From Reuters:

Thousands of digital books, called ebooks, are being published through Amazon’s self-publishing system each month. Many are not written in the traditional sense.

Instead, they are built using something known as Private Label Rights, or PLR content, which is information that can be bought very cheaply online then reformatted into a digital book.

These ebooks are listed for sale — often at 99 cents — alongside more traditional books on Amazon’s website, forcing readers to plow through many more titles to find what they want.

Aspiring spammers can even buy a DVD box set called Autopilot Kindle Cash that claims to teach people how to publish 10 to 20 new Kindle books a day without writing a word.

This new phenomenon represents 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.

Much more in the article, including some words by Mark Coker of Smashwords.


  1. The sad thing is that one of the methods people use to resell books… creating new covers for the same book, to appeal to a different demographic… can be used by legitimate authors when trying to market their book. Now, the practice will immediately be considered suspect, and possibly render it detrimental as a marketing tool.

  2. I’ve flagged a lot of PLR spam on Smashwords. Mark Coker tries to stay on top of it, so reported offenders are gone pretty quickly. But there’s nothing to keep them from signing up under a new name, retitling their garbage and doing it over again.

  3. Congratulations Wikipedia! This is what you get when you make everything Totally Free For Anyone To Copy For Any Reason.

  4. It’s a storm in a teacup that will be sorted by the market and/or Amazon soon enough. Bit worth getting knickers in a knot over.

  5. Amazon seems to be chronically sloppy about who they let sell through them as long as they get their slice of the action. Last night I was checking out MacBook power adapters there. I found far more sellers than I expected. Some were almost certainly Apple grey-market products and legit. But judging by customer comments, others were poorly made look-alives pretending to be genuine. There were even some that were clearly not Apple-made but were illegally using copies of MagSafe connectors. I was surprised that Apple lawyers weren’t going after Amazon over that. That’s why I like to buy my Mac stuff from more ethical places like OWC. Their Apple resales are legitimate.

    The article above is about that same, “we don’t check what sells on our site” policy applied to ebooks. And when it comes to ebooks, Amazon’s sloppiness harms those who’re trying to bring good, legitimate products to market. Amazon may be growing the ebook market, but it is also doing it immeasurable harm.

    There are steps Amazon could take to block this book spamming, some of them similar to what eBay does to keep their sales clean. But I doubt they’ll act until knowledge of what is going on begins to harm their profitability, some highly visible legal action gets taken, or there is a FTC investigation of false and misleading advertising. Of the latter, I know of enough examples impacting my own books, that I recently talked to a lawyer about taking legal action.

    For the last, an FTC investigation, look for Amazon’s lawyers to make the claim, “Oh, that’s not us who said that. Look, we have a contract that says that third party sellers are responsible for all claims made.”It is Amazon’s responsibility if it’s posted on and especially if the finance charges pass through Amazon coffers. Amazon is a retail store not a bank and not an web hosting site. They are bear more than a little of the blame for these bogus ebooks and other dubious products.

  6. The problem also extends to public domain ebooks. I don’t think a week goes by that HG Wells doesn’t publish several books on Kindle. Pretty amazing for a guy who died in 1946. Several other public domain authors do the same in science fiction and fantasy.

    It makes the task of discovery even harder. The signal to noise ratio on Amazon is fairly low.

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