Did you know for only $24.95 a month, you can subscribe to a service that gives you access to a database of thousands of articles you can turn into ebooks?
If you're too lazy or too clueless to write a real book, now you slap your name on another person's work and get rich in the process. Or, so parasitic "Private Label Article" services are leading an ever-growing number of fools to believe.
Tonight while reviewing Smashwords titles to add to the Premium Catalog, I ran across an ebook about a common childhood mental disorder. My first thought was that this was an important topic our customers would care about. But on second glance, something about the book didn't seem right. The cover image was a cheezy stock photograph of a parent and a child. No title or author name on the cover image. The book wasn't formatted properly. The author obviously hadn't bothered to read the Smashwords Style Guide.
I knew I had seen this breed of vermin before. A quick cut and paste of a random string of text into Google gave me another clue. The exact text string appeared word-for-word in multiple other places on the Internet in articles and blog posts under the names of different authors and publications. Did this author plagiarize the content? I suspected not. Another quick check and I confirmed the author learned about Smashwords from a Private Label Article company. Ugh.
I clicked the hyperlink and sure enough it led to a company that has created an ingenious application it licenses for $24.95/month that allows any dunce with a mouse to point and click and build a custom ebook. Users assemble random chunks from of a database of content to generate an ebook they can then sell on the Internet. And it's legal.
I've seen these ebooks and so-called authors at Smashwords before. They usually arrive with 3-D covers and sloppy cut and paste formatting. Many months ago, we updated our Terms of Service to deal with them by clearly prohibiting private label content on Smashwords.
I zapped the offender's account like I would unwelcome spam. Ordinarily, that would be the end of it and I'd move on to the next task.
What bugs me about this incident tonight is a video the company produced and posted to its website. The video demonstrates how the software generates the ebooks and then it explains how users can make money by publishing the books at Amazon's Digital Text Platform and... no it can't be... Smashwords (!!). So not only are they deceiving gullible suckers with inaccurate information, they're also sending these suckers our way, only to have their visions of sugarplums turned to vinegar when we zap them.
I contacted the proprietor and informed him of his video's factual inaccuracies, and asked him to immediately remove the video and stop telling his customers they can publish with us. We'll see what happens.
In the meantime, if you ever see this type of content sneak on to Smashwords and we don't see it first, let us know. The cut and paste trick with Google is an easy way to confirm your suspicion.
Image source: Wikipedia