In another big exposé, the New York Times reports that Amazon is selling counterfeit and plagiarized books…and they don’t care.
People may think that there is nothing wrong with buying counterfeit. That is why we see fake designer handbags out there. People accuse major designers of exorbitant pricing, so they deserve it. But is it really okay to punish the book industry?
Amazon is a topic of discussion at the Book Expo every year. Even though Amazon Books has their own booth, each year there is always talk about the problem with Amazon.
Amazon controls upwards of 50%+ of the book sales in America. People hear the argument every day that Amazon is putting brick and mortar shops out of business. Barnes & Noble is coming close to being the next casualty. People have heard the arguments against Amazon, but it does not stop them from buying the cheaper priced book, even if they love their local bookstore.
Why Buying Counterfeit Books is Bad
First, the quality is bad. The pictures in the New York Times gives an accurate depiction of the bad quality. From smudged charts to books that have no formatting (no paragraphs or indentations), this is what you can expect from counterfeits. In some cases, you are getting a bound photocopy of the real book.
Second, the author spends a considerable amount of time creating this book. As a fellow writer, I know how difficult it is to write a book. All writers lament having the same issues while creating a literary masterpiece. It is not easy.
Put yourself in their shoes. With all of the work and the hours you put into creating a finished product, you find out someone is stealing your sales. You can see the number of books sold, but it is not reflected in your royalty check. What is going on?
Ends up the book sold did not come from your publisher. Someone stole the book and put out their own version of your book so they could reap the sale (not you or your publisher). Usually, they charge a lower price. The consumer thinks they are getting a good deal, not knowing they are getting a counterfeit, not the real book.
As a result, that hurts both the publisher and the author.
If you look at the bigger picture here, what happens to the publishing houses in the long term if Amazon keeps selling these counterfeit books? Remember, Amazon is putting booksellers out of business. Next up, it will be publishers. Is that why they created Amazon Books (their own publishing house)?
Where will authors go? How will they be able to publish books that won’t be stolen, plagiarized and sold over their own authentic work?
For book lovers, how can you choose to hurt the publishing houses and authors that you cherish just to save a few pennies?
Amazon Does Not Care
I feel like we are back to the Backpage dot com argument. For those who don’t know, Backpage dot com was selling children on the internet. Trafficked children were sold for sex and there was not a single court in America that could stop them.
You are probably thinking, “but that’s illegal.” Until last year, it was perfectly legal to do this ON THE INTERNET due to a law called CDA 230.
Back in the day when the internet was new, Congress enacted a law that allowed a free for all on the internet in order to help boost the internet into the mainstream. It held companies blameless for whatever they decided to do on the internet. If a third party decided to use their platform to sell children, it was not the company’s fault.
The media discovered that Backpage dot com was making money from the sale of children for sex on their platform. Their sales increased dramatically as they changed how people could post these ads on their site. They even changed the wording of the ads to thwart law enforcement.
When the victims and their parents tried to seek justice for what happened to the girls, every court dismissed their claims because of CDA 230. The law protected Backpage dot com.
When members of Congress read the media reports, they decided to change CDA 230 to protect women and children from sex trafficking on the internet. BUT guess what? This law is also the same law that protects Amazon.
Amazon can say they are not responsible for what third party sellers sell on their site, even though there are copyright and trademark infringements. Amazon is protected under CDA 230.
CDA 230 has been problematic in that it allows what is illegal throughout our country to be perfectly legal if the act is conducted on the internet. So if some third party wants to sell illegal stuff on Amazon, it is not Amazon’s fault. That is why they do not care.
If publishers and authors bring suit against Amazon, they will find that this is like Backpage dot com all over again. It would take an act of Congress to change the law.[For more on Backpage dot com, see the movie “I Am Jane Doe.” This film is available on Youtube and Netflix.]
What I Am Doing
It is disappointing that Amazon decided to take the “don’t care” route in this problem. I am a loyal Amazon everything. Amazon literally controls my entire existence. But when it comes to books, I have to take a step away.
After reading this article by Jessica Mizzi on Read It Forward, I started to think differently about how I purchase books. I generally do not purchase books often because I receive the majority of my books from publishers and the library. I’m also a big fan of Book of the Month. They supply a lot of the bestsellers I may have missed from the publishers.
But when you see articles about the purchase and restructuring of Barnes & Noble, you start to re-think how you are buying books. My only issue with BN is that I’ve already read everything they are pushing or I have it in my to be read pile already.
Thankfully, I found a way around this. Like Jessica Mizzi is doing, I am purposely going to buy at least one book from Barnes & Noble every month, as well as from other local bookstores and reputable websites that are not Amazon.
Just last week, I ventured into the children’s section during my last visit to Barnes & Noble. I was there for a book launch, but I ended up buying a few children’s books for Matthew (the Maine Coon). Ends up, cats like to be read to. Who knew?
As far as this site goes, until Amazon changes their ways, I will be promoting the sale of books through other booksellers. I spent most of today contacting booksellers to work with them from now on.
For future book reviews on the site, I’ll be promoting other booksellers and not Amazon (unless it is an Amazon Book title or a self-published title). For other book bloggers out there, I recommend you make the switch to different affiliate platforms.
This is a slippery slope Amazon is on. We need to take a stand now.