Amazon the Knock-Off Artist?

After reading this article, which reports the many duplicate book titles available on Amazon, I paused for a moment, a bit confused as to the books that sparked this little controversy. I agree, one shouldn’t use already existing titles to dupe readers into buying your book over another, but should Amazon be blamed for allowing it to occur? Or should that and culpability be shifted to the shoulders that created duplicate titles?

Amazon removed the books discussed in this article from their site, but the books still exist. Correction, the books are still listed on Amazon’s site as of the time I’m publishing this blog post, but they are tagged as “Currently unavailable.” Now to me, Fifty Shades of Grey and Thirty-Five Shades of Grey are different books. If I were reader looking for the Twilight knockoff, the difference between the similar titles would be obvious to me. One has fifty shades and a man’s tie on the cover, the other has thirty-five and a naked woman touching her whatnots. Very different. Of course, if I flipped the book over, it appears that the story of Twilight’s knock off got, well, knocked off. Karma, perhaps?

Amazon has said it rejects or removes thousands of books to improve customer service and avoid confusion, but why stop at titles? How about we go on and have them sort through the submissions for self-published books and remove any book that is similar in plot and characterization as well? Blurbs? Shit, yeah. If they’re the same, or confusingly similar to another book already published by the Big Six, let’s remove them. We. Can’t. Confuse. The. Readers.

Get real. There are plenty of books with identical titles: it’s not a crime. True, it confuses us when we look for a certain book, but isn’t that what some of these guys hope to do? As a reader, I look at more than a title or a blurb. I look at the first pages, and if I’m unable to do that, I don’t buy it. Period. No confusion there.

Similar titles, as long as there is no trademark infringement, are perfectly legal. And let me tell you, it is very difficult to find a court that will side with an author when challenging titles. So many terms, phrases, etc. are generic, that it’s impossible to trademark most titles.

Speaking of Twilight (yes, just a couple of paragraphs ago), let’s look at how many duplicate titles have come along since it hit shelves. Wow, a lot. Sure the wording varies, but there are several wannabe bestsellers trying to break the bank on that cash cow. But wait, what about before Meyer published? Oh, look. Meg Cabot published a little novel called Twilight in 2005, as part of a series called “The Mediator.” It did pretty well, as all Cabot’s books seem to do. Did her panties get bunched because Meyer came along three years later and used her title? No. Because it’s not the same story. (Cabot’s series is way better) And there’s the part the made me pause. Why are we all antsy over copycat titles popping up over a book that was a copycat story to begin with?

 I know Amazon has done some skeezy things, and I know that scamming may not be something they consider outside of their ethics, but if an author wants to use a title that’s been used, but not trademarked, they’re within their right to do so. It’s on us to trademark our titles if we don’t want them used, not Amazon or any other publisher or bookseller. Come on guys, let’s get a grip. I’m titling my next book, “Fifty Shades of Grey in Twilight by the New Moon: Under the Dome.” How you like them apples?

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