It’s just over a month since the Book Industry Communication organisation issued a widely reported cease and desist notice to publishers to stop abusing the metadata system.
Exactly one month ago, on March 15, I covered the story here at The New Publishing Standard, noting that that same morning 13 of the top 20 Kindle UK ebooks had got there by abusing the metadata system.
To set the scene I quoted coverage from Publishing Perspectives a few days earlier:
“Some publishers and other metadata providers,” writes Karina Luke, BIC’s executive director, “are using the subtitle, and sometimes the title fields, in metadata feeds to carry marketing and promotional text. By this we mean using phrases such as ‘Sunday Times Best Seller,’ ‘Gripping read from….’ ‘The Richard & Judy Book Club thriller 2017’, ‘ The best thriller writer alive,’ ‘Man Booker Prize winner,’ and so on.”
“It is important for discoverability, good customer experience, and an efficient data supply chain that these data fields reflect only the true title and subtitle text that appears on the title page.
“The valuable promotional text should be included in separate and dedicated promotional text fields, and all metadata recipients, including wholesalers and retailers, should be using these fields appropriately.”
For reference, the full text of the BIC statement can be found here.
This was the sample I used on March 15, where 13 of the top 20 Kindle UK titles were in violation of the rules not just of the BIC but of Amazon itself:
- #1 – The Child: The must-read Richard and Judy Book Club pick 2018
- #2 – The Note: The book everyone’s talking about
- #3 – Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine: Debut Sunday Times Bestseller and Costa First Novel Book Award winner 2017
- #5 – Close to Home: The ‘impossible to put down’ Richard & Judy Book Club thriller pick 2018
- #6 – The Leopard: Revised and with new material
- #8 – The Tattooist of Auschwitz: the heart-breaking and unforgettable Sunday Times bestseller
- #9 – MURDER IN THE GARDEN a gripping crime mystery full of twists
- #11 – Love to Hate You: The laugh-out-loud romantic comedy of 2018
- #12 – BEWARE THE PAST a gripping crime thriller with a huge twist
- #13 – The Girl I Used to Know: A heart-wrenching and heartwarming story of two strangers and one house
- #14 – THE GUILTY ONES a gripping crime thriller filled with stunning twists
- #17 – Bring Me Back: The gripping new must read psychological thriller from bestselling author B A Paris
- #19 – The Keeper of Lost Things: winner of the Richard & Judy Readers’ Award and Sunday Times bestseller
Fast forward one month and I revisited the Kindle UK store this morning wondering if perhaps things had improved.
Things had improved. From 13 of the top 20 Kindle titles abusing the metadata system on March 15, at 0800 GMT April 15 only 12 of the Kindle top 20 titles were abusing the metadata system.
The comparison between March 15 and April 15 is disturbing:
- #3 – The Child: The must-read Richard and Judy Book Club pick 2018
- #5 – The Note: The book everyone’s talking about
- #6 – The Wildflowers: the Richard and Judy Book Club summer read 2018
- #8 – Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine: Debut Sunday Times Bestseller and Costa First Novel Book Award winner 2017
- #9 – THE GUILTY ONES a gripping crime thriller filled with stunning twists
- #11 – MURDER AT WORK a gripping crime mystery full of twists
- #13 – The Tattooist of Auschwitz: the heart-breaking and unforgettable Sunday Times bestseller
- #14 – Close to Home: The ‘impossible to put down’ Richard & Judy Book Club thriller pick 2018
- #15 – The Girl Before: The gripping global bestseller
- #17 – Deadly Secrets: An absolutely gripping crime thriller
- #18 – The Child Next Door: An unputdownable psychological thriller with a brilliant twist
- #19 – The Friend: An emotional psychological thriller with a twist
It’s bad enough that these titles, by flouting the guidelines in the full knowledge Amazon will do nothing, are hogging these top spots for over a month, at the expense of authors and publishers who do obey the rules.
But it’s not just the top twenty. 51 of the top 100 titles on Kindle UK this morning are in flagrant violation of the BIC guidelines and of Amazon’s guidelines.
For anyone unfamiliar, the Richard and Judy Club is the UK equivalent of the Oprah Club, while the Sunday Times bestseller list is the UK equivalent of the New York Times or USA Today bestseller lists.
These kinds of references, along with subjective, self-serving assertions about how “gripping”, “heart-breaking” or “impossible to put down” the book may be, have no legitimate place in the title or sub-title bar.
The publishers know it, but they are deliberately flouting the rules because they know it benefits their books over those of publishers who are following the rules. And because they know Amazon UK will look the other way.
This comes at a time when Amazon is tightening its grip on the publishing industry with its Amazon imprints
It was back in summer 2013 that Amazon Publishing (A-Pub) had its first million-seller.
We don’t know for sure how many million-selling titles A-Pub has had since, but there’s no question A-Pub has gone from strength to strength in the digital publishing sector, not least because it is able to use its position as part of the western world’s biggest digital retailer to ensure A-Pub ebooks got noticed and bought.
Just how much Amazon chooses to dominate its own charts varies from day to day.
Back in February a snapshot of the US Kindle store revealed 8 out of the top 10 ebooks in the Kindle store were A-Pub.
This morning I took another look at the top 100 on Kindle US, and A-Pub titles at 0800 GMT April 15 held chart positions #4, #5, #8, #11, #13, #18, #19, #25 #26, #29, #30, #31, #33, #36, #43, #46, #51, #52, #55, #56, #59, #60, #61, #68, #69, #76, #77, #83, #86, #88 and #92.
That is to say, third of the top 100 in the Amazon US ebook chart this morning were titles published by Amazon itself.
Assessing how much of the wider Kindle chart is dominated by Amazon titles is not so easily ascertained, but there’s no reason to suppose a similar pattern will not be followed.
Data Guy will of course be supplying exactly that sort of information to the big publishers able to afford his Bookstat services, along with details of sales of individual authors, but it’s clear the rest of us will be getting little of value from future Author Earnings reports, with so much data and methodology now being kept under lock and key.
More on the new data dark ages shortly when TNPS will be taking a look at just what we do know, what we don’t know, and what we thought we knew but need to question again, about the US ebook market in light of this year’s Author Earnings disclosures.