Authors Spamming Amazon With Fake Books, Knock-Offs

Fortune reports that the tide of fake books littering Amazon's Kindle store is rising to the point where it's easy to be fooled into shelling out money for the wrong title. The magazine goes so far as to call the online retailer "Spamazon," as the flood of fake books resembles a flood of spam filling an inbox. Most of the copycat books uncovered by Fortune were actually created using CreateSpace, Amazon's tool for self-publishing ebooks.

"It's the book equivalent of spam," says lawyer Eric Rayman, a former attorney for Simon & Schuster. "Amazon should be taking steps to stop this. It's bad for consumers and it's bad for the book business."

Here are a few examples of the "spam" ebooks parading around actual titles. One of the more popular knock-offs was a Steve Jobs biography written by Isaac Worthington which was based on exclusive interviews with Jeve Stobs. Now removed from the store, it featured huge print that was similar to the language used on the Wikipedia page about the former Apple CEO. The back cover of the book also provided the exact same text.

The copycats don't stop there. Other fake books found on the Kindle store included Thirty-Five Shades of Grey by J. D. Lyte, I Am The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Twilight New Moon, Fast and Slow Thinking by Karl Daniels and more. "There is no such expert, it's a rip-off. The comments on it are quite amusing – rather shocking that Amazon allows this sort of thing," said Nobel Prize-winning economist Daniel Kahneman, author of bestseller Thinking, Fast and Slow.

Karen Peebles, author of the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo copycat book, told Fortune that she has self-published around 10,000 books through Amazon's CreateSpace tool, some of which are under an alias. "I am a single mother who home schools her children," Peebles said, who added that she sells "thousands and thousands" of books a month. "Self-publishing is a great way for me to make income. I receive a pretty nice royalty every month."

Peebles went on to admit that the CreateSpace guidelines are minimal at best. Even more, Amazon has never rejected or even questioned her about the books she writes, including the one with a nearly identical title to the international bestseller by the late Swedish author Stieg Larsson. However she lied to Forbes about the publish date of her Dragon Tattoo copycat, saying her book came out first. In fact the original was published first in 2004 and then released in the States in 2008. Peebles' version has a 2008 copyright but wasn't published by Amazon until mid-2010.

Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords which is a distributor of self-published books, told Fortune that spam books are a growing problem for consumers and the book industry. He regularly receives books that are exact copies of other books, or a compilation of material that's already readily available on the Internet. Odd formatting is usually a sign that the book isn't legitimate, and he typically refuses to distribute the suspicious titles. Yet most of the time they wind up on Amazon and other ebook retailer shelves anyway.

"I'm surprised Amazon lets books like these go through," Coker said. "Whoever created these books are obviously trying to confuse consumers."

Forbes said that after it contacted Amazon late last week about the apparent fakes, the company removed the pages for the Worthington and Daniels books from its site. "A spokeswoman says Amazon is no longer selling the books," the paper said. "Both books, though, are still for sale on other sites with Amazon's CreateSpace listed as the publisher."

Amazon reportedly has a process in place to detect and remove books that don't "improve the customer experience," and so far has rejected or removed "thousands" of books. "We expect to keep improving our approach," an Amazon spokeswoman told the paper.

Kevin started taking PCs apart in the 90s when Quake was on the way and his PC lacked the required components. Since then, he’s loved all things PC-related and cool gadgets ranging from the New Nintendo 3DS to Android tablets. He is currently a contributor at Digital Trends, writing about everything from computers to how-to content on Windows and Macs to reviews of the latest laptops from HP, Dell, Lenovo, and more. 

  • tramit
    They need to set up a filtering service.
  • Parsian
    we seem to love trash things, do we? :S

  • lamorpa
    Maybe I misunderstand something, but isn't Karen Peebles just a criminal? Does she really think that plagiarizing and using dishonest methods is OK because "I am a single mother who home schools her children"? Schools them in what? Amoral and Criminal activity?
  • "interviews with Jeve Stobs"

    didn't realize folks who read books were so illiterate......
  • Maxor127
    I actually wondered about how easy it would be to do something like this and how profitable it would be. I wonder what the legality of it is. There's probably a difference between plagiarism and using a misleading title. Just like how ripoff movies like "Transmorphers," "Terminators," and "Battle of Los Angeles" can exist.
  • gm0n3y
    On a somewhat related note, I bought a book from the Kobo ebook store a while ago that ended up not being in English (it was a translation of an English language book). There was no text on the page stating that the language was anything other than English. One would assume that a book sold on a website would be in the same language as the website unless otherwise stated. Anyway, I contacted them to swap for the English language version of the book or, if that failed, get a refund and they refused.
  • aevm
    Amazon also has a big problem with spam in physical books, IMO. For example go to, select Books, type stargate as the word to search for, sort by publication date. Items 2 and 269 are legitimate (maybe 267 too, not sure), and everything in between is garbage, mostly copied from wikipedia.

    For example why does Amazon Canada allow items with titles like:

    Stargate: Aflevering Van Stargate, Personage Uit Stargate, Technologie in Stargate, Volk Uit Stargate, Lijst Van Afleveringen Va by Bron Wikipedia (Paperback - Jul 2011)

    Kanadai Filmek: Angyalsz V, Stargate: Continuum, a Fantasztikus N Gyes ?'S AZ EZ St Utaz , Csillagkapu: AZ Igazs G L D Ja, F?r Sz IV by Forr?'s Wikipedia (Paperback - Aug 2011)

    Fiktiva Milit Rer: Fiktiva Generaler, Milit Rer I Tintin, Knasen, Obi-WAN Kenobi, Lista Ver Rollfigurer I Stargate, James Bond by K. Lla Wikipedia (Paperback - Aug 2011)

    This used to work very nicely about two years ago. Now the good stuff is so deeply covered in junk that you can't even find it any more. I hope they fix it soon...
  • svdb
    Phony books existed long before Amazon. Nothing new here. All you need is provide better information so the customer wouldn't confuse one book for another.
    Do you really want a comity to determine which books are allowed to be published and which are not? Haven't we had enough censorship with SOPA, PIPA and CISPA already?
  • olaf
    they should just make it so that you could randomly read a chapter befor buying or in smaller books some randomly selected pages( in reading orde so you can make sense of it)
  • The correct term is a "knock off" and they have always existed. How many knockoff novels of Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code were published: mostly by major publishing companies. It's always a good idea to have a clue what you're talking about before you open mouth and insert foot.