Baby For President
Almost two weeks ago, I noticed our paperback book from 2012, Baby For President, was not listed on Amazon anymore. Thinking it was because of the CreateSpace-Kindle Direct Publishing merger that happened recently, I re-posted it on Amazon. The market for the book is U.S. and Canada. I received an Amazon email that it’s up. But as of June 6, it’s not up. It was briefly up on Amazon in Canada…well it’s a long story…
I am the author of 11 books of babies that are published through major publishers such as Random House, Harper Collins, and Workman Publishing. But the book in question, Baby For President, is a print-on-demand paperback book that Tom and I self-published through Amazon, along with a Kindle eBook and an Apple iBook edition. It’s an election-year project that we’ve had fun with since the year 2000 when Tom first captioned my photos, and our book, What Babies Think, was published by Andrews McMeel.
In 2018 I noticed something really weird on Amazon. There was a new “Mass Market Paperback” edition of the book on its own listing page, with a slightly different name of the book and of the publisher. The selling price was more than double the $14.95 price we set for our paperback. So we raised the price of Baby For President to $50, updated the cover with a new photo, and ordered the counterfeit book for $33.
Wouldn’t you know it, the book never arrived. The bookseller sent a message that it was damaged in shipment, and the shipper was in the midst of returning the package to them, and they were presently out of stock. Even though their listing advertised that they had three in stock. And then the price went up to $115.77.
What was especially maddening is that the counterfeit book listing came up in an Amazon search for our book, when our real listing didn’t even show up! Probably because we ordered a copy, so it raised the Amazon Best Sellers Rank of his to 2,042,527, when our book was ranked at 9,204,621!
My personal Facebook posts about my experience in June 2018. Anthony Bourdain died then, and I saw that his book had the same phenomenon happen to it. I read about an author of stock market research who also had a similar experience. My friend Joel put it like this, “Terrible, Penny. Piracy of identity. Piracy of creative products. Piracy of capital. Piracy of information. The whole shitpot of the digital economy is depressing and conveys illegal power to scammers and rip-off assholes."
I sent Amazon a DMCA notice and they removed the phony listing. Because our self-published book is a print-on-demand, I’m the sole distributer, and our edition is the only edition, we would be the only ones with a listing displaying the photo and selling the book new on Amazon. Or did the third party seller have a copy of the printable file? Or did the third party seller even need an actual book to do whatever it was they were doing?
After that, I received an email from the infringer who identified himself only as Walter, writing that he lost his Amazon store and he needed me to help him get it back.
I'm so sorry for infringing your intellectual property rights.
Though I know that nothing I do could really make up for
what I did wrongly, I just would like to say,
"am really very very sorry for you!"
I guarantee to you that I would never infringe your property
rights again in the future. This guarantee could serve as a
legal proof against me from any related issue happen
in the future.
Since my Amazon selling account is the only financial source
to maintain my family's living, and I have parents and kids
need to feed, I cordially ask you to give me a second chance.
by your mercy and kind heart, could you please write a
notification email from firstname.lastname@example.org to
email@example.com saying that the case
has been resolved?
A little scary, although it’s the kind of note you’d want to get from an infringer, along with a check. I didn’t respond (I didn’t get a check), but his store was back on Amazon within six weeks.
The paperback dropped off of Amazon.com at one point, I thought because Amazon’s CreateSpace, that printed the book, merged into KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). Having just noticed, I moved the book to KDP, because after all, it is an election year.
I can report that after two years, the Amazon bad players have upped their game, by 3,333 times! Baby For President, while not yet listed on Amazon.com, priced at $14.95, is listed on Amazon in Canada. Immediately after the Canadian listing went live, a bookseller in Maine, U.S.A. listed our book for $10,515 CDN new, and $50,000 CDN in a used “acceptable” condition.
I took my book off of Canada, hoping it would erase the disturbing Books Mela listing, but the listing remained, without the link to buy it from Amazon…
…and now it’s selling new in Japan….
…and now the Kindle book is sold all over the world, when it’s only supposed to be sold in the U.S….
So I asked Amazon, what’s going on? My book is for sale by Books Mela on Amazon.ca and the book is not even for sale by me, and I can’t even buy author copies. I’m restricted by Amazon and KDP to having to set the price of my book between $10 and $250. But Books Mela can “sell” my book new for $10,515 and used for $50,000. That’s not fishy? And their answer, direct from Jeff Bezo’s Executive Customer Service, where emails go when they are sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, is that third parties don’t need the book in stock to be able to sell it on Amazon. If the third party has a “sale,” they can delay the shipment while they order the book from Amazon. They can “sell” it new. They can “sell” it used (even if no copies exist.) They can “sell” it for whatever price they want. They can buy it from the Amazon link and ship it straight to the enduser. Except that I don’t get much of that $50,000 sale. On their “sale” involving my book for $50,000, they would theoretically pay my royalty on the $14.95 price, which is $2.37, and Amazon would benefit twice from the sale of one book, once by making $5 on the first sale (if Books Mela even bothers to buy the book to do whatever it is they do) and then $4,000 to $15,000 on the second sale of the first sale of my book.
Amazon used to be so responsive when they were growing their fan base. My book isn’t even available to buy yet – it’s only available for criminals to attached themselves to it. Amazon stands by their policy – they think it’s fine that my book provides a third party something to “sell” for $50,000, even when the actual book is not available to buy on Amazon.com or elsewhere in the world.
It’s 2020, and the internet is broken.
[UPDATE: JUNE 15]: My book is still not for sale in the U.S. It is still for sale in Canada for $50,000 CND. (That’s about $40,000 U.S. dollars). How is this third party bookseller allowed to list my book, when my book is not available? Amazon, who I email almost daily in regard to this problem, asking why my book has not been listed yet, says the reason why my book is not listed yet, for my price of $14.95, is that there is a “technical problem” with my book. I would say so!