A few weeks ago, I wrote an article called “Content Spam Hits the Kindle: Is the Amazon KDP Program Turning Into the new ClickBank?” after I discovered (that much to my extreme dismay), if you do a search for Kindle books, sometimes the resulting “books” have the same (or similar) titles, identical covers, and matching descriptions. I suggested these spammy Kindle books are probably made up of private label rights (PLR) content purchased from an Internet marketer.
A reporter contacted me about my experience with Kindle spam, and the resulting Reuters article has been syndicated in a bunch of places like the Los Angeles Times and Forbes. It also generated a steady stream of follow-on articles that show the problem goes beyond PLR junk and includes content that has been stolen outright.
In my Reuters quote, I suggest that the solution to Kindle’s content spam problem is simple: Amazon should charge money to upload a book into KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). It costs money to sell pretty much anything else on Amazon, so why not the Kindle?
From a business standpoint, I frankly don’t understand why Amazon is not charging people to upload Kindle books. It costs Amazon money to host all these ebooks, after all. And it’s not like there aren’t enough Kindle books out there. Publishers don’t need the “free carrot” to encourage them to publish to Kindle.
Why Not Treat Kindle Books Like Other Books?
Another even easier suggestion that I made in my original article, but which wasn’t included in the Reuters article, is simply to treat Kindle books like any other book. To be included in Amazon, every (physical) book should have an ISBN (for more information on ISBNs, check out “What is an ISBN and Why Do I Need One for My Book?“).
Technically, every “edition” of a book should have its own ISBN. So if you published a large print book, paperback, and hardback, you’d use three ISBNs. A Kindle book is another edition. In fact, that’s why Apple does require an ISBN to be applied to any ebook in its store.
If retailers want to ensure that the ebooks in their online store are equivalent to the printed books you can buy at a bricks and mortar store, it makes sense to use the same tools that have been available for keeping track of books for a long time. The ISBN is a unique identifier and it works.
Requiring an ISBN Would Deter Spammers
Obviously, you can slap an ISBN on a cruddy book. People have been doing it for years. But an ISBN identifies you as the publisher. It’s more difficult to be anonymous and get away with uploading plagiarized works. Because ISBNs cost money, you also won’t end up with the Kindle spam situation we have now, where some slimy spammer uploads 20 copies of the same book to do price testing.
Some people whine about Amazon limiting publishing freedom if it starts charging to upload Kindle books. But people who yearn to publish freely already can. It’s called the Internet.
Publish a blog and say whatever you want. But keep your crappy spam off my Kindle.