Hot Takes: Reader J follows up with a reader’s perspective

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J. emailed me back while I was working on formatting her chat with Amazon and told me she’d written an essay, her first in the thirty years since she’s been out of school. She shared with me and it’s very well done and an excellent look at how the scammers inundating the market is affecting readers, too.

I asked her if she’d like me to post it to my blog and she responded with an emphatic yes.

So…without further ado…

Kindle Unlimited – One reader’s perspective

Girl Reading on a crescent moon, how scammers cheat readers

 

With the emergence of digital publishing, new authors now have access to a tool that allows them to get their books out using Kindle Unlimited and other digital content platforms. I pretty much stick with Kindle Unlimited because of convenience. I’ve tried Smashwords a few times, but that is about it as far as exploring this new frontier of publishing.

Kindle Unlimited is not my only source for reading materials, but it is one I use frequently. I also browse book stores, borrow from the library, download eBooks from my library, and swap books with friends. I don’t do the ARC thing because then I’m asked for an honest opinion and sometimes that is not helpful to me or the author. Plus, it makes it seem like work and I already have two jobs, thank you very much.

A little background: what makes me a reader?

I would say I’m a READER, not just a reader. I read at least one book per day. That is a low estimate. My book log for last year had 637 titles on it…and I read every one of them. When I have a rare day off, I’ll read two or three books.

(Funny story: When I was 12, I received a box set with three books for Christmas. It was The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever by Stephen R. Donaldson. I went back to bed and didn’t come out of my room until the following morning. When I told my mother that I’d finished all three books she was PISSED! She thought her gift would last me at least a month.)

If I’m in my car for more than an hour, I’ll listen to a book on audio, but I still count that as reading. Sometimes I’ll be working on three or four titles at a time.

I’ve been reading for as long as I can remember. Seriously. When I was in Kindergarten or first grade, my mother would ask me to practice by reading the newspaper headlines to her while she was putting on her makeup before work. If she was interested in the article, she would have me circle the headline. When she had a break at work (she bagged groceries at the base commissary) she could read the articles she was interested in without wasting time browsing through the paper. Neat trick, right? My earliest memories start AFTER I learned to read.

In October 2016, I became so fed up with the crap offered on TV that I unplugged it. I still haven’t plugged it back in. Yay! More time to read! (I do occasionally cheat and schedule my weekly visit to the local laundromat to coincide with puck drop for a hockey game I’m interested in watching. Yay, laundromat TVs!)

You like to read. So What?

I point out my background as a reader to give some perspective of where I’m coming from here. I love discovering new authors. When I like a book, I track down every book on the author’s back list. I have my stand-by favorites that I’ve been following for thirty or more years, but I’m always looking for new authors to add to my favorites list. Kindle Unlimited is a great source for my search. Likewise, when I find an author whose books are absolutely awful (sorry, authors, sometimes this does happen) I add them to my NO-GO list so I can avoid them in the future. For the past six months, I’ve selected several books on Kindle Unlimited thinking I’m getting a new title by an author I’ve not read before only to find that it is a recycled book. More often than not it was previously published by an author on my NO-GO list. Amazing how many of the books I mark as unreadable show up later under another title by a different author. I imagine it would take a reader who reads one or two books per week a little longer to spot this trend, and that is what scammers are counting on. So not only are books being recycled on Kindle Unlimited, the one’s being recycled are CRAP! Then, I came across a blog post by a Kindle Unlimited author that explained how this happens. It was an eye-opener for me.

So what’s up with Kindle Unlimited?

Several professionals in the industry have opened this conversation, which is great news. The fact that it is being discussed is a good start. I am not a professional in the industry. I’m just a reader. I have nothing to add to the conversation about copyright law, digital rights management law, requiring statements of disclosure when a book was previously published under another title, etc. Right?

