Book counterfeiting: it happened before Amazon came into existence.

What happens when you are a self-published author (as I am), and someone takes your books, republishes them on Amazon’s self-publishing site, and sells them at a higher price — depriving you not only of royalties but also very possibly creating ill-will among your readers?

This hasn’t happened to me — at least, not that I know of.

But it has happened to others, and the New York Times has published a long article about book counterfeiting that is pretty scary.

. . .  Amazon takes a hands-off approach to what goes on in its bookstore, never checking the authenticity, much less the quality, of what it sells. It does not oversee the sellers who have flocked to its site in any organized way.

That has resulted in a kind of lawlessness. Publishers, writers and groups such as the Authors Guild said counterfeiting of books on Amazon had surged. The company has been reactive rather than proactive in dealing with the issue, they said, often taking action only when a buyercomplains. Many times, they added, there is nowhere to appeal and their only recourse is to integrate even more closely with Amazon. Source: What Happens After Amazon’s Domination Is Complete? Its Bookstore Offers Clues – The New York Times

The article blames Amazon for not properly policing what it sells, and it quotes an Amazon spokesperson saying the right things:

An Amazon spokeswoman denied that counterfeiting of books was a problem, saying, “This report cites a handful of complaints, but even a handful is too many and we will keep working until it’s zero.” The company said it strictly prohibited counterfeit products and last year denied accounts to more than one million suspected “bad actors.”

Amazon could, and should, do a better job of policing what it sells, but blaming Amazon — and its dominance of the book market — for this situation, I think, is not particularly helpful.

The existence of this kind of counterfeiting is the result of current advancements in technology. These advancements have had many good and positive effects. But they have also allowed people who lie, cheat, and steal new ways to lie, cheat, and steal. Book counterfeiting is nothing new. It has a long and storied history, and what’s happening on Amazon now is another chapter in its history.

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About Jim Stovall

Jim Stovall, a retired journalism prof, is now a novelist, self publisher, watercolorist, gardener, woodworker and beekeeper -- among others things.
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