Sharazade, a prolific author who has had 20 of her stories published with mainstream publishing houses, has discovered something quite sinister about the erotica section of Amazon's ebooks: a large majority of the self-published authors are plagiarizing content and selling it off as their own.
Sharazade--a pen name to protect her work--started to publish her stories as ebooks on Amazon's Kindle publishing program, as well as her clients work as she works as a book agent and freelance editor. Though her and her clients pieces were doing well in the ebook ranks, she started to notice a problem in some of the other published works by different authors: they were downright awful.
As Fast Company describes
, "Amazon is rife with fake authors selling erotica ripped word-for-word from stories posted on Literotica, a popular and free erotic fiction site that according to Quantcast attracts more than 4.5 million users a month, as well as from other free online story troves."
One author in particular, Maria Cruz, copied entire excerpts from authors on Literotica to sell ebooks on Amazon--roughly over 50 ebooks in total. Writers on Literotica are not compensated for their stories and are uploading them to the website for free, and with thousands of writers on the website, plagiarizers looking for quick money through Amazon's self-publishing program have lots to choose from. Other instances of copied and plagiarized content have been found in other genres, as well.
Sharazade also mentioned the poor quality of the ebooks in general. Titles and even author names are often misspelled and book covers have extreme pixelation, and are usually pictures ripped straight from Google Images. This also brings up another concerning issue: Amazon is not checking for plagiarized content, regardless if it is from an indie publishing house or self-published.
If enough people complain about a certain title, however, Amazon will take down the offending content. Unfortunately responses from Amazon can take weeks to months before any content is taken down. Also, the offenders can simply re-upload new, copied content--which is what Maria Cruz exactly did after enough people complained about her plagiarized work. Authors who are seeking compensation for their stolen content are fighting an up-hill battle, and most writers on Literotica consider this more so a hobby and don't have the time, or money, for a lawsuit.
Fast Company offers a solution, though: "...Why not require an author to submit a valid credit card before she can self-publish her works on the 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. Amazon could also run content through one of the many plagiarism detectors that are available--such as Turnitin or iThenticate--before an ebook is put on sale."
There are indeed many different programs online to authenticate books and articles online, even teachers use a program to detect plagiarism in students' papers nowadays. Why not do the same when professional writers are involved, trying to earn a profit from their work?
Self-publishing has become a highly popular niche in the industry, however, it has also been the blame for instances of theft and lower quality work and is not as respected as being published by a publishing company. Other self-published authors, like the now famous John Locke
, are unfairly put in the same category as the people stealing stories and passing it off as their own work.
Amazon makes a considerable profit from their ebook sales, especially now with their line-up of Kindle devices being quite popular. The Kindle Fire saw millions of sales, according to a press release by Amazon
. TechCrunch also reported
that ebook sales will more than likely close in on $10 billion by 2016 because mobile devices like the Kindle.
Self-published works in particular have seen a major jump in known titles, Publishing Perspectives writes
: "In 2010, there were 133,036 self-published titles released, and when the numbers come in for this year, that figure is expected to double or triple." In the same article, Publishing Perspectives also mentions Amazon owns 60 percent of the ebook market currently.
Because of this rapid change toward ebooks, digital publishing, and self-publishing, plagiarism will only continue to press on. Doing a quick search online can bring up thousands of how to guides on "viral book publishing," with kits of thousands of articles ready to be copied and pasted. Most websites, like Amazon, offering self-publishing also can take as little as a day to create an entire book and have it ready to be sold.
Then there are websites like Literotica, which can fall prey to stolen content while most powerhouses like Amazon are not checking if the up-loader is the actual author because of the rapidly climbing revenue from the sales. Instead, Amazon relies on a quick turn-around and more than likely can't keep up with the pace of self-published ebooks. Like mentioned previously, self-published works can be uploaded and ready to be sold on Amazon in as little as 24 hours. Other ebook distributors, like Apple's iBookstore, have a longer wait period because they are individually looking through the titles, searching for plagiarized work.
In the end, it comes down to competition for Amazon. Self-publishers have options when releasing their ebook, but, Amazon holds a majority and offer a chance for self-publishers to become just as prolific as John Locke. A wait period to check for plagiarized content won't slow that down.