Readers Versus E-book Spammers

BlogHer Original Post

Recently Amazon.com announced that it was taking steps to remove the more dodgy spam e-book content that can be found in the Kindle electronic bookstore.  I have my doubts so I performed a test.

I know nothing about fishing. Yet I had no problem finding spam e-books. By the way, it isn’t just happening at Amazon. Other e-book retailers such as Barnes and Nobel Nook Books and Google eBook store have or will have the same spam invasion.

This is Mike Essex of Koozai.com talking about some of the ways that e-book spam is perpetrated.

Here is a bit more detail about how the spammers operate and what you can do to protect yourself.

The Public Domain Duplication Dance of Deception

Once a book enters the public domain anyone is free to publish the text. The less than ethical will visit places like Project Gutenberg or an academic site to obtain a copy of the plain text version of William Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Macbeth. Using e-book creation software it is easy to re-format the text and upload it to a book vendor store.

There can be other problems. Maybe you can’t read English as it was written in 1603.  Perhaps the play was rendered in contemporary English but the line breaks are so bad it is a losing battle trying to read any further than the witches toil and trouble.

Tips:

Check if the e-book vendor has a free book section, there may be a copy ready for download. I like how the Barnes and Nobel free books section has the name of the original author, publisher and ISBN (International Serial Book Number) when available. Google eBooks has a section for free books that currently contains literature in the public domain.

Know your authors. In the Kindle store you can find a copies of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland not written by Lewis Carroll but by others claiming authorship.

View a preview of the book. You can get a good sense of the quality, book layout, or if there is extra added material worth buying. If they author is citing Wikipedia in the product description that might be a clue to step away from the book. 

The Copyright That Was Done Wrong Shuffle

Another way the spammers/scammers are working the system is to take an existing book that is protected by copyright and repackage it as their own.  A visit to the blog, They Stole My Book, is a journey to the land of disenchantment. Portions of promotional materials are being sold as an e-book, or even the entire book as it has happened to Ruth Ann Nolan

If you write a non-fiction blog, don’t get too comfortable; there are people stealing blog posts and repackaging the content as books. You might not think your blog is worth money but there are others who are snagging content and presenting the results as their own.

Tips:

Jordan Kastner has a post on Content Scraping, Prevention, Repercussions and Benefits.

Also visit Perishable Press How to Protect Your Site from Content Thieves it is very informative.

If you feel that your blog or book content has been stolen let the e-book vendors know about it so that it can be removed.

The Private Label Rights (PLR) Books Stomp

There are individuals and companies that hire writers to create content. Actors, politicians and business web sites that need professional writers for assistance.  Ghostwriters, writers for hire and copywriters are legitimate providers of these types of materials. There is a process of communication intent, research and delivery of a quality product.

This has nothing to do with Private Label Rights books. The goal of PLR e-books is to sell and make money. Content is a minimal concern. PLR writers often have no subject experience in the topic unless they are writing about making money or search engine manipulations.

There may be minimal book research. How minimal?

For some PLR writers going to Yahoo Answers is considered too much work. The writing could be adapted from a number of content farm articles that are nothing more than keyword connective tissue. The content could have been appropriated from other blogs or web sites.

Once the basic template of the e-book has been created it is sold to other people. In theory, those people are supposed to reformat the book in their own voice and then upload and sell their version.

That does not happen often. Right now it is a bum rush to upload as many PLR e-books as possible. Like e-mail spam, if PLR folks play the odds that if 1,000 books go up and 100 PLR e-books are sold that is not a bad way to spend the day. Thousands of dodgy books are being uploaded every day.

Amazon.com said that they are cleaning out the Kindle store but for every book they yank the PLR vendors stand ready to foul up the joint uploading badly written e-books. It has been a few weeks since the announcement but there are PLR titles with current upload dates.

So What Can We Do?

I have read good 99 cents books. I have seen books that are one step above being illiterate. There are good authors trying to get people to read their books but e-book spam gets in the way. For the moment, I think we are on our own.

There is a sucker born every minute but we don’t have to stay that way. Know what you are buying. If you don’t like what you have downloaded ask for a refund and tell the vendor why. Leave a comment and tell your friends and readers about your experience.

The e-book vendors must figure out a way to deal with the rising e-book spam. They also have to make difficult decisions about the quality of the materials found in their stores.

I am not for censorship but I’m not going to continue wasting time trying to find what I like through increasing spam content. For the moment, I will be much more cautious about purchases.

Gena Haskett is a BlogHer Contributing Editor. My Blogs: Out On The Stoop and Create Video Notebook

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