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Old 07-15-2017, 04:57 PM   #1
Cinisajoy
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Interesting article on Kindle and Scammers

This was in my Google feed today and I thought it was interesting.
https://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/...-kindle-store/

The reason I thought it was interesting was because last week someone here posted a non-fiction book that was supposedly a best seller in a couple of sub-categories. It turned out to be a fake book.

It also shows why it is so hard to find a decent book with a quick search on Amazon.

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Old 07-15-2017, 05:31 PM   #2
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The problem is that Amazon allows any content. That means it's rather hard to find well written books from self-published authors. The quality is all over the place. Amazon's search is very poor for such a large site. Actually, Amazon's search is very poor even if they were a new start up.
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Old 07-16-2017, 07:04 AM   #3
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"Amazon asked me to compile more information for them – and I did that with a report submitted on Wednesday."

If a company asked me to do their work, I'd ask for a salary, a relocation check, and a divorce attorney. Not necessarily in that order.
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Old 07-16-2017, 09:12 AM   #4
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Cinisajoy. Thanks for posting this.

As those who have read my posts know, I am a huge fan of Amazon, and my posts are generally but not exclusively in their favour. I have been following this whole saga, in the expectation that Amazon would find a solution. In earlier days, since Amazon sets the pool for KU on some unknown basis, I was sceptical about claims of money being taken from Author's pockets by these scams. Unfortunately, it seems the scamming is now so blatant and widespread that there can be little doubt of it.

Hopefully someone from Amazon is reading this. In this hope I reluctantly have a message which I hope will be passed on to those in the company who can do something about it. This is a fundamental issue. Whilst there is probably no easy way of totally eliminating these scams, eliminating all but a very few is not rocket science. Failure to do so, even when concerned authors and readers spoon-feed you with the problem, shows that the issue is not being taken seriously. And it needs to be. The situation is a joke, pure and simple. Some basic electronic monitoring will sound the alarm bells on many of these scams, and reports from authors and readers will continue to flow in. The names of many of the serial offenders are known, and Amazon is certainly not shy about taking action against people for much lesser offences. In fact, this is one other aspect where I have been critical of Amazon in the past. You need to actually allocate some real live competent people to take the necessary action. Given the size of KU I suspect the additional wages and benefits would be a drop in the bucket. As the author of the article writes, significant goodwill is being lost by inaction and the perception of simply not caring. The alternative explanation, which I do not believe, is a staggering level of incompetence. Not good enough. You have a reputation and significant goodwill to protect.

And make no mistake, this will be an ongoing arms race. I love the system of paying by pages actually read. It is far superior to the previous system which encouraged not only scamming but shorter and poorer quality works. I must admit that when you first introduced the new system I did wonder just how detailed the information Amazon was able to collect from Kindle devices and applications was, since the obvious scam for those so inclined was to publish a very long work and use the click farms to borrow and simply go to the last page. This does appear to have happened, and I'm not sure to what extent it is possible even now. It seems to be quite apparent that the data collected on reading is simply not sufficient to detect these scams. And personally I would not be happy to see my reading habits subjected to the level of scrutiny required to rigorously police KU. However, scamming the system can never be entirely eliminated with the current level of detail.

Having said that, much can be done with what you have, and the level of scamming can be kept to a minimum. But it requires an ongoing commitment and resources. Effectively the situation is an arms race. One loophole will be closed and scammers will move on to the next. Smart scammers who are not too greedy will probably get away with it. But you can keep things within manageable levels.

I love KU. I think the system of payment by pages read is far superior to alternative methods, but as things stand is also far more open to scamming. Please keep the system, but devote the time and resources necessary to police it properly and keep the scamming within acceptable bounds.
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Old 07-16-2017, 09:36 AM   #5
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There should be a maximum payout per borrow. If the price of the book is .99, the max the author should get per borrow is .99. Of course this would encourage authors to price their books higher, so a price cap would be in order. No book in KU can be priced higher than, say, 7.99. And, after a certain number of borrows, no fees taken out of the per-book-borrowed payout.

