Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Amazon assigns ludicrous categories to Art Books

Have you ever had difficulty locating a book on Amazon? Have you ever noticed how some of the categories assigned to art books listed on Amazon are completely ludicrous?

You can see which categories a book is in by scrolling down the page until you get to the section about Product details where it highlights how a book ranks in different categories

Now ranking is partly about how good a book is. It also depends on whether it's in the right category and can actually be found by those who might be interested in buying!

Now art books aren't one of the categories requiring approval. Besides which most new books are being listed by the publisher prior to publication. There are also a number of category and product restrictions - but I'm unclear as to whether these are the reason behind some of the crazy listings.

It appears that the problems arises when a new product is added - and I guess is caused by whoever has that task and the difficulty in changing categorisation. The following relates to how this step is described for Amazon.co.uk. I suspect that the problem arises because of problems with people understanding how best to use keywords - and because there appears to be no quality assurance process in place.
Step2: Classifying a Product

In this step, you'll choose your product's category, subcategory, and the type of product it is. As with other steps, the page-creation form will prompt you through this process. Choose carefully: it will not be possible to edit these elements of a product after it is fully created.

Please note: If you are having trouble determining which category your item falls in, you may want to use the category search option, which appears above the category list. Simply enter keywords for your product into the search box, and our system will provide a category suggestion.
Is it Amazon or is it the publishers not understanding the way the categories work?

What I do know is that very many art books are extremely difficult to find on Amazon - and I know because I've been searching for books which relate to a number of different topic areas and it takes hours and hours each time I develop an information site! I find I very often have to search knowing the precise title and artist if I want to find a particular book as it simply does not emerge through searches even though the book is listed.

I've come across books which are not even listed in the Books category. Recently I found one botanical art instruction book in the Home and Garden category which I guess is where it would have stayed if I didn't happen to know the author!

What I also know is that there are some completely ridiculous rankings in different categories. You can find one example below relating to amazon.co.uk.

Nothing wrong with the books except the category is painting and drawing animals and all the books are about still life!

Still Life Books in top ranked places
in the Techniques and Tools for Drawing and Painting Animals

The same thing applies to the Drawing and Painting Landscapes category! Lots of still life and no landscape books are in the top places!

Still Life Books in top ranked places
in the Techniques and Tools for Drawing and Painting Landscapes

This one made locating books for The Best Books about Landscape Art just a teeny weeny bit difficult! (major understatement!)

I'd love to hear if anybody has ever tried telling Amazon how silly their categorisation is. I wish they provided a feedback link which we could use to tell them when they've got a book in the wrong places.

I'd also be interested to hear from authors about how easy it is to get a category changed. I've certainly discussed this with a couple of authors and it doesn't appear to be too easy.

The situation is not helped by the lack of a site map which makes it easier to see
  • where categories are missing eg despite vast quantities of books about how to draw and paint flowers there is no category for this!
  • where categories are duplicated - which means you can get a very odd perspective about which books are listed on Amazon
The categories also vary by country. The table below provides an illustration of what I mean.

Resources for Artists

If you'd like to see the fruits of my labours finding the books from the nether regions of Amazon you can see what's on offer in my information site - Books for Artists HQ. I should emphasise that I've been trying to locate the better books.

A Compendium of Books for Artists

Find out which are the favourite books of many artists. Learn the answers to which are the best books about composition and design, colour, drawing and sketching and watercolour painting. Find out which are the favourite books of botanical artists and landscape artists. Check out the best reference books for artists

This is a lensography which provides a home for all the 'resources for artists' sites about art books published by makingamark. One bookmark to access all those recommended art books!


Felicity Grace said...

Oh, I'm so relieved to read this post Katherine! I thought I was a numbskull because for years I haven't been able to find things on Amazon! I've only in the last year or so found out they sell paints and Moleskine books but finding art materials is next to impossible unless you put specific words in the search - and no spelling errors. It's bizarre that watercolours are in the toys section. I rely on blogs to find out about the latest books. Like you I spend hours looking for things there but unless you know exactly what you are looking for you are unlikely to come across it or new books to entice - and the same old things come up in their 'recommendations for you' again and again even when you change them out!

Making A Mark said...

That's where the benefit of my book lenses come - I'bve spent HOURS tracking down books and I gradually began to understand the really stupid places Amazon hides them.

I now have a technique which seems to work well in terms of finding all the good ones because I come at it from about three different directions!

The great bit is I find all these books that I never knew existed but which are have had very good reviews in the past (presumably when books were easier to find!)

Still takes far too long though!

Jackson's Art Supplies said...

Hi Katherine,
Sometimes I find a book in a search that should have come up in that same search before but didn't, it is not a new book. Random. And yes, lots of books are only find-able if you know of them already and search by the title.

I guess they must be coming up in the search of 'all books' but thousands is too many to trawl through to find them. So we need those categories to mean something.


Making A Mark said...

I've ben truly amazed at the books I've found when tracking books down for my info sites

That's why I'm now including books I don't own as well as the many thousands that I do - because I want to be able to remember where they are when I get round to ordering them!

You can bookmark my book info sites very easily if that helps anybody.

Jackson's Art Supplies said...

Hi again.
It isn't just books and art materials.
I was just on Amazon looking for photo lights for the studio.
The number of total results and the amounts in the categories do not add up. So some of the results must not be in any category? Very odd.

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