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If Amazon is Clogged With Spam Ebooks, Who is Buying Them?

Jun 18, 2011   [permalink]

I saw this article, saying that spammers have resorted to publishing spam ebooks. Lots of copies of basically the same content from different people or even the same people.

The question to me is, why are people buying these spam books?

If there aren't any buyers, it will die out as unprofitable.

And aren't duped buyers grousing to Amazon if they do get duped by some junk content? Amazon would then presumably remove the book and even the 'author' if found to be flagrant. Amazon takes months to pay so they could even deny payment.

But if nobody buys them, they aren't really hurting anything (other than using a fraction of a penny of Amazon's storage space). If they don't show up on search results, nobody will know they even exist. If they do show up but people review them as "this is just spam", who would bother buying them?

In the article, there's a quote, "'This is why email spam has become such a problem -- it costs nothing,' she said. 'If people can put out 12 versions of a single book under different titles and authors, and at different prices, even if they sell just one or two books, they can make money. They win and the loser is Amazon.'"

I'm not sure I buy that logic. If, as indicated in the article, they list them for sale at 99¢, sell 1-2 copies (at which price Amazon only pays 35% royalty), they're only earning 35-70¢ for their entire effort on that 'title.' It takes time to set up and upload each title with unique info in it. It takes even more time to create a new account, if they don't want Amazon noticing, Hey, Look, this 'author' has 500 ebooks listed and they're all nearly identical. Seems pretty easy for Amazon to spot to spammers. Say it takes a total of an hour from start to finish for one title. So that's less than a dollar for what amounts to a decent-sized chunk of an hour's work, with a high possibility of getting caught, and thus earning $0. Wow, 35¢ an hour.

As for stolen copies of other people's work, that's dangerous. Copyright infringement can carry some stiff penalties if you sue them. Because Amazon pays them, Amazon knows the true (bank) identity of the thief (which, thanks to the Patriot Act means they'll likely know the real human and where they are). So if they steal your stuff, they're in danger of a big fat lawsuit with big fat damages. You might actually hope someone pirates your stuff to sell on Amazon!

The quote is wrong in one regard, however. Amazon is not entirely the loser. Amazon keeps 65¢ of those 99¢ titles. That's an incentive to allow it. Amazon's incentive to stop it is if the sales make the readers sour on Amazon as selling junk. But if readers aren't complaining...

I still come back to the visibility side of it. If these are that ever-present, and selling better than 1-2 copies, then these guys have learned something about how to get their material seen.

It's hard enough to get one's stuff noticed and purchased when it's good, unique content. :) So perhaps the real question is, if people are buying a lot of copies of these books of random noise, what are the spammers doing better at marketing than we are? :) Maybe we can learn something from them.

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