Plagiarism and the culture of quantity

If you’re into the self-publishing business–Am I into it, writing hot steamy romance under the name of Hildegarde Von Liebe? Who can tell?–you’ve heard about the latest plagiarism case: Cristiane Serruya is a copyright infringer, a plagiarist, and an idiot, and probably heard echoes of its accompanying drama on Twitter.

I’m not much into public drama. But I understand the emotion. Writing, creating, is such a personal thing, it hurts. And it hurts even more to see people not giving a fuck about one’s work being lifted by some smartass—that’s life, hon! Deal with it—I know firsthand how it feels, I hate it.

It’s also very depressing because, beside the hardly conceivable level of stupidity and contempt for readers this latest case of plagiarism reveals, the fact is that it’s almost irrelevant who is right or wrong because the question really boils down to what Nora Roberts points out in her spot on reaction (read her comment in full, if only to get an idea how plagiarism is too often dealt with):

This culture, this ugly underbelly of legitimate self-publishing is all about content. More, more, more, fast, fast, fast. Because that’s how it pays. Amazon’s–imo–deeply flawed system incentivizes the fast and more.

Quantity, not quality. Yeah, I know, captain obvious here. But if you’re not into it or if, as a reader, you’ve never been curious enough to look under the hood you have no idea how deep it’s ingrained. And Amazon has a huge responsibility in that. In the way it rewards quantity, over quality.

Even more so when considering Kindle Unlimited. At least if one is to make a (decent) living out of KU, one needs to publish a lot of pages, and I mean a lot knowing how low KU is paying per page read. Or one’d better stop altogether trying to make a (decent) living out of KU, and start consider it as pocket money.

The need to publish always more has led to abuses. Plagiarism to begin with, but also more or less clever ways to game Amazon’s algorithms: the “book stuffing” scam was a somewhat good example of that.

And who gives a fuck about the ‘quality’ of these books and screwing the reader? Not these ‘authors’.

I do not, never have, never will comprehend how someone can feel any pride claiming a book they didn’t write.

Nora is right, once again: it makes no sense. Like feeling proud of winning a chess game by using a chess engine to outplay your opponent. But does Amazon really cares? And do these ‘authors’ care? I very much doubt it.

They’d probably say pride doesn’t pay the bills, or that pride (and money) lies in having a name that’s talked about, not much in having a name that’s doing the actual work.

Work is still a necessity in writing as one has to put words down on the page. But it’s a necessity that’s more and more often cheaper and faster when outsourced, you know. Quantity and low cost: the best recipe ever.

Which leads us to another question: up to what point can the writing work be outsourced and/or automated without totally screwing the reader or the author?

As readers, you deserve better than spending your time and money on a book that turns out to be a lie. As writers we deserve to have our work respected and protected.

If only. But it’s not obvious that’s where we’re heading.

Why not imagine a new institutionalised plagiarism blurring the line between books that are “a lie”, as Nora calls them, and books that aren’t. A plagiarism legally developed and strictly monitored by Amazon to avoid any problem while fulfilling Amazon’s never-ending need for more “good enough” books.

Just imagine: IA-assisted writers to begin with, soon followed by fully autonomous IAs without human intervention at all, that’d be “getting their inspiration” from the work of other authors while insuring there is no pure and simple plagiarism. Those IA dutifully pooping out “good enough” and plagiarism-free ebooks in as many genres as there are enough readers willing to pay.

Lines of fully IA-writers owned by Amazon, or by any other corporation big enough to purchase and educate them. Giving them full over content, making those ebooks not only plagiarism-free, but also polemic-tree. For a fraction of the cost of having to work with meat writers.

And as there is no way a human can outrun a machine, even for cheating, that’d mechanically put an end to plagiarism between authors, as to other scams in the publishing business. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

Leaving only a few truly motivated meat authors, best-sellers and more creative ones not that interested making good-enough, with maybe a few less interesting ones, kept as mascots to give this business a humane face–who’d want a book dedicated by ‘Hot-Steamy-Romance Ver. 10.14 Update 28‘?

That’s crazy, I know. It’s just me being silly, that’s all. It must be.

And since something like that’ll never happen, enough rants and back to work! Dear Hildegarde Von Liebe is not yet fully outsourced, or assisted by any IA for that matter—she’s not much talked about either. Who cares? 😉

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