It’s sad, but it’s true: Spam is as spam does. It gets everywhere. It’s now found its way into Amazon’s Kindle e-book store.
One of the great things about the Kindle store is that anyone can sign up as an author, upload a manuscript, and “publish” it for instant sales to millions of Kindle owners, desperate to consume more e-ink because their Kindle still has 76 years of battery life left and they’ll be damned if they’re going to let any of that go to waste.
One of the bad things about the Kindle store is that anyone can sign up as an author, upload someone else’s manuscript, or even just any old text they “found” on the internet, and fleece desperate Kindle owners for a few pennies.
It’s like email spam: The more crap you send out, the higher your chances of suckering someone into handing over their money. Every tiny transaction means a few more pennies in your pocket, at no extra cost to you.
Well, that’s the theory. Amazon, of course, takes a cut of every sale made via its store, so it has an incentive to promote self-publishing. But allowing people to publish their own work means that policing it is always going to be difficult. There’s a fine balance to be struck between banning outright spam and banning stuff that’s just not very good, or that “borrows” from other people’s ideas. It’s hard to tread that line without paying people to actually read all the submissions, which would slow down the whole process and probably end up being the job from hell.
Computers can help here, of course. There are already tools out there that look for plagiarism, so it should be possible to get software to examine incoming texts for chunks that have already been published by others.
On the other hand, though, there are also tools out there that can generate text in large quantities. When does computer-generated text stop being art, and start being the scammer’s tool of the trade?