The business of generating and selling low-quality ebooks

Online marketplaces are stocked to the brim with low-quality e-books generated by LLMs or cruder generative methods. It's nothing new—hucksters have been slapping together garbage ebooks by plagiarizing wikipedia and whatnot since the dawn of the format. But now it happens in incredible, overwhelming volume. It's "partly AI, partly a get-rich-quick scheme, and entirely bad for confused consumers," writes Constance Grady.

Take, for example, when tech journalist Kara Swisher's Burn Book came out this February. A host of other books hit the Kindle store along with it. They all had bizarre, SEO-streamlined titles, like those new businesses that are named Plumbing Near Me to game the Google algorithm. … Here is almost certainly what was going on: "Kara Swisher book" started trending on the Kindle storefront as buzz built up for Swisher's book. Keyword scrapers that exist for the sole purpose of finding such search terms delivered the phrase "Kara Swisher book" to the so-called biographer, who used a combination of AI and crimes-against-humanity-level cheap ghostwriters to generate a series of books they could plausibly title and sell using her name. The biographer in question was just one in a vast, hidden ecosystem centered on the production and distribution of very cheap, low-quality ebooks about increasingly esoteric subjects.

"Cheap, low-quality ebooks about increasingly esoteric subjects" is a great example of cyberpunk dystopia things that are no-where near as cool in reality as they were when they were clever throwaway worldbuilding morsels thirty years ago. Welcome to a "landscape fully saturated with grifters."

According to the blogs of the era, one of the most infamous teachers was a man who went by Luca de Stefani, or Big Luca. Legend had it he held the world record for making the most money using Kindle Publishing in a single day. What set Big Luca's Self Publishing Revolution course apart from the rest — Big Luca's "black hat breadwinner video lesson," per one review — was that he gave his students access to a secret Facebook group where self-publishers organized review swaps and buys.

You'll never guess what happened next.

Amazon is filled with garbage ebooks. Here's how they get made. [Vox]

Previously: Self-published ebooks: the surprising data from Amazon