Why Should We Trust W. H. Dean?

Me and my junior editor, Kleopatra
Me and my junior editor, Kleopatra

W. H. Dean wrote an article titled Cut Amazon some Slack over the Slush in response to Seth Godin’s article Shovelware–it’s time to rate publishers. Seth thinks that Amazon isn’t doing enough to clean out the spam publishers. W. H. Dean thinks that Amazon is already working too hard, the poor dears, and shouldn’t have to do anything else.

I posted a comment, and this started a conversation of sorts.

In that case how come Smashwords and the Sony EBookstore can manage to avoid the problem?

Tell me that, and I’ll believe you. As a Canadian Publisher who is just getting started, I’m not happy about this. Not happy at all.


I thought this was a reasonable question. Amazon’s competition has managed to avoid the problem. W. H. Dean came back with:


Sure, Amazon should cut Hepheastus Books. And if you’re being ripped off, complain to Amazon and get a lawyer.

But this problem is almost apples and oranges. I’m talking about a general strategy to keep Amazon and the other retailers cleaned out over the long term. There is not an easy solution on account of the self-publishing model–the same one that helps many legitimate writers.

So what’s your solution?

This didn’t answer my question. So I tried again.

Smashwords has a general strategy. It works fine for them.

Are you trying to tell me that Amazon isn’t as competent as Smashwords? FYI, I sell through both.


I got this in reply:

As of March 2011, Smashwords had uploaded 40,000 books. Amazon stocks somewhere north of 2 million. It’s also easier for Smashwords to police the spam because they’re not the major retailer, and so not the spammer’s primary target.

Second, if you read the post you’d know that I didn’t claim Amazon couldn’t do it. They can. They can use software and hire people like me to sort out the junk. But it will cost money (that will be passed on to writers) and the results won’t be pretty.

One of the reasons that Amazon stocks north of two million titles is that Hepheastus Books has 190,000 titles. When I was doing my research on the Hepheastus articles I wrote, I found out about other companies doing the same thing. Companies like Books LLC.

Between Hephaestus Books and Books LLC, four hundred thousand of Amazon’s two million books are spam. How many other companies are doing the same thing? How many of Amazon’s two million books are real?

I made that point:

And the reason that Amazon has over 2,000,000 books is that at least 1,500,000 of them are Wikiscrapes or Private Label Rights books. In other words they aren’t real.

Amazon is making it harder for the reader to find stuff worth reading. And if they keep on doing this, Apple’s IBook, Sony’s EBookstore, Smashwords, and the other companies which don’t allow this sort of shit will squash Amazon.

Which would be good from one point of view. It a company isn’t willing to ensure the quality of its goods, it doesn’t deserve to survive.


I got the following reply:

Quote: And if they keep on doing this, Apple’s IBook, Sony’s EBookstore, Smashwords, and the other companies which don’t allow this sort of shit will squash Amazon.

Then what are you worried about?

Does anyone recognize the style of argument? Yes, it sounds like the same arguments that the Microsoft Trolls make when someone posts an article which is critical of Redmond.

  1. There’s nothing wrong with what Microsoft or Amazon is doing.
  2. It would cost too much money to fix the problem, even though other companies have managed to fix the problem without it costing too much money.
  3. If you are so concerned with what the spammers are doing, why don’t you sue them yourself? It isn’t Microsoft/Amazon’s fault that someone has taken advantage of their mistakes.
  4. If you don’t like it, go elsewhere (ignoring the issue that Microsoft/Amazon holds a majority share of the market).

In fact the arguments from W. H. Dean were so consistently in Amazon’s favor that I had to ask:

Let me get this straight. You start off defending Amazon’s incompetence in handling spam publishers. When I point out that other companies appear to be able to control the flood of crap, you claim it isn’t easy, and we should allow Amazon some slack.

When I point out that spam publishers are a problem to legitimate publishers, you try to switch the blame to me.

At this point I have to ask a really impolite question. Do you work for Amazon?

Because your consistence defense of the indefensible makes it look like you have a horse in the race.


To which I got the reply:

Maybe slander is acceptable in your circle, but it’s not in mine. I don’t tolerate people questioning my character in person, so I’m not about to open my blog to it.

That’s your last comment here. Go insult someone else.

Asking a question isn’t slander. Telling the person you are discussing something with that their statements don’t make any sense isn’t slander.

As to people questioning your character, exactly what do you think people do when they make a new acquaintance who interests them? Easy. They question their character. How else will you know if this new person is someone you want to have as a friend?

I’m not sure what W. H. Dean’s problem is. I don’t know if W. H. Dean has any connection with Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Hephaestus Books, Books LLC, or some other company that has an interest in the situation, or if he/she/it is just touchy.

All I do know is that W. H. Dean’s arguments don’t make any sense, and that he/she/it has consistently avoided answering questions. That makes me suspicious. Very suspicious.


Wayne Borean

Friday November 18, 2011



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