I remember back around 2002 doing a Google search for ebooks. Most of the results that popped up were ebooks about getting rich, transforming your life in some way, how to work at home and be your own boss, but mostly how to get rich.
Another common thread running through the early days of ebooks was the concept of ‘reselling.’ Reselling means you buy the ebook, then you have the right to turn around and sell it again, often for a profit.
The ebooks in those days were mediocre, at the very best. Most were only available in PDF format. The content was poorly written, sometimes riddled with too many errors to count. A lot of the ebook content seemed like it was scraped together with no attention being made to quality.
Now that ebooks are going mainstream, I don’t see much of that anymore. But whenever there’s a new, popular way to disseminate information, there are plenty of people willing to take advantage of it for a quick profit.
Ebooks Are The New Spam
A recent post written by Mike Essex details how ebook ‘authors’ (I use that term loosely) are flooding popular ebookstores with what amounts to spam:
Once a ‘writer’ has scraped their content for the web they can then have their eBook live in less than 24 hours on the Kindle platform, and even less time on 3rd party sites like Smashwords who aggregate eBooks to multiple formats in one go. This puts a minimal time pressure on the creator, who can be earning money on their content relatively quickly. Worse still if they survive a financial quarter without being caught, it’s an easy pay day.
The post then explains that one person can literally produce thousands of ebooks in a relatively short amount of time:
This is how creators like Manuel Ortiz Braschi can have created 2,879 eBooks in just a couple of years. Many of his books have reviews listing formatting errors and he covers such as wide range of topics it’s impossible to believe he is really an expert in all these topics. Most reviewers also cite that they won’t buy an eBook again, therefore Manuel has destroyed the platform for honest creators.
Think about it, with that many ebooks out on the market, he can charge 99 cents per ebook and have a healthy payday if he sells one of each book every day. One can do better selling trashy ebooks than with adsense:
Even pricing an eBook at a dollar or 99p a scammer can make a 30% royalty on Amazon. This is more than the average AdWords click – the financial factor in content farm growth – and is the payout for scammers using the eBook platform to hold their content. It’s a cheap price point that lowers customer expectations and allows these spammy books to survive. Most of the bad reviews for Manuel Ortiz Braschi seem to let him off because the books are cheap. This is bad for anyone else that wants to sell their book at a good price, as they’re labelled with the same poor expectations.
It’s that last part that ebook writers should be worried about. The more ‘ebook spam’ that floods the market, the less ebooks will be seen as a viable and credible alternative to print books.
Furthermore, this will put emerging authors at a disadvantage. When a new author publishes an ebook, he/she will probably use a the 99 cent to $1.99 price point to give readers a chance to try them out. If most ebooks in that price range turn out to be ripoff spam, then most consumers will start ignoring anything in that price range.
I’m hoping that as the technology improves, ebookstores will be able to weed out these spammers with better filters. Also, readers should be proactive and report any ebooks they have purchased that fall into the spam category. If everyone does their part, we can keep the skyrocketing growth ebooks have seen continue.
P.S. Do a quick Google search for Manuel Ortiz Braschi and you can see for yourself how many ebooks he has ‘authored.’