Online ebook behemoth Amazon has been fraught the last three months with a surge in book spam and ebook piracy. Many people are buying spam toolkits such as Autopilot Kindle Cash which can write and submit books at the click of a few buttons.
Amazon has a self-publishing portal called the Digital Text Platform. It allows aspiring and established writers a little bit more creative control over their submitted content. The books are then listed on Amazon’s own store and paired side by side with well known authors. Amazon rakes in 30% of each sale and the author can keep the rest. Many authors use the Amazon platform in conjunction with other self-publishing companies such as Barnes and Noble Pubit and Bookbrewer “Get Published.”
The Amazon DTP is under peril as most books submitted to the service are un-moderated or have an auto validation process. This is taken advantage of by two different segments of people – the ebook pirates and Private Label Rights.
Book pirates often straight up copy and paste the ebook and then re-title it and submit it on Amazon. They then list the book at .99 and hope people will bite, the law of averages determines the more you upload the more sales you will make. Often book pirates, according to one source, will copy and paste the book into “auto spinners” which will remove and insert words. This “spinning” technique is often employed by “Blackhat” SEO experts that will copy website content and then “Spin” it so search engines validate the content as “unique.” While other book pirates will simply switch cover art or change the descriptive text of the book to tailor towards different audiences.
Other techniques for submitting book spam that people are employing is the Private Label Rights, or PLR content. Books and information can be bought very cheaply online then reformatted into a digital book. Finally, there are software programs people with no experience can purchase, such as Autopilot Kindle Cash, that via a DVD teaches you how to cheat at the ebook submission process. They claim “why write a book in 3 days when you can buy our software.”
People are obviously attracted to the Amazon ecosystem as the company constantly states its ebook sales are on a 3:1 ratio against traditional publishing. This is creating a new kind of online criminal that abuses the system and creates a new revenue source at the expense of valid authors. This makes it hard for people looking to buy books, since they are increasingly forced to sift through duplicate books and are having a harder time finding relevant new reads.
Other companies, such as Barnes and Noble, have a more aggressive moderation policy when it comes to books submitted into their PUBIT self-submission system. It is harder to get spam and pirated works across because they have people to validate it.
What can Amazon do in order to curb this new problem? It is a serious one if you look at how cheap email spam has become, according to Susan Daffron, president of Logical Expressions, “If people can put out 12 versions of a single book under different titles and authors, and at different prices, even if they sell just one or two books, they can make money. They win and the loser is Amazon.”
Many industry insiders are speculating that Amazon is creating a new social networking system that will allow readers to see book recommendations from people they know, or people whose reviews they liked in the past, that would help them track down the content they want and avoid misleading recommendations. Reports say Amazon is going to revise its DTP platform to moderate books more closely.
Michael Kozlowski is the Editor in Chief of Good e-Reader. He has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past ten years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times.