Enrolling ebooks in KDP Select is popular. But Amazon can penalize authors if it finds a breach of its exclusivity agreement because of pirated ebooks.
There is no ebook exclusivity with standard Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). It is only when ebook authors choose to enroll in KDP Select that the exclusive selling provisions apply.
When enrolled, ebooks appear in Kindle Unlimited (KU), and authors can use extra marketing tools.
But if Amazon finds an enrolled ebook available for sale or free on any other site or platform, it reserves the right to apply harsh penalties.
I am sure that self-publishing authors on Amazon know the rules and abide by the exclusivity provisions for KDP Select.
Amazon provides them with an excellent platform to publish and sell their work. So, it is in their interest to ensure compliance.
But what happens if an ebook pirate copies a book and posts it on a file-sharing site or publishes it on another platform?
It can create problems because Amazon’s exclusivity terms are unclear about piracy-related issues.
Its terms state that you cannot give anyone else the right to sell or distribute your ebook (or a substantially similar book) in digital format in any territory where you have rights.
You could read this clause to mean that you are safe if you didn’t agree to your book being pirated.
But that is not the case for all authors.
Some authors have had the misfortune of having ebooks removed from Kindle Unlimited. Some have even suffered the suspension of their KDP publishing account.
Amazon has used several measures to protect authors’ intellectual property and combat piracy.
But unfortunately, these have sometimes resulted in Amazon penalizing authors.
It is not a new problem.
Many authors have tales of woe regarding problems when Amazon threatens to penalize authors due to pirates copying and republishing their ebooks.
The penalties Amazon imposes on authors can be severe and have serious consequences.
For example, suppose it detects that an author’s book has been pirated and made available on a file-sharing site.
In that case, Amazon might remove the author’s book from the Kindle store and possibly impose a ban from publishing on KDP altogether.
It can be devastating for authors who rely on KDP as their source of income.
A post on The Mary Sue details the problems that some authors have experienced.
But problems such as this have been around for quite some time.
ALLi warned about the problem of piracy negatively affecting ebook authors on Amazon some time ago.
There was a very telling comment on Reddit: There’s nothing you can do but pray it doesn’t happen to you.
Amazon’s efforts to combat piracy are understandable and necessary.
But the penalties it sometimes imposes on authors can be difficult to understand.
In some cases, the penalties can seem unjust. In particular, when some authors are penalized for issues beyond their control, such as piracy committed by third parties.
The penalties can be devastating for independent authors, who may not have the resources or legal expertise to fight Amazon’s decisions.
How does Amazon decide to take action?
It’s an automated process.
Amazon uses algorithms and bots to scour the Internet for possible infringements of its exclusivity demands.
While it has millions of ebooks in its Kindle store, the number is of no consequence.
Its bots can scan millions upon millions of locations every day in the hunt for duplicated ebooks.
All its bots need to find is the same title, a similar book description and cover, and the same text in the first 300 to 500 words to locate a match.
When it finds what it thinks is a match, automation takes over, and Amazon KDP sends a threatening email to the author.
In most cases, an author has no idea whatsoever as to why or how their ebook contravened Amazon’s KDP Select exclusivity.
But one of the most common causes is when authors enroll in KDP Select after open-publishing on other retailers.
After deleting an ebook from Draft2Digital or Smashwords, it can take some time for all retailers to remove an ebook.
In my experience, it can sometimes take more than a month for all retailers to remove a title.
But if this is not the cause, and an author has abided by all the rules, ebook piracy might be the reason.
What can you do?
There are millions of ebooks on Kindle Unlimited.
For most authors, if you abide by the KDP Select rules, you won’t have a problem.
But yes, in some rare cases, Amazon can penalize authors who have done nothing wrong.
If this happens to you, the only option is to contact Amazon KDP and ask for assistance.
But you will have to be very insistent. Amazon is a huge company, so you will probably get copy/paste replies in the first instance.
If you have no luck, try to contact Amazon by phone.
Some authors have had successful outcomes after speaking to someone to state their case.
A preventitive option might be to sign the petition on change.org to try to stop the unfair removal of titles on Amazon.
Can you stop pirates from copying your ebook?
The answer is no, you can’t.
An ebook is an electronic file published on the Internet, and like any other file, it’s easy to copy.
Ebooks published in epub format are almost as easy to copy as an online article or blog post.
Yes, Amazon tries to protect Kindle ebooks with Digital Rights Management (DRM).
But for pirates, removing the protection from a Kindle ebook is easy.
Every book I have published has been pirated in one form or another.
You can try to fight book pirates, but it’s a losing battle.
Even if you manage to stop one, many more are out there.
Ebook piracy is a challenge for self-publishing authors and the publishing industry as a whole.
But for the majority of indie authors, it rarely poses a problem with ebooks on Amazon.
However, it’s clear that there have been some cases that seem to have affected popular romance titles in particular.
Hopefully, Amazon will find more effective and fairer ways to combat the issue of piracy and better protect Amazon authors.
Related Reading: Can You Opt Out Of KENP Kindle Unlimited With KDP Select?