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Kindle Spam, the greatest danger to the self published author?

Posted by Charles Gray on July 15, 2011

There’s a growing danger to self published authors and it goes by the name Kindle Spam.  The Amazon Kindle store has no editing “Filter” function. That’s its strength.

That’s also its weakness, as an ever increasing number of spam “books” has shown:

If you’re an author who self-published a book on Amazon’s Kindle book store, and you’re wondering why nobody seems to be buying your books – it’s not because your book is unpopular. Chances are, it’s been buried in spam. According to reports online, it looks like the Kindle book store is suffering from the same issues as the Android Market: an overload of spam books. Because Amazon doesn’t govern the Kindle store and lets authors easily self-publish their own books, just like Google’s Android Market, there has store has been filled with poor excuses for books.

 

In other words, people either take public domain material and repackage it or even simply steal already existing material and sell it. Like online spam, you don’t have to sell a lot per book, if you can put enough out there, and in fact there are companies that currently compile public domain material and allow spam authors to make use of it– repackaging freely available material to then sell. Such Private Label Rights systems allow for a tremendous amount of...lousy material to be churned out:

One such tool is designed to manipulate the system by repackaging public domain content scraped from the web in to quick ebooks. Owners of the software can generate hundreds of books and it promises “totally hands-free income”.

None of this is good for consumers, and as Coker puts it, “The risk of PLR is that you see 50 copies of the same book on the same shelf written by equally lazy-ass idiots who got suckered in to the scam. Then customers, trusting they’re buying a real book, purchase these books of questionable value. “

 

So what can the content providers do?  Remember, that part of the appeal of self publishign is that you’re not facing a gatekeeper– if say, Amazon instituted a system of editorial review, the cost (to them and the author) would shoot up and likely many writers would find themselves unable to make use of the service.

There are other possibilities.  One would be a small fee for publishing a book– even a five or ten dollar fee would strike at the heart of spam, which depends on vast numbers of books being published, essentially for free, so that even if you only sell five or six 99 cent book per issue, you’re still coming ahead because you churn out 1,000 books a week.

Another possibility would be limiting the number of books any given writer could submit. Even magazine articles take time to write and proof, and say establishing a limit of five submissions per week wouldn’t be unduly onerous, and yet would again, strike at what makes kindle spam and its related scams profitable.

A final possibility is to use similar systems to what  Google uses to weed out content farms and other spam material. While no doubt more difficult technologically, forcing PLR users to actually rewrite their content would slow them up, making those seeking to make a quick buck by simply reprinting material go elsewhere.

But what can writers do?

The first point is that this makes having an online presence, maintaining a community, even more important than before.  Spam may bury a book in the Kindle lists, but if you have people out there who know about you and are looking for your new books, you’ll be found.  Creating an enduring web presence and reputation is the sort of advertising that spam cannot match, by its very nature.

What authors should not do is obsess over violations of copyright. If you find it, report it, certainly, but the fact of the matter is, you should be satisfied if it’s taken down– if Disney and Time Warner haven’t been able to effectively protect their IP, the self published author likely doesn’t have the resources to do so– and again, having a community that knows you helps.

Spam may make for a difficult period, but the fact is, it will be countered, and those looking for an easy income will search elsewhere– the author simply has to make certain he can continue to make money during that difficult period.

 

 

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5 Responses to “Kindle Spam, the greatest danger to the self published author?”

  1. Just another reason why I think Ebooks need to go away.

  2. happyhyena said

    Ebooks, as a format won’t go away– the economic benefits are too great, especially for authors with smaller followings– and even authors with a reputation often find that they’re making more money from ebooks than print books. Even the big publishers are increasingly considering reducing the size of their printed collections and going more and more to ebook, so as a format, it’s here to stay and will likely come to dominate the book market– though not eliminate the print format.

  3. Great post. Yes I agree e-books are here to stay. But Amazon should do something. If their system is being abused, it’s hurts everyone. I like both ideas. The idea of a small fee and a weekly/monthly limit. Together, that would really hurt spammers.

    • happyhyena said

      Yeah– my feeling is that even a small fee would drastically crimp the PLR and spam crowd– some of them put out several hundred titles in a single week. A monthly limit might work– but spammers are, if anything, creative with playing games with multiple accounts.
      It’s sad in a way, but one of my old teachers had a bit of wisdom– if 99 people treat the well right and one guy dumps garbage in it… you still have a ruined well unless you put a fence up around it.

  4. […] the  Kindle store this will only be made worse by the continuing plague of Kindle Spam (for another take on the damage, look here. So the question rises, “how do you become […]

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