Kindle Store awash with auto-generated crap 'books'

Bargain barrelscrape rubbish obscuring decent reads


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. ®

Similar topics

Broader topics


Other stories you might like

  • Amazon fears it could run out of US warehouse workers by 2024
    Internal research says the hiring pool has already dried up in a number of locations stateside

    Jeff Bezos once believed that Amazon's low-skill worker churn was a good thing as a long-term workforce would mean a "march to mediocrity." He may have to eat his words if an internal memo is accurate.

    First reported by Recode, the company's 2021 research rather bluntly says: "If we continue business as usual, Amazon will deplete the available labor supply in the US network by 2024."

    Some locations will be hit much earlier, with the Phoenix metro area in Arizona expected to exhaust its available labor pool by the end of 2021. The Inland Empire region of California could reach breaking point by the close of this year, according to the research.

    Continue reading
  • Amazon shows off robot warehouse workers that won't complain, quit, unionize...
    Mega-corp insists it's all about 'people and technology working safely and harmoniously together'

    Amazon unveiled its first "fully autonomous mobile robot" and other machines designed to operate alongside human workers at its warehouses.

    In 2012 the e-commerce giant acquired Kiva Systems, a robotics startup, for $775 million. Now, following on from that, Amazon has revealed multiple prototypes powered by AI and computer-vision algorithms, ranging from robotic grippers to moving storage systems, that it has developed over the past decade. The mega-corporation hopes to put them to use in warehouses one day, ostensibly to help staff lift, carry, and scan items more efficiently. 

    Its "autonomous mobile robot" is a disk-shaped device on wheels, and resembles a Roomba. Instead of hoovering crumbs, the machine, named Proteus, carefully slots itself underneath a cart full of packages and pushes it along the factory floor. Amazon said Proteus was designed to work directly with and alongside humans and doesn't have to be constrained to specific locations caged off for safety reasons. 

    Continue reading
  • Amazon not happy with antitrust law targeting Amazon
    We assume the world's smallest violin is available right now on Prime

    Updated Amazon has blasted a proposed antitrust law that aims to clamp down on anti-competitive practices by Big Tech.

    The American Innovation and Choice Online Act (AICOA) led by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and House Representative David Cicilline (D-RI) is a bipartisan bill, with Democrat and Republican support in the Senate and House. It is still making its way through Congress.

    The bill [PDF] prohibits certain "online platforms" from unfairly promoting their own products and services in a way that prevents or hampers third-party businesses in competing. Said platforms with 50 million-plus active monthly users in the US or 100,000-plus US business users, and either $550 billion-plus in annual sales or market cap or a billion-plus worldwide users, that act as a "critical trading partner" for suppliers would be affected. 

    Continue reading
  • Alibaba Cloud challenges AWS with its own custom smartNIC
    Who'll board the custom silicon bandwagon next?

    Alibaba Cloud offered a peek at its latest homegrown silicon at its annual summit this week, which it calls Cloud Infrastructure Processing Units (CIPU).

    The data processing units (DPUs), which we're told have already been deployed in a “handful” of the Chinese giant’s datacenters, offload virtualization functions associated with storage, networking, and security from the host CPU cores onto dedicated hardware.

    “The rapid increase in data volume and scale, together with higher demand for lower latency, call for the creation of new tech infrastructure,” Alibaba Cloud Intelligence President Jeff Zhang said in a release.

    Continue reading
  • Threat of cross-border data tariffs looms over WTO
    Some countries call for moratorium to be lifted, tech industry not keen on potential costs

    Concern is growing that a World Trade Organization (WTO) moratorium on cross-border tariffs covering data may not be extended, which would hit e-commerce if countries decide to introduce such tariffs.

    Representatives of the WTO's 164 members are meeting in Geneva as part of a multi-day ministerial conference. June 15 was to be the final day but the trade organization today confirmed it is being extended until June 16, to facilitate outcomes on the main issues under discussion.

    The current moratorium covering e-commerce tariffs was introduced in 1998, and so far the WTO has extended it at such meetings, which typically take place every two years.

    Continue reading
  • AWS says it will cloudify your mainframe workloads
    Buyer beware, say analysts, technical debt will catch up with you eventually

    AWS is trying to help organizations migrate their mainframe-based workloads to the cloud and potentially transform them into modern cloud-native services.

    The Mainframe Modernization initiative was unveiled at the cloud giant's Re:Invent conference at the end of last year, where CEO Adam Selipsky claimed that "customers are trying to get off their mainframes as fast as they can."

    Whether this is based in reality or not, AWS concedes that such a migration will inevitably involve the customer going through a lengthy and complex process that requires multiple steps to discover, assess, test, and operate the new workload environments.

    Continue reading
  • Amazon accused of obstructing probe into deadly warehouse collapse
    House Dems demand documents from CEO on facility hit by tornado – or else

    Updated The US House Oversight Committee has told Amazon CEO Andy Jassy to turn over documents pertaining to the collapse of an Amazon warehouse – and if he doesn't, the lawmakers say they will be forced to "consider alternative measures."

    Penned by Oversight Committee members Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Cori Bush (D-MO) and committee chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), the letter refers to the destruction of an Edwardsville, Illinois, Amazon fulfillment center in which six people were killed when a tornado hit. It was reported that the facility received two weather warnings about 20 minutes before the tornado struck at 8.27pm on December 10; most staff had headed to a shelter, some to an area where there were no windows but was hard hit by the storm.

    In late March, the Oversight Committee sent a letter to Jassy with a mid-April deadline to hand over a variety of documents, including disaster policies and procedures, communication between managers, employees and contractors, and internal discussion of the tornado and its aftermath.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022