Amazon faces a spam attack

Spam is cluttering Amazon's Kindle bookstore in the shape of "spam-books."

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    The Kindle bookstore is being clogged with junk listings that are “far from being book-worthy."
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As if spam wasn’t bad enough in our email, now it’s on our virtual bookshelf.

The Kindle bookstore is clogged with junk listings that are “far from being book-worthy,” reports Reuters. Reuters calls the onslaught “the dark side of an online revolution that's turning the traditional publishing industry on its head by giving authors new ways to access readers directly.”

The spam-books are generally reformatted information that’s either purchased cheaply on line or reworked from free online content. Ironically, said Reuters, the problem has worsened in recent months due to online courses and ebooks teaching people how to put up a new Kindle “book” every day. Amazon vets its “Kindle Singles”, but doesn’t have a similarly strong program in place for the self-publishing store, says Gizmodo. (A defender on a “make money online!” site points out that not all cheaply purchased materials reformatted to make a buck are junk. Also, not every email from Nigeria is a scam.)

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Some spam booksellers, reports Ars Technica, “simply co-opt the name of a well-known author to attach to their books, and if he's no longer alive to defend himself, even better: the prolific e-book author Manuel Ortiz Braschi sells a version of 'Pursuit' by Lester Del Rey, who died in 1993, which Braschi claims to have edited.”

Commenters on the Ars Technica site jumped in with potential remedies: One poster suggested a refundable deposit, “returnable against revenue. Any legitimate author is going to recoup that quite quickly, but those listing thousands of books will find it prohibitively expensive.” Another suggested red-flagging any account submitting more than one Kindle book per week, so that a human could at least look over those books for problems. Another suggested running all new submissions through a plagiarism-detecting site like Turnitin.com.

Nice to see a modern boon – crowdsourcing – come up with such smart ideas for combating a modern bane.

Seattle writer Rebekah Denn blogs at eatallaboutit.com

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