Amazon's Plagiarized Erotica Problem; Enjoy Some Dusty 'Bookshelf Porn'

Today in books: Plagiarized erotic stories are making big money in the Amazon Kindle store, a taste of bookstore porn, and the curious marketing strategy for Jodi Kantor's The Obamas.

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Today in publishing and literature: Amazon has a plagiarized erotica problem, bookshelf porn is dusty and safe for work, and the curious marketing strategy that hurt Jodi Kantor's The Obamas.

There's no shortage of self-published erotica available in Amazon's Kindle store, a growing number of which have been lifted directly from online, NSFW forums like Literotica. In an interview with Adam Penenberg, a Literotica contributor named Boston Fiction Writer, who had a story "transposed into an ebook titled Massacre on Halloween and sold under Robin Scott's name" says she wants to hurt her plagiarist "even more than they hurt me, so that they'd think twice about stealing another story from me... she'd have no more fingers left to steal anyone's stories, ever again." Another author named Sharazade was less angry, and more weary with the entire self-publishing process, which requires "competing with cheaters" to sell books you already have written. "That kills the fun of it," she says. Amazon and other digital bookstores do remove plagiarized works when complaints are received, but the process is slow, and offending authors frequently just reupload their work under different titles. Penenberg offers a simple solution to the problem: just require self-published authors to supply a valid credit card number before they can publish on Kindle. "If an author, who could still publish under a pen name, were found to have violated someone else's copyright Amazon could charge that card $2,000 and ban her from selling again," he reasons. He also suggests Amazon could be more proactive and "run content through one of the many plagiarism detectors that are available--such as Turnitin or iThenticate--before an ebook is put on sale." The fact they don't raises questions about how interested they are in keeping plagiarists out of the Kindle store, since they really do help the company make money. [Fast Company]

Bookshelf porn is the new food porn. Witness: the wonderful new blog bookshelfporn.com, which features pictures of overstuffed bookshelves just existing. The subjects are dusty and desirable, and immediately made us wish we had six hours to waste aimlessly picking our way through each one. Here's our favorite, which comes from the Berkelouw Book Barn in Berrima, Australia, (Photo via donotstampthispage) [Bookshelf Porn]

When Gayle King asked Michelle Obama about Jodi Kantor's book The Obamas on This Morrrning, "what seemed to irk the first lady most,...was its presumptions about what lay within her heart and mind," observes Washington Post political book blogger Steven Levingston. While Levingston thinks that Kantor "just didn’t seem to have the goods on the Obamas" and is "partly to blame" for the book's pre-release hype, he points out there's been a trend in recent years of eagerly awaited political tomes that "over-promise and under-deliver." Remember O: A Presidential Novel, which was supposed to spark Primary Colors-style guessing games about which campaign insider wrote the book anonymously. Then there was Julian Assange: The Unauthorized Autobiography, Scottish publisher Canongate gave the WikiLeaks founder a $1.3 million advance, then rushed it into stores when he started having second thoughts. In its first week, the book sold only 644 copies. In Kantor's case, Levingston says that her publisher Little, Brown gave Kantor a $1 million advance and, realizing they "clearly paid too much" decided to embargo the book until the day of release in an attempt to build some buzz. Embargos approach may have been viable decades ago, but in 2012 the "balloon can pop nearly as soon as it’s launched, as Web sites, tweets and Facebook updates tell a tale different from the manufactured one the publisher sought to put over on the public." At which point the publisher is left with a book that has been thoroughly picked over. [The Washington Post]

Amazon is reporting that the authors who agreed to makes their books available in the Kindle Lending Library,  which allows Amazon prime members to "borrow" one book for free each month, have seen their royalty payments jump by 449% over the past month. Granted, the majority of the 5,000 titles available in the lending library are only there because major authors and publishers thought the idea was a money-loser and refused to include their titles. Authors who are in the library receive royalty payments from a monthly "fixed fee" fund worth $500,000, which Amazon puts up every month, and will soon be bumping up to $700,000 as a sweetner to lure more writers. The company credits the bulk of the royalty bounce to the increased exposure provided by being listed in the lending library. [GalleyCat]

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.