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filedbyauthorlogoA new author database site has hit the web in a public beta and already it’s not without controversy. FiledByAuthor claims to be “the most comprehensive directory of author pages anywhere. It’s also a place for authors to showcase themselves and their work, a place for readers to search and discover new works and a place for everyone to connect and discuss our favorite subject – authors and books, of course.”

So, basically, it’s Goodreads, LibraryThing, and Shelfari meets IMDB — but with a few hitches, all of which are discussed in this Los Angeles Times blog post. One of the biggest issues surrounding this site’s release is the fact that it seems like a not-very-well-disguised cash grab. The FiledByAuthor site has catalogued information for approximately 1.8 million authors so far, with each page including a bio, a list of works, and links to purchase the books online. Once these pages are created, the site then invites authors to “claim” their pages. And while the claiming process is free, if the author wants to gain anything more than minimal control over the content on their page they’ll be paying a fee of either $99 or $399 (!) per year. A full breakdown of the different membership options can be found here.

Another major concern (and major difference between FiledByAuthor and IMDB) is that users have no control over the site’s content. This is no Wikipedia, boys and girls. The FiledByAuthor site is filled with pages for the deceased literary greats, from Shakespeare to Austen to Dickens, and users are unable to improve upon these pages. As the L.A. Times post notes, “The pages don’t link to definitive biographical information or the public domain work made available on Project Gutenberg for free.” Both of these items seem like incredibly important additions to these authors’ pages, in my opinion, but without the ability for users to update and maintain the database, the likelihood of such updates in the near future is slim. (But I’m thinking about sending some feedback on this through their “Contact Us” page.)

It seems to me that the essential problem blocking this site’s success is two-fold. On the one hand you have the successful authors who are already swimming in moolah, have a strong fanbase, and a solid web presence. These authors could shell out the money to control their listing on FiledByAuthors, but why would they bother? The site consistently advertises the fact that they offer strong SEO to maximize the author’s web presence, but as the L.A. Times rightly asks, “What author would want FiledByAuthor’s SEO efforts to work to promote the FiledByAuthor page, rather than their own site?”

On the other hand, I think that the main concept of helping to promote authors is one that could really benefit fledgling authors through the added exposure. But, of course, the rather high price tag on becoming a verified member then becomes a barrier in that scenario. Unless this site somehow gets a massive boom in popularity, it seems ridiculous to me that authors would pay to have access to most of the same services that Goodreads offers through their author program for free.