Spam 'Books' Flooding Kindle Store

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Amazon's self-publishing system is so easy to use that any old annoying spammer could figure out how to stick crappy books into the Kindle store. And they have.

That's the message from a timely and smart investigation by Reuters into the lame world of private label rights content, "information that can be bought very cheaply online then reformatted into a digital book."

Basically, spammers can come up with titles for books that they think people might want based on the kinds of information that drive Demand Media -- and then put a book in the Kindle store about it, without respect for quality. The books are usually priced at 99 cents and force consumers to wade through eHow-like content about a topic.

Take home improvement. If you search for titles released in the last 30 days, a "book" by Lisa Kuo comes up for $0.99, the cheapest item on the list. It's called, Home Repair~PLUS 21 you-can-do-it-now home repair tips!~A+, if that gives you any indication of how bad it is.

nichecontentkit.png

After you pay the buck and download it, this is what it looks like when you open it up. Going to the URLs referenced herein -- nichebooklets.com or NicheContentKit.com -- drives you into a linky, spammy trap.

The book itself is an ad for more ads.

"If you've been online for a while," we read, "then you know that it can be quite time consuming to come up with and write original content to help promote your business -- whether the content is for a niche site, an ebook, an e-report, an e-zine, a free reprint article or an e-mail course. The good news is... you can now create various Niche Content quickly and easily with the help of Niche Content Kit (TM)."

The "book" then promises that the Niche Content Kit will allow you to:

  • Create articles that are truly private label articles in 15 minutes or less.
  • Develop niche-specific e-mail courses, workshops or training materials.
  • Create e-reports and e-books you can sell, offer as a free download or even add as a bonus to a product you're already selling.
  • Populate your blog(s) with niche-specific content.
  • Create content you can use even for print newsletters, booklets, brochures, direct mail and handouts.

In fact, the booklet itself is repurposable. This is some kind of bizarro remix culture in which everything sucks and is for sale. The booklet I purchased is even part of the problem. "This means you can resell it, give it away or bundle it with any product you're offering as long as the contents and links remain unchanged." That is, you can propagate this crap as long as it keeps the ads for NicheContentKit.com intact.

Reuters notes that in 2002, just 33,000 "nontraditional" books were published. In 2010, there were 2.8 million! Sure, a lot of that is good stuff, but a ton of it is awful crap produced with a kit.

These fake e-books are an infection, a virus, a plague. I've been "online for a while" and I'm still shocked at how awful this private label content business is. To me, this is like a hardware store selling broken tools!

Amazon needs to get serious about shutting these people down.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com, where he also oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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