Amazon has its fair share of scammer problems. Most of us have probably come across suspicious-looking knockoffs, or products priced too good to be true – let’s not start with one. microSD card scams – but the last racket to be exposed is something quite different.
Authors have reported that the covers and artwork of their books have been pirated and used as notebook covers that are passed off as the original book, complete with the author’s name but with the content replaced with blank pages.
We were alerted about the scam when we came across a topic on twitter initiated by the author Rob Manuel detailing your recent experience. Manuel saw a clone of his book The Very Best of Fesshole: Britain Confesses Anonymously about 24 hours after it was published on Amazon. This cloned book was listed at a cheaper price than Manuel’s original by an ‘author’ named ‘Rachid Zrika’.
What a strange thing. My book we published yesterday was cloned on Amazon. OF COURSE I ASKED. I can’t wait to read Rachid Zrika’s version. pic.twitter.com/iN4LIxR4r8October 28, 2022
Manuel discovered that ‘Rachid Zrika’ had a page on Amazon – it has now been taken down – with a handful of books by that name that were obviously cloned. Books on Amazon’s bestseller lists, including Dawn O’Porter’s Cat Lady and Leonard Cohen’s Ballet of Lepers, were listed as written and available by ‘Zrika’, and were selling for a fraction of the price of the originals.
Manuel ordered a copy of the fake version of his book and shared a video of what he received.
So I asked for the fake version of my own book so I could own this unique piece of memorabilia pic.twitter.com/fX3eas4brhOctober 30, 2022
While this fake ‘writer’ isn’t selling real copies of these books, they’re passing out what are nothing more than cheap notebooks like the original works – and anyone who inadvertently bought one, whether for themselves or as a gift, would be paying well. money for what is – quite literally – a hollow facade of the genuine article.
We got in touch with Rob Manuel, who told us that Amazon had deleted the clone of his book after he made “a bit of a fuss on Twitter.” He added: “I was worried that it might start showing up on bestseller lists as it’s cheaper than the actual book, so people casually looking would choose the cheaper one. And those people would be disappointed in a junk notebook.”
Another writer responded to Manuel’s Twitter thread to say the same thing had happened to him and added that when he asked Amazon UK for help, he didn’t receive assistance because “it was just the author, not VAT registered.”
Amazon’s verified account @amazonhelp responded in the thread and included a link to a page where authors could report any violations – but that was the extent of Amazon’s response. We asked Manuel if he had received any direct communication from anyone at Amazon and surprisingly no, although Amazon did at least take down the clearly fraudulent ‘Rachid Zrika’ page.
We don’t know how widespread this issue is, but it wouldn’t be surprising if other scammers were doing something similar to ‘Rachid Zrika’ and had their own fake author pages.
We reached out to Amazon for comment, and a spokesperson told us, “Nothing is more important to us than customer and author trust and ensuring titles are authentic. We have zero tolerance for plagiarized titles or content and we invest in people and technology to protect our store from abuse. Flagged products have been removed.”
Review: Do It Better, Amazon
Scams like this are always worrisome, and even more so at this time of year, in the run-up to Black Friday and the pre-Christmas shopping season. In the rush to close a bargain, shoppers don’t always stop to check the fine print and can easily be taken advantage of and find themselves short on cash.
Given that Amazon started life as a book seller, it’s not unreasonable to expect that when you buy books, you get exactly what you paid for. And while it’s reassuring that Amazon acted quickly in this case, it’s also worrying that it only did so when the matter was brought to its attention – who knows how many unsuspecting shoppers have already fallen victim to this particular scam, or the like.
The usual advice applies when you’re shopping online: what you’re looking for, do your research, check the fine print and be careful with any black friday deals that seem too good to be true.