Amazon is flooding with fake editions of books, angering customers and authors alike, who say the site is doing little to fight plagiarism fraudsters.
Publishing industry sources say counterfeits sold by third parties through Amazon range from e-books to hardcover and fiction to non-fiction — but the issue is especially widespread for textbooks, whose skyrocketing Sticker prices attract scammers, say publishing industry sources.
“The damage to writers is very real,” Matthew Hefty, a novelist and lawyer who has found fake versions of his book on Amazon, told The Post. “It’s such a widespread problem.”
The end result is that readers are stuck with obscure books that bleed or fall apart with ink, while authors and publishers lose revenue from publishing piracy.
Amazon, however, cuts third-party sales whether the books they ship are real or fake, giving the company no incentive to crack down on counterfeits, people in the publishing industry. They say that the site, usually known for quick service, is extremely slow to respond to their concerns about counterfeits.
Martin Kleppman, a computer science researcher and academic, has seen one-star Amazon reviews of his data modeling textbook roll in over the years, with angry customers complaining about unreadable text, missing pages, and other quality issues. He blames the counterfeiters, whom he says have sold pirated versions.
“This book is so badly printed,” reads an indignant review of Klepman’s book. “After 10 minutes of reading the ink goes everywhere.”
“Pages are printed overlapped,” reads another review. “About 20 pages unreadable.”
A third reviewer holds that he had to order Klepman’s book from Amazon three times before he could get a usable copy. The two counterfeit notes had see-through papers and other flaws.
“I see a lot of negative reviews complaining about print quality,” Kleppman told The Post. He said his publisher has asked Amazon to fix the issue, but the company has done nothing.
“We prioritize customer and author trust and continually monitor and take measures to prevent prohibited products from being listed,” Amazon spokeswoman Julia Lee said in a statement to The Post.
Lee said Amazon spent more than $900 million globally and employed more than 12,000 people to protect customers from counterfeiting, fraud and other forms of abuse.
But Klepman isn’t the only writer struggling with counterfeits on Amazon. Google deep learning researcher Francois Cholet complained about the fraudsters in a popular Twitter thread in early July, accusing Amazon of doing “nothing” to crack down on widespread fake versions of its textbook.
“Anyone who has purchased my book from Amazon in the past few months has not purchased a genuine copy, but a low-quality counterfeit copy printed by various fraudulent sellers,” wrote Cholet. “We have informed [Amazon] Many times, nothing happened. Fraudulent sellers have been in activity for years. ,
Even The Post’s own columnist Miranda Devine saw fake versions of her book about Hunter Biden, “Laptop From Hell,” spread on Amazon last year.
He said that after Divine’s publishers notified Amazon of the issue, the fakes remained on the site for several days.
Amazon did not respond to a request for comment on the specific instances of counterfeiting in this story.
‘Endless game of odd-a-mole’
According to intellectual property attorney Katie Sunstrom, Amazon typically requires authors and publishers to comb the site for counterfeit versions of their books, then fight through layers of bureaucracy to remove the fakes.
“The burden is on the seller to prevent Amazon from selling infringers and fraudsters on their systems,” Sunstrom told The Post. “There’s no incentive to take care of it on Amazon.”
Klepman’s publisher, O’Reilly Media, told The Post that it regularly files complaints with Amazon about fraudulent sellers, but the company is often slow to address their concerns.
“It’s an endless game of whack-a-mole, where accounts just restart after a few days or weeks,” Rachel Rumeliotis, O’Reilly vice president of content strategy, told The Post. But does nothing to stop the “systematic flow” of the fake.
“Amazon spends a lot of time trying to counter the notion that its marketplace perpetuates fraud because it is known to be a problem – yet its platform and policies are built in a way that facilitates it,” Rumeliotis said.
According to Hefty, fakes spreading unchecked can jeopardize a writer’s career.
In addition to a cut in profits that authors discontinue already published books, counterfeit sales are not counted in official sales figures. Lower sales figures, in turn, will make it more difficult for authors to sign future book deals, Hefty said.
“The model is very exploitative for writers,” he said. “I don’t even know if there’s a fix, at least not without Amazon spending a ton of money and losing a bunch of existing profits.”