PSA: BestNovel.Website is a Scam of Some Kind, But Not Necessarily a Pirate Site

There's a link going around on Twitter this week that a terrible new pirate site has popped up. Yesterday Lisa Bradley tweeted:

scam siteThe site in question is hosting content scraped from Goodreads and appears to be linking to pirated ebooks, but in all honesty I am not sure what is going on.

I would normally avoid mentioning pirate sites (no need to encourage them) but in this case I thought it worthwhile to publish a post and warn everyone away from the site.

You see, Bradley is saying that this is a pirate site and is advising authors to search for their names and send DMCA notices. She's had her publisher send a DMCA notice, and while you are welcome to follow in her footsteps I'm not sure it's going to do much good.

This might look like the front to an ordinary pirate site but it is actually the front page to a whole rat's nest of sites which, so far as I can tell, aren't actually pirating ebooks.

If you go to the site mentioned above and click on a book cover, after you are about 4 clicks in you will not find any pirated ebooks but you will find yourself prompted to register to join a site, and on the page after that you'll be prompted to hand over your credit card details.

I can't tell you what happens next (it would not accept my credit card), but I can add a few more details.

Tim Cushing of Techdirt and I have spent some time looking at this web of sites, and while we think it's scammy we're not exactly sure what is going on. We each went down the rabbit hole several times and kept randomly ending up at different sites.

It turns out that the one site mentioned above is actually the honey pot for a couple dozen different cloned websites. Each site looks slightly different but serves the same purpose: to separate you from your credit card details.

None of the sites let me download ebooks before they tried to get my credit card info, and I suspect that getting my CC number was their main purpose and not piracy.

I found the clones by searching for the customer service phone numbers in DuckDuckGo (one, two, three). All the sites had the same basic MO: they ask you to sign up and pay between $15 and $35 a month for access to (pirated?) content. Most (but not all) claimed to lead back to these folks.

If this is a pirate operation then these are very ballsy and very technically sophisticated pirates. Then again, I'm not sure that this is a content piracy operation.

It could very well be a straightforward attempt to scam you out of monthly payments while giving you access to Playster, a legit subscription service that charges $16 a month for access to movies, ebooks, apps, and games (Tim ended up on the Playster site on one of his trips down the rabbit hole).

And for all we know this scam might not actually giving you access to anything you couldn't find legally free on the web.

We've seen that once or twice before, and this rat's nest could well be the same folks who had previously fleeced unsuspecting readers. Alas, they've cloaked their identity well enough that there's no way to know for sure.

And yes, this could even be a pirate site, so go ahead and send those DMCA notices. For all we know they might accomplish something.

Edit: And as Jose Jiminez reminded me on Twitter, you can file a notice over the cover image and get the listing taken down. (In an earlier version of this post I had missed that detail, and warned authors away from sending them because I erroneously thought it would be perjury.) Thanks, Jose! 

P.S. If you do decide to pay to access one of these sites, let me know what you find.

 

 

 

About Nate Hoffelder (11582 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader:"I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

7 Comments on PSA: BestNovel.Website is a Scam of Some Kind, But Not Necessarily a Pirate Site

  1. TooShyToTellName // 7 June, 2015 at 4:46 am // Reply

    These guys have been around for a while. You and those other people have just discovered them. I do not mean this particular site but the fake pirate site leading to registration page pretending to have the media you seek.

    Some time ago, if you used a search engine, such as Google and searched for:
    “name of the book” author ebook download
    or ‘torrent’ instead of ‘download’
    you usually got a link to a filehosting service or a [pirate] forum or a specialized [pirate] site that had link to the filehosting service (or a torrent, if you searched for a torrent).
    A few years ago, you did not even need to use keywords like warez, books, download, mediafire, torrent … and a link to a pirate version was among the first twenty results on Google when searching for book or author name.

    Several months ago something happened. I do not exactly when, I do not search for books this way often [anymore ;-], but when I noticed this was happening it piqued my interest. So I check about once a week and the situation is curiouser and curiouser.
    So, several months ago links started to appear among search results that lead to sites that pretend to be pirate sites. The text on this sites and look as well is set by several templates – you will notice this when you look for several different [relatively obscure] books. All those sites invariably lead to ‘download genius’ or some other site that claims that the free slots for download just expired, but you can register with your CC.
    Unlike you, I never had the nerve to insert an actual CC number, because in my eyes this is a very obvious scam. And I am not interested in the actual ebook download.

    I do not know what happened.
    – Perhaps those sites have been around for a long time but Google lowered the ranking (or removed completely) links to sites with working links, so those crooks got to be among first results. I do notice that first few pages of results are mostly legitimate sites with genuine links to buy books or sites like goodreads or book reviews.
    – Perhaps a bunch of crooks wrote software recently to generate those sites AND game the google ratings AND ratings for other major web search engines with cross-referencing
    – Perhaps this is black-ops organized secretly by publishers to poison and dilute search results for people searching for pirated books.

    Please notice there are many more legitimate results among first hundred links found by google when searching for book name + download and ebook keyword than a few years ago – so there is push to eliminate known [working] pirate sites.

    • Oh, it’s not the first time I’ve encountered them (or someone like them). I wouldn’t be surprised if this were the same pirate folks i encountered years ago.

      • TooShyToTellName // 7 June, 2015 at 10:28 am // Reply

        When I said that those have been around for a while, I did not mean crooks that set up ebook subscription scams when they want a subscription and then provide books that are available for free or much cheaper.
        What I had in mind is, that this new site is very similar to sites I described that started appearing recently. Very similar template, graphics, the same feel and similar path naming. And the finally, they want your CC number – just for registration.

        Anyway … this seems to one of most efficient efforts to curb piracy – poison and dilute results that lead to real pirated books on filehosting services.

        By the way, I wrote similar post [as my first rant] to a thread at Teleread about a month ago, but it must have been deleted by moderators 😉

  2. Using the search criteria mentioned we found one of our titles at a site called “http://airtravel.rocks”. DMCA complaint will be filed asap. Thanks.

  3. Thanks for the info. Total scam. I am a publisher and we are trying to sue but they are very slippery with dozens of sites all leading to their call center in India (what a surprise!)

    It is actually two scams, selling copyrighted material and ripping off credit cards.

  4. Tzarmedia.com and donnaplay.com and http://www.livreintelligent.info and alter-suedfriedhof-muenchen.info all lead to the same dead-end as bestbooklibrary.com
    Can one write to Google to complain?

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