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back to article Kindle Store awash with auto-generated crap 'books'

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 …

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Coat

auto-generated crapbooks

Its gardly amazons fault - WH Smith have been selling Tom Clancy and John Grisham for years

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Anonymous Coward

Can this be solved

I dont think any of the currently thought of ideas are actually going to solve this - so it may need some novel thinking.

In a slightly less punnish manner:

"Filters mostly defeated spam for us, “nofollow” has made comment spam next to useless; but what will be able to stop such book spam?"

Filters may have defeated spam for the users, but it is still there and comment spam - while useless - is still on the rise. Neither problem have actually been stopped yet so is it reasonable to think that stopping book spam is economically possible?

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@AC

"is it reasonable to think that stopping book spam is economically possible?"

Yes it is. I agree with your sentiment that the email and comment spam is still there, just not visible. But that was a filtering solution, not an economic solution. I suspect that if you charged a penny a time for sending email then the general public would be happy to pay, but the spammers would disappear over night.

However, the contradicting eveidence can be seen on the iOS app store. Dont they charge an annual fee to publish and yet the store is still full of spam apps?

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Perhaps not as serious a problem as first thought

When I look for titles on my Kindle, I'm usually looking for big names or well known books (currently working my way through Game of Thrones). The search function removes a lot of the chaff but the main one is Amazon's sales ranking system. When people do a search for "Song of Fire and Ice" for example, the first one that comes up is the main book because that's what people want to buy.

So while Hubert J. Copypasta's seminal work "Singing a jaunty song of fire and ice" can be uploaded to the kindle store, it's very very unlikely to knock George R Martin's book off the number 1 search spot.

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Large deposit

Just charge something like £10,000 as a "publication deposit" , and then give back £1 for every copy sold along with the royalties etc.

Also, if the book is discovered to substantially breach copyright, keep the cash (and/or pay off the actual copyright holder with it).

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Fine for major publishers, not so much for the indies

The problem with this then becomes its unattractiveness to legitimate independent novelists who would then have to resort to raising funds (like with Kickstarter), and only if they think they're actually going to make that money back. £10,000 is a lot. I'd think £50 would be enough to throw off the bottom line for spamovelists and make it unprofitable.

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This post has been deleted by its author

Stop

So if they succeed in marketing spam, they get the deposit back?

Not sure what your logic is here.

But along the same lines, not a deposit but a punishment system: if more than 1 in 3 customers complains that it's spam, you have to refund all of them. [.. Twice? Hm hm... or probably let it be adjudicated by a human -- if not, mass buying-and-complaining would make money regardless of the underlying book].

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Go

So Archaic

I've never had a paperback or hardcover book either hacked or spammed. Damn, I'm just so behind the times and so anachronistic.

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FAIL

Did we both read the same article?

Was this just a lazy automatic reaction of playing the "ZOMG! NOT GIVING UP MY PAPER BOOKS FOR ANYONE!" card, just because someone mentioned the Kindle Store?

'Cos if it wasn't, I'd like to know how you got from "Kindle Store listings are full of crap that gets in the way of buying the book you want" to "Kindle books are being hacked and spammed in a way that makes them unusable"...

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Anonymous Coward

I recall back in my college days I "hacked"...

...the AD&D Players Handbook and Unearthed Arcana and bound them with PVA glue.

Would you believe they're still holding together over 25 years later? Sandwiched between the legal copies I bought as soon as I had the cash for them.

Project Guttenburg is ALL ABOUT "hacking" paper books into a digital format.

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Pint

Re: So Archaic

Indeed, same here. We miss so much, don't we.

Daniel (another dead tree loving luddite)

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Devil

Totally agree.

How on Earth can a preacher forecast the Rapture convincingly if he's pictured on TV holding - not an expensive leather-bound American Standard bible - but a Kindle.

Who would take him seriously?

Beggars belief.

Icon, natch.

