Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Downside of E-Pubbing

E-pubbing is so fast and easy, anyone can do it. And millions do. More e-books than print books are being made. There’s no longer that middle gate authors had to get past (usually an agent or an editor) who blocked/opened the path from writer to reader. The process has been made relatively easy for those wanting to publish their own books.

But easy, fast, and money usually draw in people other than those wanting to get their books out to the public. It also draws in scam artists.

I read an article by John Naughton in The Observer called: Now anyone can ‘write’ a book. First, find some words… And by “find” he means it.
One of the most prolific self-publishers on the site is Manuel Ortiz Braschi. When I last checked he had edited, authored or co-authored no fewer than 3,255 ebooks. Mr Braschi is clearly a man of Herculean energy and wide learning, who ranges effortlessly from How to Become a Lethal Weapon in Two Weeks (£1.40) to Herbs 101: How to Plant, Grow & Cook with Natural Herbs (£0.70) while taking in Potty Training! The Ultimate Potty Training Guide! (£0.69).
How could he be an expert in all of those areas? He can’t. According to the article, Braschi is one of many spammers who
 "scrape" content from websites or, in some cases, actually lift entire texts, and republish them as ebooks. And, in a neat twist, each of these ersatz "books" can be marketed under several different titles as coming from different authors.
One “entrepreneur” is marketing a video course on how to post 10 to 20 new Kindle books every day by handing “the video course to your spouse, your assistant, your brother... heck – even hand it to your 10-year-old kid!”

The article claims Kindle self-publishing is “metamorphosing into a new kind of lucrative spam.” It even answers its own question as to why Kindle would allow this to happen:
 Could the fact that it takes a 30% slice of every transaction have anything to do with it? 
My question is: Can anything be done to stop this kind of blatant plagiarism? This is going to keep happening. It’s too easy for spammers to do and too lucrative for them to stop.

29 comments:

  1. As with all this new technology, I think we must simply wait until it balances out. How that will happen is anyone's guess. I imagine that the thieving will stop once the thieves no longer can make it lucrative and that will happen when the marketplace is saturated with such cobbled together books. It is frustrating but one way to look at it - if you are one of the people who is providing content to scammers without being paid - is to continue to post and offer it all up. This is a difficult mind-set to get into but it can be rewarding. I'm interested to hear what others might say and I'm grateful as always that you post such interesting questions.

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  2. ePublishing is sort of like a new frontier with no rules and regulations in place yet. For as much opportunity that it presents, there seems to be just as much risk.

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  3. This is a side of self-publushing I didn't think about. The biggest complaint I hear is that "anyone can publish" and that means people who can't even write, thereby giving self-publishing a bad name. This is a very dark, seedy side of self-pubbing.

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  4. This is such a sad commentary on our society. Makes my heart hurt.
    Karen

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  5. I have only one question: who (if anyone) is buying these spambooks? It is our hope that the cream of the talented independent authors will rise to the top - people will buy good stories instead of dreck.

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  6. Holy crap! Plagiarism gone rampant! Can't the original writers who have been ripped off sue the jerks?

    Marvin D Wilson

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  7. Scammers exist everywhere. This is a new and easy role for them, so I'm not surprised. It's a horrible thing. At some point I hope there will be controls in place to stop it, but I fear it's a long time coming.

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  8. Print books have been "bootlegged" in the past, including mine in foreign countries, and I was told that it would cost more to hire a lawyer to sue them than it was worth. This new ebook plagiarism is unconsciounable but as long as people buy the "books" it's going to continue.

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  9. Well, it's too bad, but ya gotta admire the industry and creativity of these scammers ... it may be thievery but at least they're not holding up liquor stores.

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  10. There are some writer's organizations such as Sisters in Crime that are attempting to get Amazon to be a better gatekeeper when it comes to content and this kind of abuse. Perhaps in time, this will change. I hope so. It casts such a bad light on those who are legitimately publishing e-books.

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  11. I fear scammers will always exist in some form or another. As soon as one loophole closes, they find another. I wish I had some answers but I think we just have to wait and see what happens.