Also borrowers should not be able to check out over a certain amount a month. Even borrowing to try and then abandoning a book, wouldn't, say, 50 borrows a month be enough to cover that kind of habit?

These solutions seem simple, and maybe are too simple, but something needs to be done.
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Old 07-16-2017, 10:32 AM   #6
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I remember an indie author on one of the Amazon forums posting about KU and how authors were/are paid. She was concerned because she had been told that a reader of a KU book could use the Page Flip feature, read that way, with PF active, and that would mean that Amazon had no way to tell how many pages had been read.

I told her I couldn't conceive of anyone wanting to read that way, but she insisted it was a way to prevent the author from being paid.

If you are unaware of what PF is...it shrinks the page and creates a sort of carousel of pages you can use to flip or roll back and forth.

I'm curious if anyone else has heard of that. I mention it only because it also has to do with KU.

I used a trial of KU back when it started. It wasn't a good fit for me, so I didn't keep the subscription.

The drekatude of indie books on Amazon is staggering.
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Old 07-16-2017, 12:19 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by booklover6 View Post
There should be a maximum payout per borrow. If the price of the book is .99, the max the author should get per borrow is .99. Of course this would encourage authors to price their books higher, so a price cap would be in order. No book in KU can be priced higher than, say, 7.99. And, after a certain number of borrows, no fees taken out of the per-book-borrowed payout.

Also borrowers should not be able to check out over a certain amount a month. Even borrowing to try and then abandoning a book, wouldn't, say, 50 borrows a month be enough to cover that kind of habit?

These solutions seem simple, and maybe are too simple, but something needs to be done.
A 300 page book makes less than $1.50 per borrow. It may be down to $1 now. The pay per page is less than a half a cent per page.
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Old 07-16-2017, 05:36 PM   #8
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Wow. Yet authors are making money. Probably from people like me, who wouldn't buy the book, but would borrow it.
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Old 07-16-2017, 06:28 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Cinisajoy View Post
This was in my Google feed today and I thought it was interesting.
https://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/...-kindle-store/
That sort of stuff is endemic on Amazon, they have had years to fix it but have proven to be utterly incompetent.

Finally time for me to close my Amazon account I think. The scammers and the sheer quantity of self-published garbage have made the site useless for finding books anyway, so it is not like I will be missing anything.
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Old 07-16-2017, 09:58 PM   #10
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That sort of stuff is endemic on Amazon, they have had years to fix it but have proven to be utterly incompetent.

Finally time for me to close my Amazon account I think. The scammers and the sheer quantity of self-published garbage have made the site useless for finding books anyway, so it is not like I will be missing anything.
I think this is going to happen increasingly unless they fix things. Having said that, there is still a lot of great stuff on KU, but that will not continue to be the case as it seems they are already losing authors. This will only accelerate if they don't finally take this seriously. KU have been so successful Amazon is in total control of the pool of funds. This is combined with little or no transparency. It has worked because authors have by and large trusted Amazon to do the right thing and in general have been making money. This is why it is so hard to understand why these issues have been dealt with so badly. If Amazon continues to betray the trust that its authors have placed in it before long KU will be almost exclusively the province of the scammers, and won't last long thereafter.

I expect better from Amazon, particularly when it involves them acting in their own interests.
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Old 07-17-2017, 12:36 AM   #11
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I think this is going to happen increasingly unless they fix things. Having said that, there is still a lot of great stuff on KU, but that will not continue to be the case as it seems they are already losing authors. This will only accelerate if they don't finally take this seriously. KU have been so successful Amazon is in total control of the pool of funds. This is combined with little or no transparency. It has worked because authors have by and large trusted Amazon to do the right thing and in general have been making money. This is why it is so hard to understand why these issues have been dealt with so badly. If Amazon continues to betray the trust that its authors have placed in it before long KU will be almost exclusively the province of the scammers, and won't last long thereafter.

