Useful Guide For Living A Self-Sustatining Lifestyle
September 28, 2016 9:46 AM   Subscribe

Shershnyov's royalty report showed that itemized revenues from the 11 master accounts generated $2.44 million since June 2015, which is when Amazon changed the terms in which authors were paid based on the number of books loaned. (It's not known what was made during the six months prior to that, which was when the scam began.)
Revealed: How one Amazon Kindle scam made millions of dollars
posted by griphus (31 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
For years, thousands were tricked into buying low-quality ebooks.

So then the e-book business isn't much different to the traditional book business?
posted by chavenet at 10:02 AM on September 28, 2016 [8 favorites]


It's odd seeing this post right above one about an amazon self-publisher with prodigious output.
posted by k5.user at 10:03 AM on September 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


This is way better than my scam where I just sell library books
posted by beerperson at 10:08 AM on September 28, 2016 [7 favorites]


Fascinating! But the craziest thing is
That database, found by the MacKeeper Security Research Center, was the brains behind the scam
MacKeeper is for real? I just assumed it was malware, based on its ads, which certainly are.
posted by rodlymight at 10:10 AM on September 28, 2016 [11 favorites]


But as far as we can tell, he hasn't broken the law.

I feel like this is the clarion call of the 21st century. Now without any real moral authority out there, it's this iterative legal shell game between territorial mini-monopolies and their parasites.
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 10:12 AM on September 28, 2016 [6 favorites]


The idea of using bots to bubble ebooks up in popularity until they hit an Amazon Top Books subgenre list so they would be bought by real people and using that to reap payouts is actually pretty ingenious. Undoubtedly immoral, but not illegal.

I both admire and am disgusted by this.
posted by hippybear at 10:16 AM on September 28, 2016 [14 favorites]


iterative legal shell game between territorial mini-monopolies and their parasites.

Go Parasites!
posted by griphus at 10:23 AM on September 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


Now without any real moral authority out there, it's this iterative legal shell game between territorial mini-monopolies and their parasites.

Described that way, I don't know if it is Randian/Libertarian dream or nightmare.
posted by Badgermann at 10:25 AM on September 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


There's a fine line between "scam" and "marketing strategy."

I'd argue that in many cases there's no dividing line at all.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:31 AM on September 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


How it was done in the 1980s.
posted by chavenet at 10:59 AM on September 28, 2016


So it's a pump and dump for the wisdom of crowds.
posted by books for weapons at 11:04 AM on September 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


As someone with ability but lacking the inclination to do this, I find this stuff fascinating.

Meanwhile I toil away in the code mines wrapping REST APIs around SQL crud for $5 a ton. Where's my unicorn?!?
posted by blue_beetle at 11:07 AM on September 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


Another enlightening (and very funny) article about another scam on Amazon: What Does It Take to Be a ‘Best-Selling Author’? $3 and 5 Minutes.
posted by carrienation at 11:13 AM on September 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


Well, I have to hand it to him, that's a really clever way to trick people into buying your horrible ebooks. I would never have come up with it, because it would never in a million years have occurred to me that
(1) You can register an account to review books with Amazon without providing a valid email address
(2) You can review books that you didn't buy through Amazon, on Amazon
(3) You can offer your ebook for free download for set periods of time, during which
(4) Free downloads count toward sales rank

You could maaaaaybe make an argument for 1-3, but the mind boggles at the concept that NO ONE THOUGHT THIS WOULD BE GAMED. It's not like the idea of fake reviews being a major player in any crowdsourced quality metric is a new one. It's 2016, for chrissake. Your starting proposition for any business enterprise should be "how can I keep chuckleheads on the internet from ruining this?"
posted by Mayor West at 12:01 PM on September 28, 2016 [13 favorites]


Your starting proposition for any business enterprise should be "how can I keep chuckleheads on the internet from ruining this?"

You should write a book about that. I'd buy it for free.
posted by Etrigan at 12:14 PM on September 28, 2016 [6 favorites]


For years, thousands were tricked into buying low-quality ebooks.