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Devil

"paperback or hardcover book hacked"

I don't know.

At school, I once wrote some rather childish and rude words in my library copy of The mayor of Casterbridge.

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Coat

@Andus

Moses didn't seem to have an image problem standing up in front of a crowd and reading from a tablet.

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Paperbook spam

Well sadly the spam problem doesn't extend simply to e-books, but also the paper book market.

Take this book for example:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Illustrated-Dictionary-Specially-Beginners-Including/dp/1152659359/ref=sr_1_23?ie=UTF8&qid=1308584815&sr=8-23

They've taken the OCRed version of a bilingual dictionary off archive.org and made it a print-on-demand edition.

OCR doesn't cope with dictionaries at the best of times, as they're peppered with abbreviation and there's barely a single complete sentence in them.

Couple that with a relatively minor language like Gaelic, which hasn't received a great deal of attention from the OCR side of things, and you have the recipe for a typographical car-wreck.

So, yeah, paperbacks and hardbacks are in the same situation....

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i dont see the problem

OK so theres a lot of shite out there - there was before digitization too. You dont have to read it.

I'm not a kindle user , but i'd have thought if you have heard about a book you want to read , you type it in go straight to it , pay , download , read

If you choose the books you want to read thorugh " hey this is cool" spam ads , either on the kindle or elsewhere then maybe you need to change tactics.

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I do see the problem

The problem is that you have to wade through loads of rubbish to find the decent stuff. One of the things we pay the publisher and the book store for is to do that for us.

It is true that we don't need to read it. We don't need to get our books from the Kindle Store, but if lots of people take that option, it isn't good news for Amazon, so it is better to let them know what we perceive the problem to be.

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Happy

So much crap on Amazon Kindle

It pointless even starting to look.

The top 10 books are 'books' telling you where to find free kindle books.

Ebay is a much better place to find your 'free' books. Ok these aren't free but it's easier to pay a couple of quid and get all the books you want in your chosen genre.

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Go

Amazon can fix this

Just hold on to the customer's money for a week or two (Amazon will love that), and if too many customers complain about a seller, boot the seller off and return the money to the customers.

Even better, require the seller to escrow some modest amount of money (eg. £5), and keep that money if they turn out to be a spammer.

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Thumb Up

They already do this to some extent

If you accidentally purchase a book, you can undo the transaction, right from the Kindle. Extending the period of time for which this is possible would be a good idea. Of course, currently, the offer expires as soon as you navigate away from the Thank You page. So, they would have to at least let you read a few chapters before you decide that you don't like it enough to return it.

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thankfully, there's a sample option

You can request a sample of most ebooks, before buying.

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Same in the Android marketplace

You get the same in the Android Marketplace - there are lots of free games that are just a console game ROM wrapped in an emulator, with adverts all over it (often in the middle of the screen, or placed right next to the on screen controls, so it's easy to hit them accidentally)

Sometimes they disappear, but usually another flood appears a few days later

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auto-generated crapbooks

Its gardly amazons fault - In a slightly less punnish manner: When I look for titles on my Kindle, I'm usually a "publication deposit" , and then I've never had a paperback or hardcover book either. OK so theres a lot of shite out there - It pointless even starting to look. Just hold on to the customer's money.

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The problem is lack of any curators in the Amazon store

Amazon really needs to improve their stores 'browsing' experience, it's bad enough trying to find books on their website when I know the name already - given how ropey their search is - but it's truly a horrible experience if I'm just browsing for a new read.

This is possibly the only thing that iBooks does better than kindle.

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JMB

Kindle Store awash with auto-generated crap 'books'

Another scam that I have noticed whilst searching for books is lifting pages off Wikipedia to produce a book made up of them.

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Pirate

Slightly off-topic..

..but was looking the other day for any sites which offer both a paper & e-copy of a book (The kindle's more convenient, the books look better on my shelves).

