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Kindle Spam Highlights the Worst Side of Easy Self-Publishing

The Kindle has done a lot to bring publishing from fantasy to reality for new authors everywhere.  In an industry previously dominated by publishing houses that have a track record of refusing to take risks on new things, it provides an easy way for somebody to get their work out there and let it stand on its own merits.  This is not without its issues, however.  Under the old system we had some regulation, even if it was ridiculously over-restrictive.  Now, we can only hope that the best rises to the top.

The downside of the Kindle and its self-publishing options has generally been seen to be a lack of editorial input.  Bad books get published, poorly edited books get published, basically anything that people churn out can hit the digital shelves the day the author hits the Submit button.  Unfortunately, that’s not really all we have to worry about.  There were always going to be a few less than original titles that were meant purely to get the most cash for the least effort and to hell with the customer, but now a method has been devised for anybody who wants to put in the effort to put out 10-20 new books a day without even bothering to write.

The form that this takes can be anything from republished PLR content (content that the “author” buys the rights to republish under their own name) to the deliberately malicious.  The former are interesting in that they at least have the potential to be real, quality works, even if they aren’t exactly originals.  A system calling itself “Autopilot Kindle Cash” claims to be able to teach people to publish as many as 20 of these recycled eBooks per day at minimal expense.  For the most part, it is a load of worthless writing that offers little enjoyment, advice, or information, but that doesn’t mean that the occasional gem might not appear.  I can’t say that I support the idea, but it is the lesser of two evils.

On the more unpleasant side, we have scam links.  Some of these will come at the end of PLR content.  Others will just be thrown in wherever is convenient.  I’ve personally come across several that took me to scam sites promising easy money, but there is no reason to believe that there aren’t quite a few that link even more unpleasant content.

It would be unreasonable to expect Amazon to have every eBook checked out before publication.  Given the size of the platform, it just wouldn’t make sense.  To be fair, they even respond promptly to complaints by bringing down the offending eBook or author and offering refunds.  It seems a little strange to have to deal with this sort of issue while shopping for books, though.

For now, readers might want to watch for vaguely worded product descriptions, books with few or no reviews on them, and authors who seem to put out a lot of books all at once.  Most importantly, as with anything that can send you around on the internet, be careful what links you click on.  It’s a shame that the Kindle isn’t entirely safe from this sort of abuse, and I hope to see something fix it in the near future, but it’s simple enough to stay safe if you’re cautious.

2 comments to Kindle Spam Highlights the Worst Side of Easy Self-Publishing

  • As others have suggested, Kindle Spam could be reduced by adding a nominal cost to self-published content (say, $10 per book). You could even make it refundable after a month if no one complains. Any legitimate author will have little trouble paying it, but if you’re churning out 10-20 books a day, that $10 adds up quickly.

    It would also serve to verify accounts, making (for example) a one book per day publishing limit much more enforceable.

  • matthew

    Isaac,

    I always hesitate to suggest anything that has the potential to punish people making honest use of the system. Not only would a per-book payment seem to penalize producers of shorter, more frequent releases, it seems like it opens up the potential for abuse, even with the refund option, unless it is implemented perfectly. The goal has to be to punish the abusers while leaving the good crowd unharmed, or else too little is gained.

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