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Investigating the dirty business of plagiarized erotica on Amazon

Fast Company has a fascinating article about the volume of plagiarized erotica on Amazon’s Kindle Select self-publishing platform.

According to the story, small press owner and erotica author Sharazade, suspicious of another top-selling author, Maria Cruz, began googling passages from Cruz’s books and discovered most of them were lifted directly from books such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula. But it’s not just well-known authors being copied. Free erotica-publishing websites such as Literotica are regularly pillaged for content. In fact, Fast Company journalist Adam Penenberg did a “down-and-dirty textual analysis” of author Robin Scott‘s 31 titles in the Kindle store, and concluded that all were plagiarized from other sources.

Amazon doesn’t vet its self-published books, putting the onus on the aggrieved author to make claims of copyright infringement. But, as the article notes, it’s not just erotica, or Amazon, that is facing major problems with copyright and plagiarism. Canadian author S.K.S. Perry discovered someone else was selling his fantasy novel Darkside for $2.99 as a Kindle ebook, and several plagiarized titles from various sources have been removed from the Apple iBookstore. Penenberg says we shouldn’t be surprised:

Self-publishing has become the latest vehicle for spammers and content farms, with the sheer volume of self-published books making it difficult, if not impossible, for e-stores like Amazon to vet works before they go on sale. In 2006, 51,000 self-published titles were released; last year there were 133,036 self-published books, and that number is destined to climb. ¨¨Writing a book is hard. All those torturous hours an author has to spend creating, crafting, culling until nonsensical words are transformed into engaging prose. It’s a whole lot easier to copy and paste someone else’s work, slap your name on top, and wait for the money to roll in. This creates a strong economic incentive, with fake authors.