“Like any author, I obsessively check Amazon,” he said. “And this thing popped up.”
The former BBC technology correspondent wrote a memoir untangling the truth about his family history. What had popped up on the Amazon website was a biography of Cellan-Jones, with a naively designed cover by someone he had never heard of.
“I thought: ‘This is strange – who’s writing a biography of me?'” Cellan-Jones told the Observer. “I don’t kid myself. It’s difficult enough for me to sell books about myself, [let alone] for other people to sell books about me.”
But glancing at a few passages revealed that Cellan-Jones had fallen victim to someone attempting to piggyback on his memoir by releasing a title with text apparently generated by artificial intelligence – one of an influx of AI titles since the emergence of ChatGPT enabled people to generate pages of text rather than bothering to write it…
“Then Amazon sent me an email saying: ‘You might like this.’ Their algorithm had decided this was a bloody book I would want rather than recommending my book that I’ve slaved long and hard over … They’re effectively allowing book spam and recommending it to the very person who is most annoyed by it.”…
The ersatz biography and other titles by the pseudonymous author were removed by Amazon, but plenty more get through the filters intended to weed out low-quality books.
It has been easy for bookspammers to release dozens of titles in a day using Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) system, which enables authors to self-publish ebooks and printed books.