Monday, April 16, 2012

Amazon, You Need A Trunk Monkey

You know, of course, that as soon as someone figures out a neat new way to do something, a hundred chattering monkeys come in right behind him or her to fling poo about and otherwise mess up the landscape.

Such is happening to the world of ebooks where, as Fortune reports, the rise of “spam books” on sites like is becoming not, well, a problem, but more of an electronic pratfall for people who don’t do careful enough searches when they’re looking for the hottest titles out there or stumble across a deal that seems too good to be true for a hot book.

Says Fortune:
There are a number of books on Amazon with similar titles to much more popular ones. Fifty Shades of Grey, the steamy romance novel that has created buzz around the world, is the No. 1 selling book on Amazon. Also available on Amazon: Thirty-Five Shades of Grey. Both books are written by authors with two first initials – E. L. James and J. D. Lyte – and both are the first in a trilogy about a young girl who falls for an older, successful man with a taste for domineering sex. The publisher of the bestseller Fifty says the book is "a tale that will obsess you, possess you, and stay with you forever." The author and publisher of Thirty-Five, which came out in early April, apparently believe that description fits their book as well, word-for-word. Also selling on Amazon is I am the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Twilight New Moon. Neither is the book you are likely looking for.

Amusingly, Fortune talks with the author of a book similarly titled to Steig Larsson’s Girl With the Dragon Tattoo to discover a stay-at-home mom who self-publishes as a way to support her children. She seems to see nothing wrong with giving her book a title similar to that of Larsson’s and even claims hers was published first (it wasn’t, according to Fortune).

Amazon’s critics (and I’m sure the same applies to any outfit that helps people self-publish their own ebooks) say the company doesn’t do enough to cull the copycats, or to stop them from going up for sale in the first place. Amazon pretty much counters by saying it’s the Wild West out there and that, yes, they are aware of the problems and things are being done and some such.

Book piracy, of course, is nothing new. My favorite tale of such comes from China(!) where folks were proud to sell the latest installment of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series, in which the first chapter of the book details how the wizard Harry was changed into a little person with a round belly and furry feet and then went on to have an adventure with dwarves chasing down a dragon for treasure. Yeah, they took Rowling’s character and basically transplanted him into The Hobbit and went from there. Thousands of people bought the book, thinking they were getting an early peek at Rowling’s new creation.

The cheap copying of ebooks brings up a significant problem for people like me, who like Uncle Rico want to look totally legit in the ebook world, like we’ve got all the answers: With so much spam floating around out there, how will we rise above the noise? The answer: Quality, dammit. We’re going to have to write good books. Which is what I want to do in the first place.

And then, I’ll get a trunk monkey to go after the poo-flingers.

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