Thursday, November 17th, 2005

Amazon adds tagging—LibraryThing says hello!

Various places (Slashdot, Techcrunch, have reported that Amazon is now experimenting with tagging. Only some customers see the option, and I’m not among the chosen ones. I’m dying to know how Amazon tags are comparing against LibraryThing ones!

I’m not worring too much about this. I don’t think people choose to use LibraryThing just to tag books. To the extent that tagging is the attraction, it’s about tagging your own books. In less than three months LibraryThing users have applied more than 1,150,000 tags to their books. People will do amazing things with their own collection.

Will Amazon get the same kind of buy in? I’m a big-time Amazon customer, but tagging books on Amazon seems to me like volunteering to fluff pillows at the local Sheraton. I suppose if someone has an enormous number of items on their wishlist they will want some memory aid—the most important thing about tags. Absent that, I just don’t see what Amazon customers will get out of it. On the other hand, Amazon has so much traffic that maybe the altruistic, leisured 1% will quickly fill Amazon up with tags.

Another worry. Until now, tags have not had much commercial value. I doubt that the Paris Tourism Board is spamming 43Places. But Amazon has seen review abuse before—not a few authors are livid at the practice. Will Amazon tagging lead to the introduction of the spag (spam tag*)?

Of course, at LibraryThing, despite enormous financial incentive to promote my wife’s novels, I have yet to engage in any unfair tagging of her absolutely terrific works, The Mermaids Singing, In the Country of the Young (described by the New York Times as “exquisitely doomy“) or the recently-released Love in the Asylum, for which I designed the hardback cover. No, we will never do that here.

*Go, my pretty new word. Go go! Settle the world with your beauty.

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