Countless first-time, indie, and previously published authors have the ability to easily publish their works through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) program. The process is fairly straight-forward and offers a lot of advantages for writers. As opposed to the traditional publishing route, authors have a lot of say in the decisions for their book in terms of formatting, book covers, and when choosing payment and royalty plans through KDP. A large draw for authors is that they gain access to Amazon’s massive customer base, providing them huge visibility for their work.
With allowing authors so much freedom on the platform, Amazon doesn’t really do many of the roles traditional publishers do. The platform offers a detailed page, with multiple tabs offering “guidelines and suggestions”. These are meant as tips and best practices, but are not hard and fast rules. Amazon does have very strict rules however when it comes to its’ exclusivity agreement for Kindle Unlimited (KU).
As shared by The Mary Sue, “When you enroll in KDP Select, you cannot digitally distribute your book anywhere aside from KU for 90 days. Meanwhile, after the 90 days are up, you are automatically re-enrolled in the program and the 90-day exclusivity period starts over. When a new 90-day period is initiated, you have only three days to un-enroll. So, essentially, as long as your books are available to read on KU you cannot distribute them digitally anywhere else. This rule has long made authors hesitate, as it bars them from capitalizing on other platforms like Apple Books or Kobo. However, what writers are now also having to anticipate is being in violation of the rule due to piracy.”
Unfortunately, the wonderful freedom that comes with publishing on KDP, also comes with a gap in protection. There has been an increase in fraudulent and plagiarized works showing up on the platform, as well as books being pirated and sold on other sites. Between the launch of ChatGPT and people flat out stealing Kindle works and selling them on other websites, plagiarism and piracy are becomming an even larger problem.
As reported by The Mary Sue, author John C. Boland was shocked to see his 2011 book “Hominid” falsely marketed by a third-party-seller on Amazon as being hundreds of years older than it actually is. Some sellers were claiming the book was written as far back as the 1700’s and selling “first edition” copies at a whomping 66% mark up. Boland told the New York Times “When a seller claims to have a 1602 edition that it’s charging nearly $1,000 for, it’s defaming me by implying that the book existed before I wrote it — i.e., that I’m a plagiarist.” At that time, Amazon refused to combat the third-party- selling problem and Boland felt he had no choice but to sue the company.
These harmful practices are hurting authors, consumers and sellers. People have been stealing works off of Amazon and selling them on other websites. Amazon has many measures in place to protect authors’ intellectual property and fight piracy, however these have a times resulted in Amazon penalizing authors themselves, as they are perceive to be in breach of contract. The penalties Amazon imposes on authors can be severe and have significant consequences.
As reported by Rachel Ulatowski on February 10th 2023, Carissa Broadbent reported having her KU books taken down from Amazon with no notice, as she was thought to be in breach of exclusivity, however, it turns out she were actually a victim of piracy. “Broadbent reiterated that she had no control over the piracy of her work, but Amazon’s ‘extreme reactions’ to any violations of the exclusivity agreement took no notice of this fact. Instead, she received a vague e-mail stating her book had been taken down and realized her monthly income had been snatched away with no notice.”
Amazon uses automated bots and algorithms to scour the Internet for possible infringements of its exclusivity aggreeements. As shared on Just Publishing Advice, “Its bots can scan millions upon millions of locations every day in the hunt for duplicated ebooks. All its bots need to find is the same title, a similar book description and cover, and the same text in the first 300 to 500 words to locate a match. When it finds what it thinks is a match, automation takes over, and Amazon KDP sends a threatening email to the author. In most cases, an author has no idea whatsoever as to why or how their ebook contravened Amazon’s KDP Select exclusivity.”
If this happens to an author, they can contact Amazon directly. However, they will likely recieve automated responses over email, and will probably need to call into the call centre and try to reach someone in the KDP department. This process can take time, and the author is likely to lose out on income during this period. Clearly, more needs to be done around this issue. As convient as KDP is, the truth is ebooks are electronic files published on the Internet, and therefore just like other files on line, it’s far too easy to copy and priate them.
An avid book reader, Angela Waterfield is new to the world of e-Readers. She has a background in education, emergency response, and fitness, and loves to be outside. She has contributed writing to The London Free Press, The Gazette, The Londoner, Lifeliner, and Citymedia.ca.