SF novelist Jim Macdonald has an article, “Fence Your Stolen Content at Amazon.com“. He discusses the threat of e-books as becoming the new breeding-ground fir spammers and search engine scammers:
“With the cost of self-publishing approaching zero thanks to e-publishing, and with content-farms being depreciated by Google, it seems that spammers have taken to e-publishing.”
As someone seeking to start a career with e-publishing as a significant cornerstone in the foundation, this bothers me a lot. As a user of the Internet since around 1995, I’ve seen the war against spam and pernicious Web advertisers get messy. As someone who has worked in IT in some way since 1998, I’ve been on frontlines fighting spam and blocking advertising. And, as a Web designer, I’ve had to fight hard to get sites as high as legitimately possible on search results while competing with unscrupulous content farms.
As someone who has spent his entire adult life, both personally and professionally, fighting with spammers and scammers, the prospect of having to continue the fight as a writer, wearies me greatly.
On the glass-half-full side, I have seen a great deal of improvement in the last 15 years in the war over e-mail spam. There was a time, before client spam filters and ubiquitous e-mail server filters, when I considered giving up e-mail altogether as the ratio of spam to ham in my inbox was 75/25. Now, the amount of spam I get barely annoys me.
The current hated weapon is the content farm. Do a search on Google for nearly anything and many of the hits you’ll get back will be to About.com or Suite101 or similar pages that have simply copy-and-pasted a page of generic info about your desired topic, and then filled it with product links and ads. Sadly, the war against these isn’t going too well.
And that’s the threat Macdonald sees in e-publishing — do a book search on Amazon.com for a particular topic, and find several cheap e-books… that have the same generic, boilerplate content as seen in similar pointless works across the ‘net. The legitimate author becomes a squeak in a sea of static.
Things change, and e-mail spam is a surprising example of things changing for the better. I have hope. Sadly, I don’t think it’ll improve until it gets much worse — and I have the impeccable timing to jump right into the fray.