Scammers Exploiting Kindle Unlimited To Fake Book Reads For Quick Profits

18 April 2016

Ann Christy:

Scammers being scammers, they realized Amazon was lying very early on. Amazon couldn’t tell what pages were read. They only knew the last place you were at in the book. And that’s what they were paying authors, the last place that the reader synced in the book.

So, a KU borrow on a device that didn’t sync until after the book was read and the reader flipped back to the front to check out what else you’d written? Yeah, no pages read.

But likewise, a reader who clicked a link on Page 1 offering them the opportunity to win a Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 and a $100 Amazon Gift Card….which then sent them to the back of a 3000 page book? Yep, you guessed it. They got paid for 3000 unread pages. (And no, there was no winner for those contests that anyone knows off.)

Anything you make open to the public is open to abuse. The scam itself is self-explanatory and straightforward but fixing the loopholes is a lot harder than it sounds. It’s impractical for Amazon to proof-read every single page of every single book that gets submitted to the Kindle platform. What’s particularly frustrating for legitimate publishers in this case is that the payout pool is fixed, proportionate to the number of Kindle Unlimited subscribers. This means the bad actors are directly stealing revenue from the pot that could have been distributed to real writers. If less people were ‘reading’ 3000 pages of computer-generated rubbish, all authors would make more money.

Following Apple Music, I’ve heard some people say Apple should offer a subscription Video and Apps service, paying developers based on app usage metrics. For the former case, I fully expect that to happen: an Apple streaming video service is inevitable.

For the latter, I am doubtful we will ever see something like Kindle Unlimited for apps run by Apple. It would be a massive attack vector for people looking to make a quick buck by abusing the platform. There’s a lot of scammy stuff on the App Store today without developers having monetary incentives to keep readers tapping around in their app to clock up their usage quotas. With a few seconds thought I can imagine bad developers adding arbitrary wait times or additional steps into their UI, just to grab a few extra cents from each customer.

The reason Apple Music doesn’t have this problem is because the music submitted to the service is heavily vetted and getting content in the library is pretty arduous, requiring songwriters to publish through a record label of some kind. The same would be true for the hypothetical forthcoming Apple Video service. Nothing’s perfect of course — Spotify was famously abused by a band who asked fans to listen to hours of silent audio tracks on repeat to earn pay-per-play revenue.