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Kindle Store awash with auto-generated crap 'books'

Bargain barrelscrape rubbish obscuring decent reads

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Tsk, kids of today, eh? Give them something free and they spam it, thus making it all entirely unusable for the rest of us. As Reuters reports, this is now happening with the Kindle Store.

Now that you can upload an e-book, price it and sell it, for free, hordes of wouldbe publishing millionaires are doing exactly that. Except they're not actually writing books - they're just lifting them from elsewhere and hoping to collect the royalties.

The lifting can be from a variety of sources: Private Label Rights (PLR) are tales specifically marketed to be resold in this manner, perhaps under a new title or cover. There are even software packages claiming to automate much of the process and allowing the production of 10 or 20 books in a day.

There have always been those re-publishing out-of-copyright books as e-books. A favoured source was Project Gutenberg at one time. These Amazon publishers are getting more aggressive though: at least one author has found their own work being marketed under a different name.

The concern is that with reams of these spam books (spooks? Sbooks? Sblooks?) now appearing in the Kindle Store that real readers looking for real books will be put off the whole idea.

The problem is really one of economics. When sending email became essentially free we were all spammed near to death. When blog comments gained Google juju, blogs were also spammed. When it's possible to “create” and sell a book for nothing but earn royalties from anyone you can fool into buying it, splooks there will be in ever-increasing volume.

Filters mostly defeated spam for us, “nofollow” has made comment spam next to useless; but what will be able to stop such book spam?

A number of options occur: Amazon itself could try to monitor what is being published, but that has two problems. Are we really quite sure that we want Amazon deciding what can be published? And it's a pretty sure bet that it won't want to have to employ people to read all of the submissions. An automated use of something like CopyScape could help, but it would still be an expensive task.

It's also true that hijacking of copyright and creation of near nonsense volumes is not exclusive to e-books. There have been attempts at it with hard copy self-publishing platforms like Lulu too.

However, to some extent, these businesses are self-limiting. There's only so much that can be made from such publishing and there are certain fixed costs. What the Kindle offers (as does Nook, where the problem isn't as bad yet, probably because it's not as popular) is low revenue, sure, but zero monetary cost to publish.

Which is why this might be the solution: “Daffron of Logical Expressions said Amazon should charge for uploads to the Kindle publishing system because that would remove a lot of the financial incentive for spammers.”

If the problem is that it's free to publish, then the solution is probably making it not free to publish. ®

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