Authors making their first foray into e-book publishing have a new challenge to contend with: spam in the Kindle store.
Last week, Reuters reported that although the number of e-books being published has exploded over the past year, many of the e-books in the Kindle store consist of public domain or pirated content that spammers have slapped together in the hopes of making a few sales.
Many of these “spam” e-books use Private Label Rights content—bundles of articles which can be bought cheaply, converted into e-book form, and sold under the buyer’s name. Spammers also republish public domain content, changing the title and cover to give the e-book the appearance of originality. Some authors have even discovered the contents of their own books and websites being lifted by spammers and re-sold under a different title.
Unfortunately, Kindle spam is big business, especially with many e-books now available to teach other people how to make money by pumping out e-books. According to Reuters, “Aspiring spammers can even buy a DVD box set called Autopilot Kindle Cash that claims to teach people how to publish 10 to 20 new Kindle books a day without writing a word.”
Why Authors Should Care…
If you plan to publish an e-book this year, Kindle spammers spell bad news. For one thing, if the Kindle store is clogged with spam titles, it makes it more difficult for potential readers to find your (useful and well-written) book among the sea of (useless and poorly-written) spam. Spam titles are often priced at 99-cents, making it even easier for spammers to trick unsuspecting readers into clicking the “buy” button. And the possibility of finding your own work stolen and re-sold under a different author’s name is a real danger in a world where theft is as easy as “copy and paste.”
It’s in all writers’ best interests to fight back against e-book spam. One possible solution that has been suggested is a one-time fifty dollar fee for posting e-books to the Kindle store (I know, I know—nobody likes fees. But it would do a lot to discourage spammers). Another solution would be to leverage the power of social networking to quickly identify and remove spam e-books from the store.
Sarah Gelman, a spokeswoman for Amazon, told Reuters: “We have processes to detect and remove undifferentiated versions of books with the goal of eliminating such content from our store.” However, it’s widely agreed upon that Amazon needs to do more to discourage spamming in the Kindle Store.
…And What You Can Do About It
If you have an e-book for sale, or if you have any kind of content online, there are a few basic measures you can take to protect yourself from spammers.
The first is is to reach out to your readers. Have an online presence on Facebook and Twitter, as well as an author website or blog. Make it easy for readers to get in touch with you and they will be more likely to alert you if you they come across a spam version of your work.
If you or one of your readers encounters a pirated version of your book or website being sold as an e-book under a different title, notify Amazon to have it removed from the Kindle store.
Encourage your readers to post comments, likes, and reviews on your Kindle store e-books. This will set your e-books apart from spam titles in the Kindle store.
As Amazon betters its defenses against spam in the Kindle store, the day of the Amazon e-book spammer may be coming to an end. For now, though, readers and writers should both be vigilant. When spammers lose, we all win.