Even More Numbers

Remember last June, when I devoted a couple of days to talking about book subscription services in general and Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited in particular? No? Rats. (The posts are here and here if you want to refresh your memory.)

One of the points I made was noting that KU’s switch to paying authors by the number of pages read instead of the percent of the book read was most likely to benefit authors of long, unreadable books.

In the follow-up discussion of avoiding having Amazon look over your shoulder, I suggested making sure authors got paid by scrolling to the end of each book in the Kindle reader before exported it to the reader of your choice. Of course, that would only work if Amazon’s page counting method was a simple-minded check of the highest page number you saw.

We now know that Amazon’s method is that stupidsimple. And we also know that it opened up stunning new vistas for scammers.

It works like this:
1) Page One of your new book says “For a chance to win fifty gazillion dollars, check out the last page of the book!”
2) The next nine-hundred-ninety-nine pages are computer-generated word salad.
3) Page One Thousand says “Ha-ha, there is no prize, Sucker!”*

Presto! Every time somebody checks that last page, you get credited for 1,000 page reads.

* Even better: Direct the suckers to your web page, where you have dozens of ads, malware installation tools, or whatever other monitization methods you want to use waiting. Double payment!

Apparently, so many scammers are doing variations on this trick that payments to real authors have dropped significantly. Not that–as we’ve seen–KU payments were all that great in the first place. (Any model that relies on an ever-growing group of authors sharing a fixed pool of payments is not going to be good for the authors.)

If you needed any proof that Amazon doesn’t give a shit about either authors or readers, now you’ve got it. Even a cursory review of books submitted to KU would catch a large percentage of this sort of crap. Hell, a few simple automated checks could weed out a significant fraction. Even just flagging books whose readers have a higher-than-average reading speed could point out books designed for fraud.

But Amazon doesn’t care. They’ve got the readers’ ten bucks a month, and authors continue to sign up for KU, so there’s some real content mixed into the garbage. As long as the proportion of garbage is low enough that people keep paying their monthly subscription fee, Amazon has absolutely no incentive to clean up KU.

So why do authors continue to publish with KU? Because Amazon makes it easy, they don’t do the math, and, bluntly, they figure any payment is better than nothing.


Just say no to Kindle Unlimited.

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