Angry authors, publishers and customers say that Amazon is rife with counterfeit books—and is doing virtually nothing to stop the perpetrators. Pirated books include fiction and non-fiction, but the problem is especially widespread with textbooks since their high prices attract pirates.
Authors and legitimate publishers are hurt by lost revenues, but readers are also victims since counterfeit books are often of inferior quality. Sometimes the books are completely illegible.
Amazon takes their cut of third-party sales, whether the books are legit or fake. This gives the marketing giant no incentive to go after fake books. Those in the publishing industry say that Amazon, known for its fast service, has been slow to address their concerns about counterfeit books.
Academics have seen countless negative reviews for their textbooks, with customers complaining about missing pages, unreadable text and other print quality problems. They blame the pirated books, sold by counterfeiters. Publishers have asked the retailer to handle the issue, but they have not responded.
Amazon issued a statement, saying that they regularly monitor listings and take steps to prevent prohibited items from winding up on their platform. The company claims to have employed 12,000 people and spent $900 million to protect consumers from counterfeit and fraud.
Some buyers of textbooks report having to purchase the book multiple times to find a genuine copy that is not counterfeit. Although there have been many complaints, counterfeit books have remained listed and fraudulent sellers can still be found on the Amazon platform.
The company did not respond to a request for their comments. According to an intellectual property lawyer, Amazon puts the burden on authors and publishers to look for counterfeit versions of their books, and then go through a complex process to have the fake publications removed.
Textbook publisher O’Reilly Media describes the situation as “an endless game of whack-a-mole,” where listings and accounts go down briefly and then back up again a few weeks or even a few days later. And the flow of counterfeit books continues.
Counterfeits can negatively affect authors’ livelihoods and careers. In addition to lost income, sales of forged books aren’t included in total sales numbers. This makes it harder for authors to get book deals in the future.