A Kafkaesque nightmare: ChatGPT floods Amazon with e-books

22nd February 2023
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Imagine a world where you discover that your favourite book growing up was written by a piece of software and not an actual human being. Well, that’s exactly what may happen in the not-so-distant future. ChatGPT floods Amazon with e-books ghostwritten by AI

Several self-proclaimed “authors” who always wanted to write but simply couldn’t find the time or the “inspiration” to actually get to writing are using ChatGPT to write stories and books, and then selling them on Amazon for a nifty little profit.

ChatGPT becomes a ghostwriter and an illustrator

ChatGPT has been making headlines ever since it was launched in November last year, for its ability to draft blocks of text with almost perfect grammar, and punctuation. Naturally, a lot of people who always dreamt of writing tried toying with the programme and soon discovered, that writing using ChatGPT is actually a piece of cake.

One such US-based salesman, who’s the author of children’s books, used ChatGPT to write a 30-page children’s book in just a couple of hours.

Moreover, he also used OpenAI’s Dalle2 to generate caricatures and illustrations for his children’s book, which, he self-published his creation using Amazon, and started selling on Amazon’s e-commerce platform for $2.99 per digital copy and $9.99 for the printed version, and made about $100 in the first week.

ChatGPT floods Amazon
As of mid-February, there were over 200 e-books in Amazon’s Kindle store with ChatGPT listed as an author or co-author, including “How to Write and Generate Content Using ChatGPT,” “The Power of Homework,” and the poetry collection “Echoes of the Cosmos.” And the figure is growing by the day. On Amazon, there is even a new sub-genre: books on using ChatGPT that are fully authored by ChatGPT.

Because of the nature of ChatGPT and many writers’ refusal to reveal their use of it, it is practically hard to obtain an accurate tally of how many e-books may have been authored by the AI bot but experts believe the number of titles to in the hundreds, if not thousands.

Democratic process, but is it fair?

Anyone who has ever tried to get a book published will tell you just how difficult it can be for first-time authors. That’s why self-publishing became so popular. However, using ChatGPT and the limitations that it comes with, ghostwriting is perhaps taking things a little too far. There are concerns over the authenticity of the text it generates because ChatGPT learns how to write by scanning millions of pages of existing text.

Today, ChatGPT is poised to upend the traditional book industry, as aspiring writers and self-help gurus eager to make a fast buck are turning to the software to help them build bot-made e-books and publish them through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing arm. Illustrated children’s books are popular among first-time authors.

Influencers. Or Are They?

Hundreds of instructions detailing how to write a book in a few hours have sprung up on YouTube, TikTok, and Reddit. Get-rich-quick scams, nutrition advice, software development instructions, and recipes are among the topics covered.

“This is something we should be concerned about; these publications will flood the market, and a lot of authors will be out of work,” said Mary Rasenberger, executive director of the Writers Guild. Human ghostwriting has a long history, she says, but the potential to automate through AI might change book writing from a talent to a commodity.

“Authors and platforms must be transparent about how these books are made, otherwise you’ll wind up with a lot of low-quality publications,” she added.

In a YouTube video, one author, using the pen name Frank White, demonstrated how he authored a 119-page novella in less than a day. The book is available for $1 on Amazon’s Kindle e-book store. In the video, White claims that anyone with the means and time could produce 300 such books every year using AI.

Several writers, like White, believe they have no need to disclose in the Kindle store that their novel was written entirely by a machine, partly because Amazon’s regulations do not demand it.

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