Since we're constantly being told that the price point for e-books isn't cheaper because "most of the cost is writing, editing etc." then they wouldn't lose anything by doing this. I seem to remember some DVDs offering this - a (very locked down) video file which could be copied off the DVD to the PC.

Is anyone aware of any website offering anything like this, without resorting to piracy?

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Anonymous Coward

No Title Required

"I seem to remember some DVDs offering this - a (very locked down) video file which could be copied off the DVD to the PC."

I thought all DVDs did this?

Oh right, you mean the shit "download onto your iPod" 320x240 badly-compressed, barely-viewable parody that some DVDs had to try and say that you could use that instead of DeCSS? Then they have the cheek to put some kind of funky data corruption in so that DeCSS would choke unless you start the rip from somewhere a couple of megabytes in (Dark Knight), or come up with 99 titles, 98 of which are scrambled versions of the film, requiring you to either be incredibly patient or just use a video editing suite to stitch the sections back together in the right order (Mr Nice)...

And these studios wonder why people rip their shit anyway and distribute far and wide? Could be something of a middle finger reaction, ya know?

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99 titles

When this happens, use VLC or other DVD playback software to view the first few seconds of the desire, and just look at the title - this gives you the number. Then, in HandBrake or whatever, set it to prompt for title number, so that, when you out in the number from the playback software, it only scans that title. Irritating, but still pretty fast.

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Anonymous Coward

$ mplayer -dumpstream -dumpfile foo.mp2 dvd://1

"I seem to remember some DVDs offering this - a (very locked down) video file which could be copied off the DVD to the PC."

I always thought that was the -dumpstream option in mplayer.

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Joke

Oy, vey...

...is there any problem mentioned on a forum which *won't* have at least one response specifying a commandline solution? Yeesh!

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Give Baen Credit

Due to an experiment at the behest of one of their authors, Baen Books. I recently bought a Hardcopy Honor Harrington novel that had a cd inside of a ton of their sci fi novels. Apparently, one of the authors at Baen dared the publisher to make the e-copy free to boost interest in the hard copy and it worked.

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Facepalm

Command line solutions

Most problems have a command-line solution. No matter how much you customise the GUI, the underlying stuff is the same. The command line interface is consistent, even if the point-and-click stuff isn't. Thanks to this very consistency, a command-line solution will *always* work.

The command line is a powerful tool, and you do yourself a great disservice if you dismiss it too lightly.

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Anonymous Coward

Are we really quite sure that we want Amazon deciding what can be published?

Yes, of course we are. A decent customer experience needs curation. For scrutiny-free publishing, there's that Internet thing.

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I'm not sure i like it

but there has to be some regulation and responsibility. If anybody can publish and sell anything for free, what's to stop someone taking any book not available on the kindle store and republishing it. Automated software couldn't really catch it unless amazon had the book as a reference. Even flagging similar titles/authors would only work if they didn't outright steal the contents.

If it was a genuine book, presumably people would buy it, offsetting any upfront charge. We don't want to get to the situation where authors constantly have to monitor the store, on the off chance they spot some of their own work to report it.

It's great that aspiring authors can self publish nowadays, it's just unfortunate the system is so open to abuse. It's a no risk enterprise for the people who are doing this, they won't have anything worth suing for either. At least the big publishers had something to lose, forcing them to do their due diligence. Unless Amazon take on that responsibility, there will continue to be abuse of the system.

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So nothing has changed after all

I seem to remember this sort of thing happening in the heydays of dead tree publishing in the 19th century with authors having their books ripped off and sold by the unscrupulous. Plus ca change, I guess.

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Amazon Won't List Free Titles From Individuals

I'm an indie writer. My thriller, 3 LIES, is for sale on Amazon's Kindle store. To the best of my knowledge, they don't accept books with zero as the price, or public domain works, unless you are listed as a publisher and not an individual. Amazon requires a minimum price of $.99 for a US-listed title. While that amount may be a minor distinction, there are many honest, earnest authors of original works who rely on the digital platforms for both income and opportunity.

