A new-old type of ebook was released to the Kindle Store a few weeks back. I missed a chance to write about it at the time because all 3 example titles got pulled almost immediately, but as of late last week they were back.
Note that I said that they were back; all 3 titles have been pulled. Again. I’m not surprised, and after I explain what they did you won’t be either.
In early June a couple mischievous developers hit upon a novel way to generate ebooks. They scooped comments off of YouTube, assembled them into ebooks, and then published the resulting ebook in the Kindle Store. The entire process, from beginning to end, was automated.
In case it’s not clear, what they did here was to come up with a new way to spam the Kindle store with content which is (intentionally?) funny. I’ve always been one to giggle madly when I see a well played joke, but I think this is one which the jokesters aren’t going to get away with.
If you think about the average comment on Youtube then you might understand why ebooks generated by this process aren’t in the Kindle Store anymore: they keep running afoul of Amazon’s content filters. Some time back Amazon promised to do a better job of filtering crap out of the Kindle Store, and now we have some clear evidence that they meant it.
But I do like how the developers explained it:
The Internet slang of YouTube comments is treated as fresh dialogue, and sold through Amazon.com in the form of massive, self-generated e-books. In an auto-cannibalistic model, user generated content is sold back to the users themselves, parasitically exploiting both corporations: YouTube and Amazon.
Funny, yes, but let me inject a little reality. The only new trick here is that the content is auto-generated from Youtube. The idea itself is not. Spammy, worthless content like what you would have found in these ebooks is not new. It’s been around nearly as long as ebookstores, and for the most part I’m glad to see it go.
This was spam. Dress it up however you like, but you cannot change that fact.
P.S. Do you know the first time I encountered an ebookstore actively trying to get rid of crap like this? It was in January 2010. Mark Coker of Smashwords blogged about his then recent discovery of “private label” content being sold through Smashwords. He had uncovered a service which sold itself based on how easy it would be for spammers to create crappy ebooks and sell them via Smashwords. Needless to say, Mark wasn’t happy. (BTW, there’s a meta joke buried in the comments of that blog post; the last comment is spam and it links to a site which sells private label content.)