The Kindle Store, at one point or another, has been home to just about every type of spam from bundled Wikipedia articles to computer-generated nonsense to recycled stale AP articles. Now it has become infested with a new type of spam.
Author Robert Swartwood has tipped me to the existence of an "author" of amateurish reviews of well-known novels.
JT Salrich is the pen-name for an unidentified individual who has been tricking Kindle readers into buying CliffNotes-style reviews of books like The Martian, Go Set a Watchman, and The 5th Wave.
They're running a type of scam which falls somewhere between a catfish and the Createspace POD scam I uncovered late last year. These scammers are publishing original content, but the quality is low and the listings are intentionally deceptive.
Salrich isn't the only scammer to use this trick, but they all generally work the same way.
The mountebank first chooses a title similar to the famous book - The Martian: A Novel by Andy Weir - Reviewed, say. Next, they salt their "book" with paid five-star reviews, choose a category which reflects the original book rather than the fact the spam book is (at best) a study guide, and then they sit back and wait for the unwary to buy the ebook.
Judging by his rankings (in the high hundreds of thousands), Salrich isn't selling all that many copies. And that's a good thing, because he's charging $8 to $10 for his books.
On the other hand, one of his competitors, Elite Summaries, has 184 titles, most of which are selling almost as poorly as salrich's work. Another competitor, aBookaDay, has 89 titles in the Kindle Store to Salrich's 23.
Many of aBookaDay's titles rank in the low thousands in the Kindle Store, so in other words they're selling hundreds of copies a day using the same tricks as Salrich. The books have misleading titles, are miscategorized, and they have fake reviews.
And yes, it's pretty easy to tell the difference the reviews. The actual reviews from pissed-off readers are more critical, and make the books sound like they were written by a low-bid sub-contractor in the Philippines.
- This was a horrible guide! Even if one can get past the grammatical errors, there is nothing here that gives insight into the novel. I'm just glad I didn't pay for it.
- I only received a summary of the first four chapters out of 17. I saw this nowhere in the description or customer reviews. Also, it was full of grammatical errors. Did something go wrong with my download?
- Kindle seems to have opened up a market for students to sell their papers and creative writing projects for cash. Mr. Cooper's article is poorly written and is not a serious analysis of the subject matter. It is an attempt to make a quick buck and is an amazing scam.
- Horrible, horrible English. Seems to written by a foreigner without a good grasp of English. I struggled -- and I mean STRUGGLED -- through the first 2 pages and had to quit. Few grammitical articles were used, and sometimes the wrong word was repeated over and over (like "figure" instead of "finger"), as well as incorrect verb tenses, often keeping sentences from even making sense. ACK!! It made me crazy.
The fake reviews, on the other hand, mostly read like:
- I would give it a 6 if Amazon would allow it. Deserves all the awards it received. An obvious huge amount of research on radios of the
1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. along with that on birds, gemstones, the rues, intersections, and grottoes of St.Malo, a photographic memory
of the Paris Botanical Gardens and their accompanying museum (through both of which I have walked 3 or 4 times), and on and on. Some of the best war writing you will encounter, and lead characters you will never forget.
To be clear, you've always been able to find study guides and CliffsNotes in the Kindle Store; they're listed in the study guide section with the other educational material.
The above "authors", on the other hand, are listing their books alongside the real books in the SF, fiction, mystery, etc, sections. They're scamming the Kindle Store, and I can't wait until Amazon steps on them.
I have already alerted Amazon to the problem, so hopefully they will fix this soon.
Until then, caveat emptor.
image by miconian