Online book seller Amazon is finding its online ebook store is getting clogged with spam and bogus titles.
While on the one hand, thousands of digital books, called ebooks, are being published through Amazon’s self-publishing system monthly each month a huge chunk of these are bogus or spam.
The books are built using something known as Private Label Rights, or PLR content, which is information that can be bought very cheaply online then reformatted into a digital book.
It is possible to buy a DVD box set called Autopilot Kindle Cash that claims to teach people how to publish 10 to 20 new Kindle books a day without typing a word.
Some of these books are just copied from other writers as was the case of Shayne Parkinson, a New Zealander who writes historical novels. The book Sentence of Marriage was on sale on Amazon under another author’s name.
But while Amazon has enabled the publishing of books which should not have seen the light of day, the spam thing is threatening to kill the whole ebook trade before it takes off.
The problem for Amazon is that if it does quality control, will it allow some of the more dodgy novels and poetry collections which are out there.
Amazon spokeswoman Sarah Gelman told Reuters that Amazon had processes to detect and remove undifferentiated versions of books with the goal of eliminating such content from its store.
Paul Wolfe, an Internet marketing specialist, said that the spammers have started to copy ebooks that are selling well and republishing them with new titles and covers to appeal to a slightly different audience.
Smashwords, an ebook publisher and distributor said it is easy to spot spammers. They use poorly designed covers, lack an author’s name on the cover and have bad formatting.
One of the advantages that spammers have in using Amazon is that the outfit pays its authors monthly. This means that if it takes several months before a dodgy book is pulled, the spammer is still quids in.
Analyst outfit Forrester told Reuters that Amazon will have to craft a social network answer to the problem. If the company can let readers see book recommendations from people they know, or people whose reviews they liked in the past, that would help them track down the content they want and avoid misleading recommendations.
Another suggestion is to have Amazon charge for uploads to the Kindle publishing system which would kill off any financial incentive for the spammers.