10 Things E-Books Won't Tell You

Submitted by: Joan MacKenzie 04/03/2012

Don't dismantle those bookshelves just yet. We reveal why e-reading is still far from perfect.

2. "Sometimes you're buying spam."

March 5, 2012 - E-book publishing platforms are so easy to use, just about anyone can publish a book. That increased freedom means there's little oversight on copyright or quality, says Mike Essex, online marketing manager for Koozai, a London-based marketer. Readers could spend good money on poorly written content -- or worse, something which could be found elsewhere online for free. Would-be authors can buy licenses for "private-label" articles, graphics and even entire e-books from content companies, he explains. There are even software programs that can generate content for you, says Joshua Tallent, the chief executive of consulting firm eBook Architects. It's also possible to plagiarize news sites, blogs and other free-to-read online resources -- publishing merely requires checking a box that you're allowed to use the content, a claim most platforms don't verify, says Essex. Some of this mediocre content gets weeded out by software and human screeners, says Mark Coker, founder and chief executive of e-book self-publishing and distributing platform Smashwords. The authors that use such content "are lazy idiots and not very sophisticated, so we catch most of them," he says. Barnes & Noble and Apple both say books violating their policies are typically removed. Amazon did not respond to requests for comment.

Readers have a few protections against bad buys. E-book listings typically include page counts, reviews and a sample page or two, which experts say are usually enough to indicate if the content is worth its price. Many of the private-label books use poor quality covers and don't list the author's name, Coker says. The author's credentials and title list provide more clues. "Some have 'written' thousands of books, which is a red flag," says Essex. Consumers who do buy a dud have some recourse after the fact. Book-sellers may be willing to provide a refund, he says.