When e-readers first appeared, the naysayers swore it would never catch on. That claim has now been laid to rest, in light of news that e-books are outselling print on many platforms. But the ebook industry faces a severe threat, a new technique of spamming and piracy that may be enough to cause readers to abandon their devices and return to good old fashioned hard copy text (“Spam and Pirated eBooks Proliferating in the Amazon Bookstore,” GoodEReader.com, June 17, 2011).
The ultimate goal of these immoral file uploaders is to happen to snag buyers with the low cost of the “ebook,” often less than one dollar. If enough people take the bait and enough sales are made, the person who posted the document, one that is often stolen or purchased through Private Label Rights for redistribution, makes a small profit without having written a word.
“It’s a growing problem, one that threatens to clog retailer book shelves with low quality, undifferentiated content,” says Mark Coker, CEO of Smashwords, of the immediate threat to the industry that these so-called e-books present. “Ebook publishing platforms, distributors and retailers must make spam-book publishing unprofitable for the spammers by enforcing stricter vetting standards. At Smashwords, we probably have the strictest vetting standards in the business, and as a result we’ve been very successful at eliminating spam books from our catalog. However, the same content we reject is often uploaded directly by the spammers to the retailer’s own publishing platforms where vetting standards aren’t so strict.”
Andrea Schoeber, founder of German digital publishing platform XinXii, has even seen the effects of this epidemic in European e-book markets:
“From the first day we also had been confronted with the early appearences of spam ebooks in the form of reseller books. Now, with access to an audience of millions and with the barriers to publication lowered to almost zero, the spam and pirated ebooks problem will grow more and more. Digital publishing platforms will have an urgent need to upgrade their valuation processes, but the spammers will probably be always one step ahead.
On XinXii, spam ebooks are strictly excluded by our terms and conditions, and PLR ebooks and ebooks with reseller rights are not tolerated in our store. We watch and score every upload by technical means and human controls. In cases of statistical extreme values or other anomalies, the work will be investigated in detail. We check all uploads daily, while our ‘flag as inappropriate’ button is very helpful to this process. Identified spam ebooks are deleted, and the account is locked instantly.
Based on our experiences, we have enhanced our processes to detect fraudulent ebooks shortly after the upload.”
“The real issue at hand,” continues Coker, “points to the importance of distributors to help filter out the spam before it reaches retailer shelves. I know our retail partners appreciate this, and readers appreciate it, too. Spam books threaten to undermine the potential of ebooks.”