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  12. I really hate that scammers are getting into my world now. :-/

    But I don't think I have the programming ability to solve the issue. So unfortunately I'll have to wait for someone with the skills to think of a solution.

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  13. My best guess is that when Kindle and Amazon get enough complaints they'll put something in place to curb this sort of thing.
    In the mean time it's probably best to buy what you know. Writers will likely have to copyright to protect their efforts.

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  14. I have put out an ebook but I didn't charge for it. I used it as a gift for my readers. I didn't use any plagiarism. Wouldn't anyone be subject to the laws of ethical writing whether it be worth anything or not. Is it a question of having the money to do something about someone plagiarizing you?

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  15. Good article, Helen.

    It happens more than we think. I read an article last week by Ruth Ann Nordin, who said someone had stolen one of her backlisted books. I mean cover, name, the description and a new ASIN number, was selling it on Amazon! ASIN numbers are unique. Authors need to check their backlists periodically.

    I buy quite a few books via Amazon for my kindle--not self-help books. I keep my eye open for hinky doings.

    I haven't a clue how to stop scammers and plagiarism. They're pond scum.

    Sia McKye's Thoughts...OVER COFFEE

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  16. @Marvin

    Here's the link to the article and what she's been going through with Amazon and legal issues.

    http://selfpubauthors.wordpress.com/2011/06/20/a-case-of-copyright-infringement-a-true-story/

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  17. Hey, that's not right! Someone profiting from my blog ramblings. How on earth can we find out though?

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  18. Technology has made so many things easier and plagiarism is certainly one of them. Students can do the same kind of thing to create research papers. I'm not sure how it can be stopped.

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  19. It's not just e-books. I read a book published by Outskirts that a friend (who I know belongs to a critique group) wrote and I expected so much more. The grammar and punctuation were atrocious and there was absolutely no story line. I think these books will be weeded out eventually though (hopefully).
    Ann

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  20. You know, it's really tricky. Google will sometimes block or remove sites that it suspects are spammers/scrapers. Many times they get it right...but frequently they get it wrong and it's just a blogger with a lot of outbound links, etc. So...I think maybe an automatic way to block suspected spam books, but an email addy that connects to a real person that you could argue your case to (if you *weren't* a spammer.)

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  21. Do you join them or expose them? There are so many cheaters in the world you get disheartened. Why bother with creativity and professional standards? We should expose them, to Kindle or Smashwords etc.

    Chemical Fusion

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  22. You probably could sue if you copyrighted your material and if you can prove they copied significant pieces of your book. But what would it cost you to do that?

    It's rather like the Wild West.

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  23. Unfortunately, Christopher, they're holding up author stores.

    True, Misha. You'd think Amazon, for starters, could counter the spammers.

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  24. That's a big part of it Glynis. It can be expensive to catch them and prove their guilt.

    Thank you Sia!

    True, Elizabeth. A link would really help.

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  25. I believe readers will expose the spammers/scammers eventually through reviews, etc. (Or I hope they do) The first time I heard about the spammer issue and stolen material, it made me want to stay away from the 99 cent book market.

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  26. I've been hearing about this. I do think there needs to be some filter system, but how to do it without limiting everyone else's ability to put up books is an issue. Hmmm....

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  27. I guess consumers have to be their own first defense. Hopefully reviews and news items will help, but the major distributors (Amazon, B&N, etc) really do need to address the issue.
    ~jon

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  28. Maybe I'm not understanding the process right, but can't Amazon run the MS through a plagerism checker? Authors have to upload the MS anyway so everything is already on file...somewhere.

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  29. Hi Helen .. interesting - sad and true of our times.

    Scammers can just copy 'simple' multi-selling books .. people will buy because they can't spell and scammers will have 'copies' out there for purchase by Hellen/Helene/Heleen instead of Helen for instance ..

    Your book scammed ..

    It's good to keep addressing the issues and allows us all to learn ..

    Happy 4th July .. cheers Hilary

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