As coronavirus spreads around the world, it is not only health professionals and politicians who are being kept busy. Amazon has been flooded with badly put together, often plagiarised "guides" to combatting the virus.
The retailing giant has already been removing “tens of thousands” of listings from “bad actors” attempting to artificially raise prices on items such as face masks and hand sanitiser. Now it is fighting a losing battle against the writers rushing out self-published books to profit from coronavirus fears.
Generally shorter than 100 pages, dozens have been published in the last few weeks, promising worried readers ways to prevent or avoid the virus.
On amazon.co.uk on Thursday morning, the top results returned for books about coronavirus included Corbi Yang's Coronavirus, which promised to answer "how this virus was identified and what measures have been taken up till now". Running to 44 pages, much of the writing was lifted directly from web pages.
Large parts of the 99-page Wuhan 2020 Coronavirus Outbreak, which claims to be “based on solid, clinical data and research in order to help you better understand the coronavirus that’s at large today”, appeared to be lifted from reports already available online.
Tracy Rinehart's self-published Wuhan Coronavirus, which features a girl in a face mask standing in front of a castle, makes use of NBC News stories about the crisis, while a Dr Kelsey Graham, whose other books have covered self-love and persuasion, draws directly from the CDC's frequently asked questions in his book promising "the FACTS not the POLITICS".
Rather more original instant coronavirus bestsellers include Amanda King’s DIY Hand Sanitizer (“Why Worry About Buying Hand Sanitizers from the Stores When You Can Make Your Own at Home?”), which was published on March 7th.
In children’s books, The Little Corona King was being pitched as a way of explaining the virus “in a gentle and positive way, with a happy ending”, while Coronavirus Zombies Volume 1: The Living Dead Apocalypse by one Maximus Williams involves a vaccine for the illness turning those who catch it into a deadly threat. Running to just 20 pages, it promises “scenes of violence, guns, profanity and graphic scenes of zombies that may be objectionable to some”.
Amazon is understood to have been removing titles from its store that do not comply with its guidelines. The retailer has long been battling the ebook scammers who deluge its store with plagiarised content. Last year the issue exploded when a Brazilian romance novelist was accused of plagiarising dozens of better-known writers.
“Amazon maintains content guidelines for the books we sell, and we continue to evaluate our catalogue, listening to customer feedback,” the retailer said on Thursday.
“We have always required sellers, authors, and publishers to provide accurate information on product detail pages, and we remove those that violate our policies. In addition, at the top of relevant search results pages we are linking to UK government advice where customers can learn more about the virus and protective measures.” – Guardian