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Last Tuesday, an Amazon subsidiary filed in federal court seeking to confirm an arbitration award against British book publisher Jake Dryan and his companies, relating to claims that the publisher’s companies abused Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), the Amazon self-publishing program. According to Amazon Digital Services LLC’s petition, Law360 reports, the self-publisher breached Amazon’s terms by using bots or “clickfarms” to inflate page views and manipulate their ranking. However, the petition also identified another practice in violation of Kindle’s terms: The act of “combining selections of works they had already published into purportedly new books.” It’s a much-hated move that’s called “book stuffing” by the self-publishing community. While book stuffing is a minor element in the arbitration case, Amazon’s win is the first indication of a legal precedent against the practice.
Why is book stuffing so offensive that Amazon filed and won an arbitration case that included it alongside other more well-known abuses in the self-publishing sector? It comes down to the way the Kindle program pays authors: Through a global royalty fund that is split between all of the self-publishing authors included in the Kindle subscription services. The fund is doled out per number of pages read. Book stuffers slip entire books into the back of their latest ebook, getting significantly more pages in front of their reader’s eyeballs and taking a larger chunk of that month’s royalty fund as a result — earning as much as $100,000 per month.
“Authors have very strong feelings about any kind of cheating or scamming, but book stuffing stands out because it artificially inflates the payout that cheaters receive from Amazon — money which comes from a communal pot,” David Gaughran, author of several books on digital publishing, tells me. “Our end, in other words. Many feel that’s why Amazon has been very slow to do anything about this problem, because it is costing us more than them.
“It’s hard to know if this is the beginning of Amazon finally cracking down on cheaters and scammers, or a one-off warning shot. I hope it’s the former, but I’m skeptical because since arbitration was first filed in this matter in September 2017, Amazon has continued to reward the biggest cheaters every single month with huge All Star bonuses — money which should have gone to hard-working, honest authors. These cheaters are a plague on the Kindle Store,” Gaughran adds.
Link to the rest at Forbes and thanks to Ned and others for the tip.