Take a stroll through any of Amazon's book categories in its Kindle Store and look for books that you may consider to be classics and you'll find free versions of many of these books are available. That's fair enough, many of these are well out of copyright and have been converted to eBooks by the likes of the Gutenberg project as a public service. But you'll almost certainly find alternative versions of these books at dollar prices as well, which seems a little strange. I'm no expert, but I suspect that in many cases the alternatives are being published by people whose input is almost irrelevant and imperceptible.
I may be old fashioned, but I find it objectionable that people feel it right to get something for nothing as a right. Don't get me going on investment bankers and fuel speculators! For those people who gave up their free time to convert the classics on behalf of Project Gutenberg it must be galling to see others trying to turn a profit out of their efforts.
It seems it's more widespread, though, and not limited to out-of-copyright books. Mark Coker, CEO of Smashwords spoke out at in interview with CNN Money. He states that his company, Smashwords, frequently has blatant copies of books submitted, copies his team spot and reject. Yet he sees the same books appearing on Amazon's Kindle site.
There are variations, too. Last year I spotted a scam where someone was self publishing a dieting book under the name of Ray Sullivan - I initially assumed that there was another Ray Sullivan on the planet - hard to believe with such an uncommon surname, I know - but a little digging revealed a swathe of books with very similar titles, all the same file size (small, BTW) and all apparently by authors who had other, completely dissimilar books listed on Amazon. I never peeked inside the book, let alone downloaded a copy, but I guess the advice for weight control was probably limited to 'eat less, exercise more' - look out for my own four word diet manual appearing soon for free. Anyway, I reported it to Amazon who spent more effort denying it looked suspicious than looking, although the books were eventually delisted.
Now the current trend is for spoof titles to be pushed out. Books such as 'I Am The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo' and 'Twilight New Moon' are listed, clearly ripping off popular titles with apparently mediocre content, presumably with the intent of misleading buyers. Now I can hear at least one of my two readers shouting foul while pointing at 'Da Dan Brown Code', now published as 'The Last Simple'. Yes, it might look like I'm being a little hypocritical here, however I did signpost that book clearly as a parody and never tried to pass it off as a Dan Brown book.
And if you search the Kindle Store for 'Dan Brown' you will find books with his name on that clearly aren't his - I'm still unsure if they are a rip off or a coincidence.
The point is, Amazon appear to be really lax about what they allow to be uploaded, not just on the Kindle Store but also on Createspace. It's a dodgy way to do business, leaving the rat smelling to your own customers. Sure, you'll always have poorly written books, badly formatted text and illogical plotlines in eBooks - and I may or may not have left Dan Brown behind at this point - but blatent rip offs and unflagged parodies are going to hack off a buying public and tar a fragile self publishing movement unecessarily, and that's a shame. Amazon are a big company, they need to act like one.
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Digital Life Form is available on Amazon.com in paperback for $8 (or for £5 plus P&P in the UK for UK readers - contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org for details)
The Last Simple is available on Amazon.com in paperback for $6.
The Journeymen is available for $9
Skin is available for $10
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