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Pirated books thrive on Amazon, authors say web giant ignores fraud

Amazon is awash with counterfeit versions of books, angering customers and authors who say the site is doing little to tackle book scammers.

Counterfeits sold by third parties through Amazon range from e-books to hardcovers and fiction to non-fiction – but the problem is particularly prevalent for textbooks, whose exorbitant sticker prices attract scammers, according to sources in the world. publishing industry.

“The damage to authors is very real,” Matthew Hefti, a novelist and lawyer who found counterfeit versions of his own book on Amazon, told The Post. “It’s such a pervasive problem.”

The end result is that readers get stuck with unreadable books that bleed ink or fall apart, while authors and publishers lose revenue to publishing pirates.

Amazon, however, takes a cut of third-party sales whether the books they ship are real or fake, giving the company no incentive to crack down on counterfeits, people in the industry complain. ‘editing. They say the site which is generally known for its fast service is excessively slow to respond to their concerns about counterfeits.

“Illegible Pages”

Martin Kleppmann, a computer scientist and academic, has seen Amazon criticize his data modeling textbook for years, with angry customers complaining of unreadable text, missing pages and other quality issues. He blames counterfeiters, who he says sold pirated versions.

“This book is very poorly printed,” reads an angry review of Kleppmann’s book. “Ink goes everywhere after 10 minutes of reading.”

“The pages are printed overlapping,” read another review. “About 20 unreadable pages.”

“Printed pages overlap,” said one reviewer.
counterfeit book
One of the cases of overlapping and misprinted pages in an allegedly pirated text.

A third reviewer complains that he had to order Kleppmann’s book from Amazon three times before receiving a usable copy. Both counterfeits had transparent paper and other defects.

“I see a lot of negative reviews complaining about the print quality,” Kleppmann told the Post, adding that his publisher had asked Amazon to fix the issue, but the company hadn’t done anything.

Amazon spokeswoman Julia Lee said in a statement to The Post, “We prioritize customer and author trust and are constantly monitoring and have measures in place to prevent product listings. forbidden.”

Amazon has spent more than $900 million worldwide and employed more than 12,000 people to protect customers against counterfeiting, fraud and other forms of abuse, Lee said.

An Amazon reviewer said he had to buy Kleppmann’s book three times to find a non-infringing copy.

But Kleppmann isn’t the only author to have fought counterfeits on Amazon. Google deep learning researcher Francois Chollet complained about counterfeiters in a popular Twitter thread earlier in July, accusing Amazon of doing nothing to crack down on widespread counterfeit versions of its manual.

“Anyone who has purchased my book on Amazon over the past few months has not purchased a genuine copy, but a substandard counterfeit copy printed by various fraudulent sellers,” Chollet wrote. “We have notified [Amazon] many times nothing happened. Fraudulent sellers have been in business for years.

Even the Post’s own columnist, Miranda Devine, saw fake versions of her Hunter Biden book, “Laptop from Hell,” released on Amazon last year.

After Devine editors notified Amazon of the issue, the knockoffs remained on the site for days, she said.

Amazon did not respond to a request for comment on the specific examples of infringements in this story.

‘Endless game of whack-a-mole’

Amazon typically asks authors and publishers to scour the site for infringing versions of their own books, then fight through layers of bureaucracy to have the infringers taken down, according to intellectual property attorney Katie Sunstrom.

“It’s the seller’s responsibility to get Amazon to stop counterfeiters and counterfeiters from selling on their system,” Sunstrom told the Post. “There is no impetus on Amazon to deal with it.”

Kleppmann’s publisher, O’Reilly Media, told The Post that he regularly files complaints with Amazon about fraudulent sellers, but the company is often slow to respond to their concerns.

“It’s an endless game of molesting where accounts just resurface days or weeks later,” Rachel Roumeliotis, O’Reilly’s vice president of content strategy, told The Post, adding that Amazon will respond to “individual symptoms discovered by publishers.” but does nothing to stop the “systemic flow” of counterfeits.

An example of an allegedly pirated book from Amazon.
An example of an allegedly pirated book from Amazon.

“Amazon spends a lot of time trying to combat the perception that its marketplace perpetuates fraud because it knows there’s a problem, but its platform and policies are designed in a way to make it easy,” he said. said Roumeliotis.

Counterfeits that spread unchecked can put authors’ careers at risk, according to Hefti.

Beyond the reduction in profits that authors make on books they have already published, counterfeit sales do not count in official sales figures. Declining sales figures will, in turn, make it harder for authors to sign future book deals, Hefti said.

“The model is so exploitative for writers,” he said. “I don’t even know if it’s even possible to fix it, at least not without Amazon having to spend a ton of money and lose a bunch of existing profits.”