Friday, August 21, 2009

Abusing user-generated information

Logging in to admire my lovely book on amazon.co.uk, I discovered something really weird. Suddenly, I had a co-author.

Somebody had, for some weird reason, put a Michael Peters as co-author of my book.

Where was he while I was struggling to put together that text? That long dark winter in Umeå, I could have used some company! But no.

I suspect that I have been the victim of an attack, where somebody have suggested that Michael Peters be added. It's now possible to change the information on Amazon. I have tried to use that to change things back, but it has not yet been updated. I tried again today, this time with a link to the publisher's page for the book.

What this means is that we can no longer trust Amazon for information on literature - neither author, publisher, editor or number of pages, all of which can be changed through this function concerning product information. Now, I normally use libraries for that stuff anyway, but, you know, sometimes Amazon is so nicely convenient. But now, obviously, also unreliable.

And who the #¤%& is Michael Peters?

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Update:
I alerted Amazon.co.uk about the problem through the system for book information updates, but nothing happened. Amazon.ca corrected the issue the next working day, and the book shows correctly on their site now. Amazon.co.uk still has to respond to my attempts of alerting them to the matter, but I called their sales contacts, and got the phone number to Nielsen Bookdata, their supplier. I have not had time to call yet, but I emailed a bunch of their editors, hoping somebody cares :)

Updated again:
The French version of Amazon has now corrected their information, and Nielsen Bookdata came back to me. Turns out they are not responsible (of course not), but they contacted the company they get their data from, Ingrams in USA. I assume that means Ingram Book company, and they expect the data to be corrected in 1-2 weeks.

However, while this is going on, the errors in the German Amazon are multiplying. Now they have not only changed authors, but also publisher. Somebody is "playing" amazon, and my book is one of their pawns. While I am pretty offended, I am also oddly fascinated. All this attention, on one little academic book!

Update: Amazon.de corrected the information, but in two operations. They did not react until I made them aware that the publisher was wrong, and then they corrected the publisher data, but not the author. I reported - again - the error in the author section, and then this was corrected immediately. In the cases where the error has been corrected, I used the system Amazon has implemented for user-generated metadata. For amazon.co.uk this has not worked though, and the error is still in the system.

2 comments:

Jacob said...

That's disappointing to hear. I like Amazon too, and it's sad to think that they're stretching themselves thin enough that their quality is suffering.

Your book's Amazon.co.uk page has a link labeled "Would you like to update product info". (It looks like anybody can use this link.) In case it helps, I've sent in an "update" trying to remove the second author.

-Jacob
(A random video-gamer who also likes Amazon.)

Torill said...

Thanks Jacob. I called them to see if I could do something about it, and they sent me to something called Nielsen bookdata. That's where Amazon gets its data on the books from. But who administrates the user-generated updates? That's what I am curious about now. I'll be calling Nielsen as soon as their office opens.