Tagging & Indexing for Books

Over at the University of Rochester’s Three Percent, Chad W. Post suggests:

I could be completely wrong, but it seems like it would be incredibly helpful for recommendations and the like if people more actively created interesting tags and sub-categories for books.

Post proposes that a transition towards tagging for books (a proliferation of genre fragmentation for fiction) offers potential benefits to readers and publishers. Basically he claims that because the status for fiction genres allows ambiguity to run rampant–and this is despite the Gospel of Niche-Marketing we’ve heard all our lives–surely some dusting up is in order when it comes to categorizing works of fiction.

On the other hand, as Post points out, this metastasizing of product labels leads only to more meaninglessness:

None of these [tags] are useful. (“Sex”? Seriously? Like there’s a book out there that’s not about sex?)

Clearly Post, and most readers, desire “useful tags.” But doesn’t Amazon already do this? Absolutely. Readers and customers create their own product indexes for the world’s largest online retailer, yet even Amazon’s system is subject to abuse, as these tags for a book by Beth Ostrosky Stern demonstrate.

Post concludes:

it seems to me that readers would be the first group of people to be inventing interesting and creative neologisms to define what it is that they’re into. Shouldn’t there be some catchy tag that links Antunes to Cortazar to Calvino?

But wouldn’t a proliferation of tags more or less give readers what it gave the music industry: a clownish cycle of exclusivity, tired ideals bent on listening with “virgin ears,” staid arguments over first-discoveries accompanied by belated mainstream-ness? No doubt this country’s universities would approve.

[NYR: Antunes, Calvino, Cortazar]


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