I expect better from Amazon, particularly when it involves them acting in their own interests.
You bring up an interesting point.
Are these authors leaving Amazon or just KU? If just KU, then it really doesn't hurt Amazon.
The bigger and more important question is are readers leaving KU?
I wonder if the author payout has anything to do with the number of paid subscriptions.
Could less subscriptions mean less per page payout?
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Old 07-17-2017, 04:04 AM   #12
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You bring up an interesting point.
Are these authors leaving Amazon or just KU? If just KU, then it really doesn't hurt Amazon.
The bigger and more important question is are readers leaving KU?
I wonder if the author payout has anything to do with the number of paid subscriptions.
Could less subscriptions mean less per page payout?
Good questions. There are many issues. I doubt many authors are actually leaving Amazon completely. Let's face it, they would be cutting off their nose to spite there face. But anecdotally more authors are starting to take their books out of KU, for various reasons including these scams. No doubt falling payouts are one of these reasons. Smart authors should always be re-evaluating whether their books should be in KU from month to month.

Losing authors from KU does hurt Amazon indirectly. Combined with more and more scammers books cluttering up the catalogue I expect it will lead to fewer subscriptions and therefore less money for Amazon if left unchecked. There is obviously some relationship between payouts and subscription revenue, but so far as I am aware we have no real idea how Amazon calculates the Pool. It is a measure of Amazon's success and the trust many place in it that it has so many books in it whilst having total discretion over how much it pays out each month. No transparency whatsoever. No formulas. No audits. How long will that trust remain whilst Amazon tolerates the present farce?

Also, whilst the scammers are making their money mainly from KU, their continued manipulation of the charts does carry over to KDP books and Amazon's business in general. The stories of Amazon apparently giving bonuses to scammers and even selecting scam authors for its features and promotions can do enormous damage to KDP and Amazon's book business in general.

GeoffR's criticism seems to me to relate as much to the lack of a gatekeeping function in self-publishing as to the scammers. Many people, me amongst them, love Self and Indie publishing and are quite happy with our ability to find good books. I like to do my own gatekeeping rather than choose from a comparatively small collection curated by self-appointed guardians of all that is good. However, there are also some who rarely read books not produced by traditional publishing, and continually complain about what they see as endless piles of garbage. I don't agree with this position, but do agree that widespread scamming does not help this perception. And of course scammers books are all garbage, And if they continually take the prominent positions so important for book discovery the situation could ultimately end up similar to what Geoff describes, with the result that more and more people may decide Amazon's store is unusable. I think we are still a long way from that, but Amazon does need to act soon.

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Old 07-17-2017, 08:38 AM   #13
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Amazon's business model has always been to push the work of out to someone else. The ebook database is maintained by whomever publishes the book, not someone from Amazon. That's how they save money. People have been scamming the various lists and rankings for years. I've complained about it here since it makes the trying to browse by release date an exercise in frustration.

They can't fix it without breaking their business model. It's pretty unlikely that they will make any attempt to do so until it starts to hurt their bottom line.
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Old 07-17-2017, 11:43 AM   #14
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@darryl,
I have heard many people complain that using Amazon's book search is not worth it.

I am all for indies too but only if they want to treat it like the business that it is.
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Old 07-17-2017, 07:50 PM   #15
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If the scammers were hurting Amazon then I have little doubt they would have done something about it long ago.

But while scammers do hurt the genuine authors who have their books buried under the mountain of scammer-infested garbage, and they do hurt the readers who have to dig through that reeking pile to find good books, they probably don't harm Amazon at all.

Amazon sells click advertisements to authors which are inserted in search results and other places on the site. The more that genuine books become buried by scam and garbage books, the more the authors need to spend on advertising to stay visible. The authors are not only sharing their Kindle Unlimited subscription income with the scammers, they are paying Amazon from their share of it for advertising to offset the effects of the scammer's activities.

If there are not enough scammers then there is always Amazon's broken search function and its large number of genre categories filled with miscategorised books to ensure that any author playing by the rules will need to spend more on advertising to get their books seen on the site.

I just hope that they don't drop the exclusivity conditions on KU, or else that mountain of garbage that is currently contained mainly on Amazon will flood out and engulf the other retailers too.
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