Large online companies have always been scammed by people using shady or even illegal methods to make a quick buck. The examples of this include Facebook, Twitter and Google where scammers were making money by selling fake accounts, likes, views, and clicks until these companies cracked down on this. Now the Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program has become the target of scammers.
What is Kindle Unlimited?
Kindle Unlimited is a monthly subscription service that allows the subscriber to choose from over a million book titles on Amazon.com and read an unlimited number of titles a month. The monthly fee is $9.99.
What is going on?
Scammers are publishing ebooks filled with auto-generated content and tapping into the “joint pot”, from which Kindle Unlimited pays independent publishers for their books, depending on the amount of pages that were read in the book.
The issue has recently come to light and independent authors are now complaining because the scam decreases the real authors’ earnings and also it makes their books harder to find in the bloated pool of bogus books. Scammers also often generate fake “Buy For Free” button clicks to push up the rank of their books in the free ranks. This is how many garbage “books” climb to the top of results and how real books that have the author’s heart, soul, sweat and tears in them may get pushed lower down the list.
It is not known whether Amazon knows about this problem or not but it seems that they suspect something because in the past the amount of pages that you could have in a book was 10000, while now they have decreased it to 3000 pages per book. Now scammers can potentially make three times less money per book.
How does the scam work?
In the current Kindle unlimited program independent authors receive royalties regardless of the book cost based on the number of pages that were read by Kindle Unlimited uses in their book. All the money collected from readers with a KU subscription in a given amount of time is then distributed among all the authors, based on the number of pages read in their book(s). The amount averages to about 0.0045 USD per page and it comes to $1.5 USD for a 350 page book.
Amazon has stated publicly that they know the amount of pages that read by a KU user in a book, but now it seems that this isn’t so. Scammers have figured out that Amazon only knows the last page read by the way of syncing the book. So if a user finished reading a book and then decided to navigate to the first page before the sync, the author theoretically will not get any money.
Fraudsters either purchase a few pages of good content for the book or the even write it themselves, and the rest of the pages are filled with some synthesized contend that doesn’t make any sense and has nothing to do with a good book.
Then the fraudster may create multiple versions of the ebook with different synthesised texts after the first few pages. They will register a new KDP account with a unique EIN, and publish the book under the names of different authors. Next they will activate the free 5 day promotion and the book enters the Kindle unlimited program and becomes available for “free purchase”.
After that the scammer of their team/freelancers start downloading those books and opening them on the last page. These multiple downloads increase the book’s rankings. At the end of the 5 day promotion the scammer may withdraw the book to stay under the radar of amazon.com. If enough people complain about the book the fraudster’s Kindle Direct publishing account will be closed down and they will not get any money. Then they just cash the check and repeat the whole process again.
Some scammers have even published YouTube videos with step-by-step tutorials and one even posted a screenshot of $70,000 of fraudulent income per month.
Now that this issue has come to light it is likely that Amazon’s team will take action. If you remember, in 2015 Amazon started a lawsuit against more than 1000 people who were allegedly providing fake reviews on the US version of the site. Many of the reviews were sold for as little as $5 on Fiverr.com – a platform for selling different tasks for $5.