Pounded in the Butt by Low-Quality eBooks.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:22 PM on September 28, 2016 [9 favorites]


MacKeeper is for real? I just assumed it was malware, based on its ads, which certainly are.

As someone who has done Mac tech support (among other things) since the 1980s, i do not recommend that people use MacKeeper.

Regarding the article and their discovery, i wondered if the MacKeeper guy’s accessing of that database (let alone passing the info on to others) is in violation of the law even if it was not secured properly.
posted by D.C. at 12:39 PM on September 28, 2016


I'd argue that in many cases there's no dividing line at all.

My new scam is selling hot takes
posted by beerperson at 12:46 PM on September 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


NO ONE THOUGHT THIS WOULD BE GAMED

Oh, they probably thought of it but then again, Amazon gets its percentage, so what do they care?
posted by DreamerFi at 1:06 PM on September 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'd argue that in many cases there's no dividing line at all.

My new scam is selling hot takes


Well, that was a cold, hard-won cynical take, so I'm afraid it's not eligible for your scam. Unless you steal it from me (and thereby literally verifying its validity).
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:13 PM on September 28, 2016


Now, if you were selling hot cakes, I'd definitely be interested.
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:13 PM on September 28, 2016


Everyone knows hot cakes sell very slowly.
posted by beerperson at 1:15 PM on September 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


You may be cooking them too long.
Try cooking them round
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:28 PM on September 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


But as far as we can tell, he hasn't broken the law.

Hey, it's just as Trump said in the debate: Valeriy Shershnyov was just taking advantage of the laws of the nation because he was running a company. His obligation was to do well for himself, his family, and his companies. And that’s what he did.
posted by Omon Ra at 2:06 PM on September 28, 2016


I would never have come up with it, because it would never in a million years have occurred to me that
(1) You can register an account to review books with Amazon without providing a valid email address


Pro-tip: $10/year will get you a custom domain, from which you can have essentially infinite valid email addresses.

It's handy if you want to be able to track where spam comes from and/or foil algorithmic attempts to track your entirely life.
posted by sparklemotion at 2:15 PM on September 28, 2016 [4 favorites]


Oh, and not that anyone cares about my lack of precision besides me (who had to look this up because I have problems): But instead of "essentially infinite", it's really more like 2.41664093e111 valid email addresses (assuming 64 character "local_part" max size, case insensitivity, and dropping "." and a couple other special characters because the rules confused me.

Anyways. It's probably enough.
posted by sparklemotion at 3:11 PM on September 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


I think I've seen fraudulent books in dead free format, or at least books no sane human would give a good review. One of them was a travel guide for a town in Michigan, and it started with a verbatim copy of the town's Wikipedia page. Since that page is not very big, the rest of the book was padded by the entire Wikipedia page for "City".
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 3:48 PM on September 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


What a sophisticated set up. It's as impressive as it is loathsome.
posted by smoke at 7:16 PM on September 28, 2016


Ah, this is why I have totally given up browsing by "Most popular" on my Kindle. It's been littered with really bizarre and trashy titles and I just assumed the mass public had horrible taste. I mean it is that too, but this article explains that they were specifically hunted and gathered.

(I mainly browse AskMe book recommendations now.)
posted by like_neon at 1:48 AM on September 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


Does Amazon still do the thing where you think you are purchasing a "real" copy of a book when you are actually purchasing a cheap reprint of a freely-available PDF copy of the book, even if the vendor swears up and down for realsies this time that they are not selling you a cheap reprint of a freely-available PDF copy of the book? Pretty much why I no longer purchase anything that's out of copyright from Amazon.
posted by lagomorphius at 6:45 AM on September 29, 2016


OMG, does this explain why I find spelling/grammar mistakes in my Kindle version of Pride & Prejudice? (They do not exist in my paper versions, of which I own at least 3)
posted by like_neon at 7:08 AM on September 29, 2016


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