from the disappointing dept
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.Rosenthal doesn't think there's anything nefarious going on here -- just a sign of a company that doesn't much care about these public domain works. His post also explains some of the wider impact, including how certain related items results are pointing people to fee-based versions of authors' works, rather than free public domain ones. Obviously, such a result could be seen to benefit Amazon, since Amazon is more likely to make money by pushing you to fee-based books instead of free ones.
A major side effect, if not prime effect, of changing all of those ASIN’s, is the loss of their historical sales data. In other words, a customer going to the Kindle store and searching for Jane Austen would once have gotten back a list that started off with free editions of her most popular works, starting with Pride and Prejudice. This morning, the only free Austen book appearing in the first page of the search results is “Love and Friendship”, certainly not her most popular title, but there because it hasn’t been updated since 2006.
There is one silver lining he notes: for those who go straight to the "top free" list of books, most of those old public domain books have disappeared from the list, meaning that newer free books are now more prominent -- and that's not necessarily a bad thing. But, to take all those other classics and effectively hide them seems like a big mistake.