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Doesn't stop spammers

yes, but spammers don't WANT a cost of $0.00, $0.99 is just fine. They are in this for the bank, not the lolz. Also, there is no (legal) prohibition on anyone selling any public domain work at any price. If you are stupid enough to buy, that's your problem (assuming my morals are flexible enough that I can still look at myself in the mirror in the morning, of course.)

The problem is while you have to list a price, the "scammer" doesn't have to pay for the listing. The $0.99 is paid by the "scammie." Although I've seen brick-and-mortar stores selling the bard's work for much more.

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What about free reports?

published by voluntary organisations?

They can be downloaded at a price of zero, and the organisations are not in the main a publishing business.

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Just a tweak is all.

It wouldn't take much of a publishing fee to kill it: $10 would be quite enough.

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I'm not so sure

A lot of the "get rich quick" schemes out there are based on the idea that you can licence or copy some content from somewhere, publish it and make lots of money. I don't want to dignify any of them with links, but google "cash on demand" to get an idea. The money isn't actually made on the Kindle Store, but by the people who sell them the kits to put the junk up there, and having paid typically in the region of $5000 - $10000 for the kit, they would quite happily pay another $10 listing fee.

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Coat

Spam books could be called

Bookalikes?

Mine's the one with the hardback Terry Pratchett

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Require verified identity

Amazon and similar services should require verified identities from the people who publish on their sites. This way, authors who are ripped off will know who to sue and customers who get auto-generated rubbish will know who to complain to. Furthermore, Amazon (or whoever) can ban these people from their sites. If you can use unverified identities, scammers can just make up hundreds of these and not care if half of them are banned.

Richard's idea of withholding earnings until customers have had a decent chance to complain and right-holders a decent chance to make claims also has merit. But with no verified identity to make claims against, all right holders can hope for is the (probably meagre) earnings from the ripped-off book. So a scammer can, again, just create a myriad fake identities and hope some of them goes undetected. Selling the same ripped-off book under many different titles will make it harder for right holders to find all, so the scammer can still make money. So I think the only effective remedy is verified identity.

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Chain of trust...?

Well, why not have people stand up as witnesses for each other?

I mean, many self-publishers will know each other through writers' groups, conventions etc. Any complaints against a crooked publisher would be reflected in the writer's trust rating, which would make it impossible to recommend further friends and in extreme cases could result in loss of chart positions or expulsion from Kindle entirely.

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Copyfraud

For a further (and previous) analysis of this problem, you might look for my article on El Reg, entitled "Copyfraud: Poisoning the Public Domain."

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/06/26/copyfraud/

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Boffin

Interesting article (I must have been out when it was published).

It does contain two major problems.

1) A new publishing actually can qualify for copyright protection, even of a public domain work. This is trivially achieved by correcting spelling errors/for modern spellings, applying new art, new type-faces, modernizing terminology, annotating and critiquing.

It's no different then Hamlet: http://www.google.com/search?q=+site:imdb.com+imdb+hamlet

Many of these are nearly identical to the play written by everyone's favorite bard. Every one of them is (or was) protected under copyright.

2) It makes a lot of reference to works which are Japanese in origin. I find this interesting, and slightly disingenuous when referencing copyright law, as Japanese law (AFAIK) lacks the concept of "Public Domain," instead favoring the author's "moral rights."

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Trivial?

"It's no different then Hamlet"

The work put in by actors and production staff over several months in putting together a film production of a play is no different than correcting a few spelling errors?

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Unhappy

Same thing has done for music on YouTube

search YouTube for a song - particularly a classic one - and you get pages and pages of wannabee Joni Mitchells or Bob Dylans warbling into a webcam.

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The price

Maybe, but at least you're not being charged for it in anything but time. On Amazon it's time AND money.

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ISBN

Just insist the books have an ISBN.

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