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BBB Warning: eBook Scams Rip Off Readers, Authors And Publishers


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e-book and snackSt. Louis, Mo., Dec. 20, 2011 – The growing popularity of electronic books for devices like the Amazon Kindle, the Barnes & Noble Nook and other devices has inspired scams by unrelated firms that target readers, authors and authorized book publishers, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns.

E-book sales are growing exponentially, according to the American Association of Publishers. For the first eight months of 2011, e-book sales totaled $649.2 million. In February, sales of e-books eclipsed those of traditional paperbacks. And e-readers are expected to be a hot gift item for the holidays.

“Readers love the convenience of e-readers, which allow them to carry several books around in a compact format,” said Michelle L. Corey, BBB President and CEO. “But consumers need to be careful when making e-book purchases if they want quality reading materials without unwanted advertising or malware. They also may want to avoid buying plagiarized or worthless books.”

Some scams target consumers, offering worthless material at a low price that inspires impulse purchasing. Others target authors or authorized publishers by pirating books published legitimately elsewhere. Common scams include:

  • E-books filled with useless and often badly written information sold for a couple of dollars. Malware is sometimes attached in order to obtain your credit card information.
  • A single book is given different editorial spins and then sold under different titles or authors’ names.
  • Material is plagiarized from websites and blogs, then packaged into an e-book and sold.
  • Writing competitions that offer to publish winners’ work digitally. Although the contests include entry fees, the cost to publish digitally is minimal.
  • E-readers spammed with ad-laden works and hotlinks to both commercial and malware sites that load viruses onto your machine.
  • E-book purchases and sales used to build up credentials for bogus sellers and buyers on auction sites.
To avoid e-book scams, the BBB advises:

  • Take a good look at the website that offers the item. Does it have a BBB logo? If it does, click on it to see if it’s legitimate (a BBB dynamic seal will take you to the company’s BBB Business Review).
  • Make sure that the site is secure when you place the order: Look for https:// at the beginning of the site’s URL (website address) on the page where you enter payment information.
  • Stick with authors you already know or those who have an established reputation.
  • If you decide to buy from an unfamiliar author, see if you can download a free sample first to test the quality. Some sites allow you to preview a book before you buy it.
  • Don't be taken in by great reviews that accompany cheap e-books. They may be genuine or the writers may have been paid to produce them.
  • Do a search on the book name or author to see what other people say or how many other books the author claims to have written.
  • Don't click on links inside an e-book unless it's by an established, reputable author and sold through a legitimate website. Even then, it’s advisable to visit the author’s website using your Internet browser rather than using the link.
  • If you believe you've been scammed, seek a refund. You should also register your complaint with the seller's customer service department. And, if all else fails, do other readers a favor by writing an honest review of the book.
Check a company’s BBB Business Review before you make a purchase by going to www.bbb.org or by calling 314-645-3300.

Contacts: Michelle Corey, President & CEO, 314-584-6800, mcorey@stlouisbbb.org, or Chris Thetford, Vice President-Communications, 314-584-6743 or 314-681-4719 (cell), communications@stlouisbbb.org
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