Amazon: Big Bucks from Bogus Books

May 3, 2024

Vea4_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb_tNote: This essay is the work of a real and still-alive dinobaby. No smart software involved, just a dumb humanoid.

Anyone who shops for books on Amazon should proceed with caution now that “Fake AI-Generated Books Swarm Amazon.” Good e-Reader’s Navkiran Dhaliwal cites an article from Wired as she describes one author’s somewhat ironic experience:

“In 2019, AI researcher Melanie Mitchell wrote a book called ‘Artificial Intelligence: A Guide for Thinking Humans’. The book explains how AI affects us. ChatGPT sparked a new interest in AI a few years later, but something unexpected happened. A fake version of Melanie’s book showed up on Amazon. People were trying to make money by copying her work. … Melanie Mitchell found out that when she looked for her book on Amazon, another ebook with the same title was released last September. This other book was much shorter, only 45 pages. This book copied Melanie’s ideas but in a weird and not-so-good way. The author listed was ‘Shumaila Majid,’ but there was no information about them – no bio, picture, or anything online. You’ll see many similar books summarizing recently published titles when you click on that name. The worst part is she could not find a solution to this problem.”

It took intervention from WIRED to get Amazon to remove the algorithmic copycat. The magazine had Reality Defender confirm there was a 99% chance it was fake then contacted Amazon. That finally did the trick. Still, it is unclear whether it is illegal to vend AI-generated “summaries” of existing works and sell them under the original title. Regardless, asserts Mitchell, Amazon should take steps to prevent the practice. Seems reasonable.

And Amazon cares. No, really. Really it does.

Cynthia Murrell, April 29, 2024


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