First aired on Day 6 (03/05/12)
Have you ever read 35 Shades of Grey
? Or Twilight New Moon
? Or how about Fast and Slow Thinking
? Or Steve Jobs
by Walter Worthington? If you've never read them but the titles sound familiar, that's because they're knock-off books that were sold on internet retailer Amazon.
Fortune magazine reporter Stephen Gandel recently explored the world of knock-off books in this interesting piece
. Some customers have ordered one of these bogus titles thinking it was the real thing (at about the same cost), only to receive a poorly constructed product.
"You'd get something resembling a pamphlet," Gandel told Day 6's Brent Bambury recently. "It would be a bound book, but it would be about a third of the actual book that it's trying to copy. And when I looked into these books, the formatting was very weird. They were often printed at 25 font, each page has maybe 50 words on them, some lines have five words, some lines have one word. It looks like something someone copied and pasted and didn't bother formatting."
But isn't this kind of fraudulent publishing illegal?
"It's hard to say what's legal here. You can't copyright the title of a book or a movie. I mean the porn industry wouldn't be around if you could copyright titles, and certainly 'Steve Jobs' is not something you could copyright, so that part of it's not illegal, but as with any product, it's purposely illegal to deceive consumers, and that's what I think these 'authors' were doing."
"Authors" like 'Walter Worthington' (the real Jobs biographer is Walter Isaacson) had used CreateSpace, Amazon's tool for self-publishers, to make and distribute their books. The service doesn't act like a traditional publisher in that it acquires and edits books. When Gandel contacted Amazon for a comment, he was told the internet giant had taken these books off the website and was making improvements to its vetting system.
But Gandel believes these knock-off books are "just the tip of iceberg," and sees a growing problem with "spam" e-Books composed of copy-and-pasted information. It doesn't take much to design an authentic looking e-Book and consumers are usually unable to preview much of the product before purchasing it.