One of the Swisher books that was taken down by Amazon was listed as being written by an author named Cheryl J Stackhouse. An Amazon search for Stackhouse’s name listed her as the author of numerous other biographies of famous figures, all published in recent weeks.

Weeks before the release of her new memoir, recalls tech journalist Kara Swisher, her wife noticed something odd as she searched for the book on Amazon. “She was like, ‘What is this picture of you? It’s weird!’,” Swisher said.

Swisher looked at the screen and saw a book claiming to be a new biography of her, with an image on the cover that she immediately pegged as an AI-generated fake. While the book promised the inside story of Swisher’s life, the author was someone she’d never heard of. A closer look suggested that the book itself might be largely or entirely AI-generated, substituting generic descriptions of Swisher for factual details or anecdotes. Swisher was irritated but brushed it off, she said.

But when she looked at Amazon again this week, she saw spammy clone biographies of her had proliferated, as the tech blog 404 Media first reported. Each bore a slightly different title, author, and fake image of her on its cover. “There were dozens and dozens,” Swisher said. “I was like, ‘What is happening here, and why aren’t they stopping it?’”

Swisher is just the latest author to find that selling a new book on Amazon these days often means competing for readers’ attention with knockoffs that bear signs of having been generated largely or entirely by artificial intelligence tools. Nearly 10 months after The Washington Post reported on one of the first known examples of these impostors, authors say the problem appears to be getting worse.

“It’s getting easier and easier to generate books with AI, and we’re seeing more of them,” said Mary Rasenberger, executive director of the Authors Guild, a trade group for authors. “I think we are going to be dealing with an explosion of AI-generated books before we get anywhere near fixing the problem.”

The list of authors affected is long, and the rip-offs have blossomed in variety. Some falsely claim to have been written by a real author, as was the case with five books that publishing industry analyst Jane Friedman found on Amazon under her name last August. Some share the same title as a real book, like the one that technical writer Chris Cowell flagged to The Washington Post last May.


Some use the same surname as a real author but change the first name, as recently happened to jazz writer Ted Gioia. Some are billed as “companion” books or “workbooks” for real bestsellers, as “Today” host Savannah Guthrie found out when she published her latest. Others are works of fiction, like the evidently AI-generated novels that last summer flooded Amazon’s e-book bestseller list for “Teen & Young Adult Contemporary Romance.”

While it’s hard to prove definitively that any given book was AI-generated, the knockoffs tend to be self-published using Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing service. They often bear the names of unknown authors, sport cover art that resembles the outputs of AI image tools, and appear on Amazon shortly before the release of the genuine book they’re attempting to capitalize on. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

Amazon said it is taking the problem seriously, has already taken steps toward addressing it and is working on additional measures. The company does not prohibit users from selling books generated by AI tools on its platform. But it does prohibit content that infringes on intellectual property, as well as books whose descriptions are misleading or whose substance is “typically disappointing” to customers.

“We aim to provide the best possible shopping, reading, and publishing experience, and we are constantly evaluating developments that impact that experience, which includes the rapid evolution and expansion of generative AI tools,” Amazon spokesperson Lindsay Hamilton said.

Amazon has sought to stem the tide by limiting self-publishers to three books per day. And last year it began requiring e-book authors to disclose AI-generated work to Amazon, though the company does not require that they disclose it to customers.

In the company’s latest measure to limit spammy books, Hamilton said, it has recently begun limiting the publication of “summaries” and “workbooks” that claim to be companions to real, human-authored books.


When press reports of AI knockoffs surface – an increasingly common occurrence – Amazon often removes the books in question from its site, and sometimes others along with them. Hamilton said the company also has “a robust set of methods that help us proactively detect content that violates our guidelines, whether AI-generated or not,” though she didn’t say what those methods are.

Some authors wondered why such a powerful tech company seems to be having such a hard time getting a handle on the problem.

On Wednesday, a search for “Kara Swisher book” on Amazon turned up Swisher’s actual memoir, “Burn Book,” as the first result. But the next 16 results were all books about Swisher published by other authors within the past three months. Most shared some of the common characteristics of AI imitators: self-published, often short in length, bearing no sign of original reporting or insight in their description or the sample pages that Amazon made available.

The second book in the list, written by one Cheryl D. Stackhouse and Brotherhood Press, was titled “Kara Swisher Book.” The sample text alternated between describing Swisher in the third person and writing in her voice, and included nonsensical quotes such as, “If you don’t have any confidence, you can’t possibly be confident.”

Swisher said that when she saw the proliferation of knockoffs, she emailed Amazon CEO Andy Jassy – whose company she has covered many times over the years – to complain. By Thursday, many had been taken down, including the one by Stackhouse. Swisher said she appreciated the response, but she pointed out that most authors don’t have that kind of access to top executives.

“My thing was, ‘OK, you did it for me, and you’re keeping an eye on my book, but why don’t you do it for everybody?’” (Swisher’s wife, Amanda Katz, is an opinion writer for The Washington Post.)


It’s unclear how deeply Amazon investigates the users behind the books it removes. While the Stackhouse book about Swisher was gone Thursday, a search of Stackhouse’s name on Amazon’s site revealed dozens of other books still for sale. Most purported to be biographies of famous figures, and all were published in the last few months.

Attempts by a Post reporter to track down and contact any author by that name were unsuccessful. Amazon declined to provide any information about Stackhouse, citing the privacy of its customers’ data.

Often, books that appear to be AI knockoffs have few if any customer reviews – a sign, at least, that they haven’t fooled huge numbers of readers. But the author of one of the Swisher books, Max Thorne, is also listed as the author of a book about convicted murderer Gypsy Rose Blanchard that has 26 reviews, averaging 2.2 stars.

One review calls it “not even a book,” lamenting, “I want my 12 bucks back!!” Another says, “This is robbery!” Other reviews are titled, “Beware,” “Waste of money,” “Disappointing” and “Not good at all.” That book, too, remained available on Amazon as of Thursday. Attempts to locate an online presence for an author named Max Thorne were unsuccessful.

Amazon’s Hamilton said the company does suspend publisher accounts “when patterns of abuse warrant it.” She added that the company’s “process and guidelines will keep evolving as we see changes in AI-driven publishing to make sure we maintain the best possible experience for customers and readers alike.”

Friedman, the publishing industry analyst who had fake books published under her name last year, said she’s been getting calls and emails ever since from other authors having similar experiences. She said she understands Amazon probably doesn’t want these books on its site, but she questioned why one of the world’s biggest tech companies hasn’t done more to stop them.

Rasenberger said the Authors Guild is pushing Amazon to start disclosing on its site which books are AI-generated, and that the company has been “responsive.” She said the guild also supports a bill introduced in Congress last year by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) that would require AI companies to include markings on the content their tools produce to identify them as AI-generated.

In the meantime, the imitation books keep cropping up. On Thursday, journalist Byron Tau was alerted to an e-book on Amazon claiming to be a biography of him when a friend searched for Tau’s new book, “Means of Control.” The imitator, titled “BYRON TAU BIOGRAPHY,” was just 17 pages long, and a text sample contained glaring factual errors. Tau said he emailed Amazon’s press office, and the title was soon removed.

“I hope Amazon finds a way to crack down on this practice, because it devalues the work of people that spend years actually researching and writing books,” Tau said. “It’s just a sign that these systems that we all rely on are so vulnerable to gamification.”

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