18 January 2021

Ebook Scam

While working on a post, "Advice for Beginners", I came across a new twist on a scam I had noted briefly nearly four years ago. In "Kindle Chess Books", I observed that there was a large number of Kindle books by many different pretend authors that were in fact books by Edward Lasker and Jose Capablanca, repackaged with someone else's name on the cover.

I had a hand in getting several of these books removed from the Kindle Store by reporting them as fraudulent to Amazon. My review, "Fraudulent", of Chess Fundamentals by Bennett Griffin is still on Amazon, but the book is not. Several reviews of rip-offs of Lasker's Chess Strategy are still available, too.

This afternoon, I found that there are no less than one dozen copies of Chess Fundamentals by Jose R. Capablanca available in Kindle editions. All of these present Capablanca as the author, mostly concealing the identity of the person(s) selling them as Kindle editions. Three of these are in algebraic notation. The other nine are principally copy and paste rip-offs of the original American edition (1934) that is available through Project Gutenberg. They range in price from $0.99 to $5.98.

A few of them reveal minimal effort on the part of whoever uploaded them to Amazon. Two are without diagrams, including the most expensive one. One of the algebraic editions appears from Amazon's preview to have pasted text boxes with algebraic notation over the descriptive in the Project Gutenberg edition, and also replaced fuzzy black and white diagrams with nicer ones. It has the largest diagrams of the three algebraic offerings. The clearest diagrams, however, are in a different algebraic version, and also the smallest.

Converting this classic text to algebraic and publishing it as an ebook is real labor, and deserves compensation. However, judging from the reviews, they may contain many errors. At least one of the algebraic editions is also available as an independently published print edition.

Those who are simply presenting the Gutenberg version are profiting from someone else's labor. Most of them put minimal, if any labor into the effort. One bills itself as an "illustrated edition" but omits the diagrams, making the book worthless. One version tragically asserts copyright over some aspects of the text, acknowledging the bulk to be Capablanca's work now in the public domain. It is clear from the notice that anything the "editor" added will contain flaws. His grammar and punctuation is horrid.

If you want this book on your Kindle or other device via the Kindle app, make sure you use the preview screen before hitting that one-click button. Otherwise, you may be sorry.


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  2. I'm guessing these books are in the public domain by now? Why would anyone want to buy a chess book (allegedly) written by unknown random guy rather than by a legend of the game? I don't understand what the (fake) author's motivation is, since he's going to sell fewer books sticking his own name on the cover.

    Incidentally, I saw your review on Amazon of Chernev's "1000 Best Short Games of Chess." I don't doubt your conclusion that Chernev is very careless about chess history. He seems way more interested in a good story than in historical accuracy. But if you read Chernev for the chess history, you've come to the wrong place.

    1. You'll find another view of Chernev's 1000 Best Short Games of Chess at My First Chess Book.

      You are correct that his books are the wrong place to look for history, but the historian in me sees historical errors the way a bull sees a red cape.

    2. I reread my review and some of the other review after I commented yesterday. It was written in 2012, about the time that I posted the article referenced above, "My First Chess Book". I suspect that part of my reasons for highlighting the errors of history was in response to other reviewers praising this aspect of the book, and the recognition that the specifics at least one of these reviewers found worthy of praise were games that were never played by the famous people Chernev credits.

      In any case, thank you for the constructive criticism.