Wrong! As a reader, so BUYER of this service, Kindle Unlimited needs to acknowledge that I as a reader have an expectation that they are selling me the product I expect to receive. They need to develop and apply quality control measures that will ensure that recycled crap stays off of their platform. I place the emphasis on recycled because I do realize that one reader’s crap is another reader’s Jane Austen. I’m not trying to discourage any author from publishing to a platform that can help them hone their skills and develop a voice in the publishing field. Who knows? One day I may discover an author through the local library, and start looking for their backlist and find their early works only available on Kindle Unlimited! It could happen. (I remember discovering Jayne Ann Krentz when I was in college, then tracking down her backlist. Anyone else tracked that particular backlist? Greatest…treasure hunt…EVER!)

So how should we fix this?

(100% opinion piece – but I’m gonna share it anyway.)

What Kindle Unlimited MUST Do:

  • Require any author publishing on their platform to disclose the book’s provenance. (Is provenance the correct word here? Maybe use the term publishing history?) Develop a clear policy that defines what constitutes FRAUD in the representation of a book’s publishing history.
  • Actively seek financial reparation from any author, business, or organization found to be participating in repackaging content WITH THE INTENTION TO COMMIT FRAUD. This last part is important. Authors will often repackage previously published content in the form of anthologies, or for other legitimate reasons. When they do this, they will include a statement that discloses the book’s history. (Ever seen one of those “This book was previously published as ____ in 20__” statements in a book description?) By seeking financial reparation from these individuals, KU makes the consequences outweigh the potential profit so they leave the platform. Face it, scammers are lazy, so if KU makes it hard work to pull off a scam, they’ll go somewhere else. Essentially, Kindle Unlimited needs to take away their toy and send them off to find some other playground.

What Publishing Professionals MUST Do:

  • Keep calling them (the scammers) out on their bullshit. Kindle Unlimited may not be listening, but we the readers ARE listening. Help us avoid the scammers and we will love you forever. We may even start tracking down your backlists to add to our infamously infinite TBR lists.

What we the Readers MUST Do:

  • Now that we’re aware that this is happening, use that “report this item” button on Kindle Unlimited any time we come across a recycled title that is not advertised as a recycled title. It will help Kindle Unlimited find the scammers quicker and maybe get the platform cleaned up and back to providing a service that reader’s and author’s love.

I’m sure there is WAY more to this issue that needs to be resolved on the professional side and by the industry professionals, but as a reader, this would be a great start.

~J.
March 2, 2019

From Shiloh…

Yesterday, I posted this and wanted to repost. It’s been expanded a bit.

Readers, if you feel that this is affecting you, you can contact Amazon, too. If you’ve seen practices like Reader J, if you’re fed up with quality issues plaguing the Kindle Unlimited platform, you’ve got a voice and power with it.

You can email

jeff@amazon.com CC both content-review@amazon.com and legal@amazon.com

This especially goes to authors, though. If you’re worried about the market, etc because of this, do NOT expect others to fight the fight for you. You have to speak up on your own, too. You don’t have to be vocal about it. God knows that can be a pain in the ass and scary, considering how the trolls attack. But they can’t stop you from emailing Amazon. They can’t stop you from contacting RWA or ITW or SFWA if you’re members. Don’t let fear control how use your voice.

Adding in this from La Nora…

Those of you who work in the indie world, if you don’t start naming and shaming this sort of deplorable scheme and those who perpetuate and profit from it, it won’t ever stop. I don’t mean those who have, and continue to try, but those who keep silent out of fear.

Stand up for yourself.

I can speak out, but there’s no point and will be no stop to it, if you don’t stand up.

Some of you have asked what you can do.

Do this. – Nora, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

 

PSA to the visiting trolls (please note, this isn’t directed at authors or readers who have differing viewpoints…it’s directed specifically at scammers who are pissed off I’m shining a light on this)

You might want to take note of my response to trolls, my response when you threaten to report me to Amazon, my response to somebody suggesting I try writing books…(really? 90+ books? I stopped counting but 90+ and several dozen are with traditional pubs, twice that with digital first pubs…and you want me to try writing some books…LOL. Okay.)

Oh, and take a look at the disclaimer.

Basically, hassle me all you want. It won’t have any effect except to fuel me on.