Five books for sale on Amazon were removed after author Jane Friedman complained that the titles were falsely listed as being written by her. The books, which Friedman believes were written by AI, were also listed on the Amazon-owned reviews site Goodreads.
“It feels like a violation, because it’s really low quality material with my name on it,” Friedman told the Guardian. The Ohio-based author has written several books about the publishing industry, and the fraudulent titles mimicked her real work. How to Write and Publish an eBook Quickly and Make Money and A Step-by-Step Guide to Crafting Compelling eBooks, Building a Thriving Author Platform, and Maximizing Profitability were two of the listed books. Friedman’s real books include The Business of Being a Writer and Publishing 101.
One of the falsely attributed books’ descriptions read: “This book offers practical strategies, tips, and techniques to help writers streamline their writing process, accelerate their eBook publication timeline, and maximize their earning potential.”
Jane Friedman. Photograph: Ross Van Pelt
Friedman was first made aware of the scam titles through a reader who noticed the listings on Amazon and emailed her after suspecting that the books were fraudulent. “It looks terrible. It makes me look like I’m trying to take advantage of people with really crappy books,” she said.
Having had experience with AI tools such as ChatGPT, which is designed to provide humanlike responses to user commands, Friedman immediately thought the books were AI-generated after reading the first few pages. “I’ve been blogging since 2009 – there’s a lot of my content publicly available for training AI models,” the author wrote on her website.
The books were “if not wholly generated by AI, then at least mostly generated by AI”, Friedman said. She began looking for ways to get the titles taken down immediately and submitted a claim form to Amazon. Yet according to Friedman, as she had not trademarked her name, Amazon told her it would not remove the books.
However, the books had been taken down from both Amazon and Goodreads by Tuesday, which Friedman suspects is due to her speaking out about the issue on social media. “Unless Amazon puts some sort of policy in place to prevent anyone from just uploading whatever book they want and applying whatever name they want, this will continue, it’s not going to end with me,” said Friedman. “They have no procedure for reporting this sort of activity where someone’s trying to profit off someone’s name.” On her blog, she called on the sites to “create a way to verify authorship”.
Fraudulent titles have been listed on Amazon in the past. In 2018, business writer Patrick Reames said that a scammer had used his social security number to pose as him and publish a book under his name.
When asked about Friedman’s case, an Amazon spokesperson told the Guardian: “We have clear content guidelines governing which books can be listed for sale and promptly investigate any book when a concern is raised. We welcome author feedback and work directly with authors to address any issues raised. We invest heavily to provide a trustworthy shopping experience and to protect customers and authors from misuse of our services.”