for Indie authors at the best of times, but when our own author pages hide our books? Really Amazon?
The worst part of this new ‘feature’ however is what it does to reader choice. Quite frankly, I’ve always found Amazon recommendations to be laughable. They NEVER get it right, not for me, so from now on, this useless algorithm is not only going to recommend books that I don’t want to read, it’s going to hide the books it thinks I won’t want to see?
What kind of insanity is this? Amazon used to be about consumers, and consumer choice. Well, I’m a consumer and I hate being bullied by an algorithm. Worse, I’m now wondering who came up with the idea of restricting consumer’s choices. And why.
Is this step 1 in a downward spiral that will result in us only seeing books and products that have massive advertising budgets? Advertising budgets that fill Amazon’s coffers to overflowing?
Tin hat theory? Maybe, but this new feature has shaken my trust in Amazon, badly. I read a lot, and finding new books on Amazon that aren’t just the same old same old is already hard. How will I keep my reading addiction going if half the books I might like are hidden from me?
How can I make good choices when I don’t know what I don’t know? And where does Amazon get off bullying me like this?
Please, if you’re a Reader, contact Amazon support and tell them that you don’t want or need their ‘help’ in choosing a book. Or at least, not this kind of ‘help’. And if you’re a writer, for heaven’s sake, check your Amazon listing. 😦