One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other: Beware Knock-Off Books On Amazon

It’s not just fake Louis Vuitton purses and Prada shoes getting knocked off and sold on the Internet — you could get scammed by a book title as well if a self-publishing author plays their game well enough. And yes, this kind of thing happens under Amazon’s watch.

Fortune warns of titles on Amazon that are very similar to best-sellers, but are in fact, just crappy knock-offs of the real things.

For example, there’s a book by Isaac Worthington about Steve Jobs, which is definitely not the same as the best-seller by Walter Isaacson. Or Thirty-Five Shades of Grey by J.D. Lyte, which is not to be confused with the steamy Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James currently on the bedside tables of women across America. Gotta assume those 15 shades went missing somewhere in the upload. Then there’s I am the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Twilight New Moon — the list goes on.

The authors of these faux bestsellers even use Amazon’s CreateSpace system to design and self-publish their own books, which then go on sale on Amazon or other sites. Amazon gets half the money from the books, earning it a new nickname — Spamazon!

“It’s the book equivalent of spam,” lawyer Eric Rayman, a former attorney for Simon & Schuster tells Fortune. “Amazon should be taking steps to stop this. It’s bad for consumers and it’s bad for the book business.”

Amazon removed some of the pages for books after Fortune contacted them, but they’re still for sale with Amazon’s CreateSpace listed as the publisher. A spokeswoman says they have a system to deal with and get rid of books that don’t “improve the customer experience” and says they’ve done so for thousands of books.

“We expect to keep improving our approach,” says the spokeswoman.

Meanwhile, those creating this content are all, “Shrug! It’s a moneymaker!”

The author of I am the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is unrepentant, as she says she’s self-published around 10,000 and likes the cash.

“I am a single mother who home schools her children,” she said, claiming she sells “thousands of thousands of books per month. “Self-publishing is a great way for me to make income. I receive a pretty nice royalty every month.”

Just be careful how you search and make sure that’s not a super cheap copy of The Hungry Hungry Hippo Games* before you buy.

*Made that one up, coming to the Internet near you soon!

Amazon’s knock-off problem (35 Shades of Grey, anyone?) [Fortune]