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Spammers Assault the Amazon Kindle Store

OK, if Amazon can kill Internet spam, all is forgiven and we start fresh.

Spammers have begun flooding with Amazon Kindle bookstore with bogus e-books, Reuters reports. The story quotes one source as saying: “One tactic involves copying an e-book that has started selling well and republishing it with new titles and covers to appeal to a slightly different demographic.” Cynics might joke that this is just “publishing as usual,” but this is potentially injurious to Amazon’s reputation. . . .

The article goes on to state that “Aspiring spammers can even buy a DVD box set called Autopilot Kindle Cash that claims to teach people how to publish 10 to 20 new Kindle books a day without writing a word.” Many spammers are utilizing Private Label Rights, or PLR content, which “is information that can be bought very cheaply online then reformatted into a digital book.”

Amazon Gets Into Books Seriously

The thing that many of us publishing types have long speculated about has finally happened. Amazon is doing a general trade imprint and trying to poach authors. Moby Lives has the snarky overview:

A Crain‘s report notes that Amazon has been looking for someone to head the effort for months, and “High on its wish list was someone with connections to bestselling authors that the new imprint could effectively poach, helping to jumpstart its business and make books from the company a must-have even for brick-and-mortar players that consider Amazon their archrival.”

Calling the move “a full-on assault of publishers across many of their publishing markets,” Michael Wolf observes in a column for GigaOm that “Amazon has essentially become a book industry ‘in a box’, having completed the vertical integration of the book industry by launching their own imprints.” And with the news about Kirshbaum, he says, “that box has just gotten a whole lot bigger.”

This is obviously a big deal, although how much of a big deal remains to be seen. As we’ve already witnessed with the Amazon Kindle price wars and Andrew Wylie’s Odyssey Editions, it’s not at all clear that the publishing industry will sit by as Amazon takes the best of its talent.

That said, if Amazon gets a large chunk of said talent, things begin to change substantially. And by “talent” I mean known commodities who sell well, not necessarily great authors. For the latter, I imagine most of them will continue publishing with small and moderately large presses, and for those entities things probably won’t change all that much. It’ll just be a different house poaching the authors that they spend years bringing along into a something borderline marketable/profitable.

Ebooks vs Print Sales

Like with Michael Orthofer’s site, the large majority of books being purchased through links on this site continue to be print, although electronic format has steadily risen. This despite Amazon’s new claim that it now sells more electronic books than print.

Like Michael, I can’t explain why my site stats don’t reflect this, though I think it has something to do with the few megabestsellers (like The Millennium Trilogy) that have taken off in electronic format. I’m guessing that those are driving the majority of Amazon’s ebook sales, as well as Amazon Singles and perhaps Amazon construing subscriptions to blogs and such as “books.” (I don’t know that they do this, but wouldn’t put it past them.)

Other than that, I would guess that people who really, rally like books still prefer print books to ebooks. I certainly read my share of electronic books these days, but they’ve never felt “real” to me in the sense that print books do. My go-to example is that if I read an ebook and really like it, I will immediately go out and buy a print version of it to have in my library. Probably people who see books as more of commodities and time-killers won’t have that same perception and will tend to be happy with the electronic version, particularly since the gratification is truly instant now and the price tends to be lower.

LitKicks Goes Kindle

The ever-interesting Levi Asher has started up his own line of ebooks for the Amazon Kindle, promising one every month for the next twelve months. as he puts it:

You see, the reason I’ve been prickly about this whole e-book thing all along is that I’ve always wanted to publish in electronic formats, and I’m thrilled that the technology is finally good enough to make the dream a reality. The business plan I’m about to begin executing is an aggressive one (I never do things halfway). I’m going to publish one book a month for the next twelve months.

The books, he says, will range from extensions of popular LitKicks content to “completely new and original works.” And you can now order for $2.99 the first title, Why Ayn Rand Is Wrong (and Why It Matters).

As Levi puts it:

†he first title, Why Ayn Rand Is Wrong (and Why It Matters) is a completely new and rewritten version of a series of essays I’ve posted here during the past two months. The great comments and feedback these articles received helped me to spot the weak points in my own writings, and I’ve reconceived the whole set of essays as a unified work with a new structure and many rewritten sections.

Ads in the “Kindle with Special Offers”

This new Kindle with ads just seems like a really dumb idea to me. I’m not some sort of anti-ad purist; rather, this just doesn’t make sense from a consumer point of view. For a one-time, $25 discount in the price of the Kindle ($139 to $114) you get the “Kindle with Special Offers” which asks you to to tolerate “screen saver” type ads for all of eternity (or at least until you’re forced to upgrade to the next Kindle). Who wouldn’t just pay the extra $25?

Then there’s the whole name business surrounding this. The “Kindle with Special Offers”? How long did they take coming up with that one? As if anyone in their right mind will see it as a sales point that you can now get “special offers” along with the books that you pay for.

But most of all, I think the whole “ads with something you pay for” thing is very touchy territory. Movies are the classic example of a product where we’ve been acculturated to not expect ads–because we’ve paid a significant amount of money to watch the movie–and so ads before a movie tend to piss people off. (I for one have seen people yelling at the screen with alarming frequency.)

I think the same thing goes here. If you’re paying $100+ for an e-reader and then anywhere from $9.99 – $14.99 for a book, ads are going to feel very inappropriate. They’re just not something we’re comfortable with in books.

As a NY Times Artsbeat post notes on a cigarette-industry -fueled bout of advertising in books in the 1970s:

But the bulk of the advertising, Collins wrote, came from cigarette companies, who were looking for new ways to push their product after the 1969 federal ban on television and radio advertising. By 1975, the Lorillard Tobacco Company had placed ads in some 540 million paperbacks. The focus was mainly on pulp titles like “Purr, Baby, Purr” and “Group Sex,” but Lorillard also placed ads in some 74,000 copies of Toni Morrison’s novel, “The Bluest Eye.”

Authors and readers alike assailed the ads, with one columnist lamenting, “We will see the day when we turn a page of Hemingway or Wolfe … and the next page will say Are Your Underarms Really With It?” The ads began to fade away in the early 1980s, thanks in part to new author contracts forbidding unauthorized ads.

Now what would actually be cool is if with your special ad-enabled Kindle you also got the right to purchase books at a further discount, something from like 10 to 20 percent off. that would actually be interesting, and justifiably fair from a consumer point.

But of course, my suspicion is that this is all beside the fact. My suspicion is that this is all a big game Amazon is playing with itself to test out the ad waters as it gears up for a much more meaningful, more serious move at becoming a major player in digital advertising. It makes sense, and, as Google has shown us, it’s one of the few proven ways to really make a buck online.


The Surrender is Veronica Scott Esposito’s “collection of facts” concerning how she embraced her true gender.


Two long essays of 10,000 words each on sex in—and out of—literature . . .

The first essay dives in to Nicholson Baker’s “sex trilogy,” explaining just what Baker is up to here and why these books ultimately fail to be as sexy as Baker might wish.

From there the book moves on to the second essay, which explains just why Spaniard Javier Marías does right what Baker does wrong . . .


5 essays. 2 interviews.

All in all, over 25,000 words of Latin American literary goodness.

3 never-before-published essays, including “The Digression”—a 4,000-word piece on the most important digression in César Aira’s career.

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