Amazon supporting scammers

I subscribe to Kindle Unlimited — I’ve found it useful, and I’ve found several books that have been helpful. I downloaded a couple of camera tutorials, for instance, that were straightforward and direct and coupled practice and concept very nicely (for example, this one by Al Judge) that explained apertures and f/stops well (I already understood the concepts) by showing me how they were implemented in my camera.

Unfortunately, Kindle Unlimited turns out to be extremely exploitable, and there are scammers taking advantage of it. Follow that link for all the details, but the short summary is that a) all authors divvy up a pot of money from KU subscribers, b) the author’s share of the pot is determined by how many of their pages are “read”, c) Amazon has an awesomely stupid algorithm for measuring pages read, so that if someone downloads the book and just zips to the last page, the author is credited for the whole book read, d) so people are creating garbage books and getting co-conspirators to download it for free and jump to the end.

Would you believe people can earn $60,000/month with this game? I am not endorsing this. Do not leap into the action thinking you can make some quick bucks fast. It’s unethical, and at some point, I hope, Amazon will wake up and crack down on these thieves, at which point it will hurt the perpetrators.

Here’s an example of the kind of crap that’s filling up the virtual bookshelves. Notice that it’s got kind of a click-baity title to draw in people with very specific obsessions, ROMANCE: BWWM: Between Love & Friendship (BWWM Paranormal Scifi Romance Collection) (Interracial Alpha Male Pregnancy Short Stories) (I’m already a bit creeped out by just the title), and that it’s 3,000 (that’s THREE THOUSAND) pages long. But after a badly written opening section to get past automated spam detection, this is what you get:


I’m not against people reading racist porn pregnancy stories, I guess, but keep in mind — that author is stealing a bigger portion of the KU revenue than they deserve by padding their crappy book with scavenged random text, and the book is also so bad that they aren’t getting a real readership — they’re bringing in click-farms to download it and throw it away.

Let’s hope Amazon gets their act together and fixes this.


  1. says

    Would you believe people can earn $60,000/month with this game?

    Jesus. It’s a right piss, having ethics. I still avoid Amazon like the plague, it’s one of the few things I can still successfully avoid.

  2. felicis says

    Why would they fix this? Does it change how much money Amazon gets out of the deal?

    Of course – these are not the only scammers Amazon supports – they also support sales scams. For example, my wife and I purchased (through Amazon) a digital picture frame (which we would expect to be able to download photos to that would show up on the screen) a common and not terribly expensive product (around $20).

    What we got was a wood frame that, “you can use to display digital pictures”. No other hardware. We complained to Amazon who said that it wasn’t their fault these people were defrauding their customers and refused to do anything about it.

    One of many reasons that I avoid Amazon if at all possible.

    BTW- they also treat their employees like garbage.

  3. says

    people can earn $60,000/month with this game

    “Earn” is not the word you’re looking for in that context.

    In the early days of adword stuffing I was part of a team that investigated a guy who was making $250,000/month (for about 8 months until he was shut down) using some javascript/page reload tricks. He got away with it, too, because there was a question as to whether he was doing anything illegal. The terms of service have to be very very carefully written for this nonsense. “Reading” a book – does it have to be read by a human? Remember: NSA defines “look at” as “human eyeballs attached to a human brain see and think about” …

    These are bugs in the new economy, which is why edifices will arise quickly and collapse even faster. It’s an exciting time to be a book-binder.

  4. says

    DrMcCoy @ 4:

    Relatedly, Amazon is removing ebooks that have their table of contents at back instead of the front:

    FFS, that’s all kinds of stupid. I have a nook, not a kindle, but the few books I have which put the TOC in the back are great. I much prefer it that way, rather than having to page through to get to the story. I don’t think I have ever used a TOC in an e-book.

  5. greylocks says

    As a self-published Amazon author who has been mostly happy with the experience, let me point out that Amazon has had a pretty good history of trying to fix these problems when they become aware of them. So I would give them a chance.

    However, if it were up to me, I’d get rid of Kindle Unlimited entirely. If you can’t sell your book for $2.99 (the lowest price with a full royalty), then it’s crap anyway. I’m not sure exactly why Amazon thought KU was a good idea for anyone. It has turned out to be a nightmare to administer, and for the most part, it’s a cesspool of junk titles clogging up Amazon’s search engine.

    As for the TOC in the back, seriously — how hard is it to page through the TOC up front, which is where most people expect it? Also, a properly-formatted EPUB or AZW file should contain a “start” nav entry which should cause the book to open to the first page of text the first time it is read. (I don’t know if Nook supports nav entries — maybe it doesn’t — but Kindle does and always has).

    Could Amazon do a better job? Absolutely. They could start by accepting only properly-formatted EPUB files and stop taking Word, HTML, and PDF files. Allowing Word in particular has made life much easier for the scammers, because they can just paste together a bunch of crap and upload it in a few minutes. But it’s also not good for serious authors, because Word-to-AZW conversions blow chunks, and the resulting badly-formatted books reflect poorly not only on the author/publisher, but also on Amazon and the Kindle.

  6. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    As for the TOC in the back, seriously — how hard is it to page through the TOC up front, which is where most people in the English-speaking world expect it?


  7. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    Yep, TOC’s place is in the back at least in this part on non-English speaking world. Unless you work in IT, in which case you’ve adopted US standards.

  8. microraptor says

    greylocks @6:

    However, if it were up to me, I’d get rid of Kindle Unlimited entirely. If you can’t sell your book for $2.99 (the lowest price with a full royalty), then it’s crap anyway.

    I read a lot of books. KU has a function for literature that Netflix has for movies and TV shows- it’s a hell of a lot cheaper for me as a consumer to subscribe to the service instead of paying for every title I want, especially since there are many books that I’d happily read once but not more than that. And I’m much more inclined to take a chance on an unfamiliar author- like you.

    From what I understand of this scam, it actually came about because Amazon patched a previous scam where authors got paid every time someone downloaded their book, whether it got read or not. So now payment is made based on how much of the book actually gets read. Still exploitable, but not as bad.

  9. numerobis says

    Why is the TOC up front in English, whereas the index and bibliography are in the back?

    In French it’s consistent: want to read? Start at the front. Want to search? Flip to the end.

    Last question: why are we having this conversation in the digital age?

  10. says


    As for the TOC in the back, seriously — how hard is it to page through the TOC up front, which is where most people expect it?

    Way to be uStates-centric. Who said it was hard? It’s not difficult, it’s just a damn stupid place to have the TOC. In the back makes much more sense, if you want to go back and read something. I could see having up front in the case of manuals and the like, but when it comes to novels, there’s zero point in doing so. And in a lot of books the TOC goes on for 4 to 5 pages.

    Anyroad, it shouldn’t matter to Amazon where an author prefers to place their TOC – it’s part of the book, so they should have the final say.

  11. latveriandiplomat says

    FWIW, most kindle authors are not putting the TOC in the back not because they have strong feelings about where the TOC should go, or to strike a blow against US imperialism, or whatever. They do it for the pragmatic reason that the TOC in front wastes precious space in the free sample version.

    If Amazon simply gave the author the option to exclude the TOC from the sample, I suspect most would US authors would continue to follow the US convention without thinking about it.