App of the Month: iThenticate Plagarism Checker

Between spam eBooks, academic dishonesty, and the plagiarism scandals that rocked the newspaper industry, it seems that copying someone else’s work is becoming and more common. The professional publisher then needs all the tools he or she can get in order to well and truly insulate themselves from the possibility that the amazing work about to be published wasn’t copied wholesale from somewhere else.

iThenticate is just such a program. Designed by iParadigms LLC, the creators of popular college plagiarism checker Turnitin, the web-based system allows researchers and other professionals to upload their work to iThenticate’s server for a low $50 per manuscript. For the organization who perhaps wants a thorough check of all their printed works, the company offers rate quotes beyond the per-manuscript fee. Altough the plagiarism checker focuses primarily on research and scholarly publications, the offering in that area is robust in the extreme.

Every manuscript put through the iThenticate program is cross-checked against “14 billion web pages through the iThenticate Internet Crawler and Index, 50,000 publications and 25 million research and academic articles, and custom repository of content based on individual research needs” according to the website.


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Tech Desk

From the Tech Desk

This Month: The Worrisome Nature of Spam in the Kindle Store

The eBook revolution has made it possible for authors and publishers to easily get digital copies of new releases to the masses. As a result, sales of eBooks have skyrocketed 202.3% year-to-date between February 2010 and February 2011. This proliferation of digital copies isn’t only attractive to legitimate publishers though; scam artists have watched the popularity of eBooks rise, and have entered the eBook market in a similar way to the “content farms” that exist on the Internet consisting of so-called How To articles meant to lead the average reader astray.

The end result of these unscrupulous folks wading into the eBook game is in some cases the wholesale copying of another book, changing a few details, and then posting it back into the Amazon Kindle Store for sale at 99 cents a download. This undercuts the sales of the original work, which may be priced significantly higher. The bigger culprit by far however is the concept of Private Label Rights, or PLR, which allows you to purchase content for a low fee and then re-use that content any way you want. In many cases, these PLR works are no better than the hastily written articles you’d find on content farm websites. People have been known to publish and republish dozens of iterations of these PLR works, all with the aim to make a quick buck off eBooks in the wake of Google cracking down on content farms.

You’d expect that eBook retailers would be aware of these scammers and work hard to counteract the effects. In certain cases you’d be right, as self-publishing service Smashwords has both human and automated processes designed to catch substandard content. However what about Amazon, that massive monolith of online retailing? Surely they have a stringent content check, right? Well, not exactly.

Amazon doesn’t do its own checks on eBook content to ensure it hasn’t been copied from somewhere else. The onus lies on authors skimming through the Kindle Store and seeing if there’s been any naughty folk copying their work and reselling it at a price undercutting the original. The most insidious part of this practice is that it’s the simplicity of the Kindle Store, and their monthly pay periods, that makes the practice so attractive to spammers. Well, that and the 30 percent royalties paid out on 99-cent eBooks. The Nook self-publishing avenue offered through Barnes & Noble doesn’t have nearly the same market penetration as Amazon, which insulates the other e-reader’s audience somewhat from spam eBooks. Smashwords, another favorite for eBooks, has two factors that insulate it -- a quarterly payment cycle and the practice of offering some eBooks for free. The longer pay cycle allows for Smashwords to catch spammers before any money changes hands, and offering eBooks for free means there’s not as much profit potential.

To their credit, Amazon has exhibited some stronger oversight in their Amazon Singles area consisting of short stories, long-form journalism, and opinion pieces. However the existence of spam in the main Kindle Store, sometimes with the same content over and over again, has the extraordinarily high potential to irreparably damage the perception of the Kindle as a e-publishing platform. Why is this? Imagine if you will that you’re a small press who publishes its releases via the Kindle Store and a POD service such as Ingram’s Lightning Source.

Your book does very well in the Kindle Store, say it’s at a sales rank of 55,000 and only growing. Then all of a sudden a cursory search of your release on Amazon reveals that someone released an eBook priced at 99 cents with the same title as yours, but a different cover and a different author name. Then you open the book and realize that it’s your exact release. So you complain to Amazon about the spurious eBook up on their site. However, by the time you manage to get them to take it down your sales have already suffered because people are purchasing the cheap copy at 99 cents rather than yours at $4.99. This is despite the fact that your copy is the real one. Thousands of sales could’ve been lost, and you now might think a little bit harder about how you sell your next eBook. This is even ignoring the problem of PLR, which can result in poorly written texts being published over and over again for someone to make a quick buck off eBooks.

Having Amazon’s Kindle store overrun by illegal and/or substandard eBooks can only harm the legitimate publishers looking to offer their eBooks for sale on the Kindle. Mind you, the argument exists that consumers should also exercise caution when purchasing books through the Kindle Store. There’s some validity to this, but when a retailer such as Amazon is allowing copyright infringement one has to wonder if there’s going to be any lawsuits forthcoming.

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Matthew Delman spent his formative years making up science fiction stories using Hot Wheels cars as stand-ins. In addition to writing on such varied topics as education and business, Matthew is also the founder of independent publishing company Doctor Fantastique Books and its flagship magazine Doctor Fantastique's Show of Wonders. His writing has appeared in The Gloucester Daily Times (Gloucester, Mass.), The Salem News (Salem, Mass.), and on among other media outlets.


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