Foner Books’s blog reports that Amazon has lately reassigned new ASINs (Amazon Sales Identification Numbers) to thousands of free public domain e-books. This has the practical effect of orphaning them from their sales histories and reviews, and making thousands and thousands of web links to them no longer work.

Amazon has also apparently changed the weighting of its “also bought” lists, so that paid public domain books show up with more prominence and frequency than free versions of the same books.

It may not necessarily be all bad news, though. The relative absence of public domain titles from bestseller lists means that their places can be filled out with more contemporary literature, which might actually bring more sales to modern authors.

The Foner Books blogger doesn’t think this is the result of any sort of nefarious plot or conspiracy by Amazon to kill off free public-domain books. Rather, it’s that Amazon just doesn’t care that much about them, and doesn’t worry that it just wiped out several years of data and sent the free public-domain titles back to day one.

(Found via TechDirt.)