Amazon Deletes Ebooks Automatically Generated From YouTube Comments Leaving Many Questions Unanswered

from the too-bad dept

MIT’s Tech Review had a fascinating article yesterday about a couple of “artist-coders” who had automated a system to turn YouTube comments into ebooks for sale on Amazon with somewhat (unintentionally) brilliant results, such as “Alot was been hard” by Janetlw Bauie:


The team who created this has put out an entertaining press release as well. In it, they point out how they’re demonstrating some big questions about publishing in the digital age:

The GHOST WRITERS project’s aim is to address and identify pertinent questions concerning the digital publishing industry’s business models, as well as to draw the lines of new trends for a possible new kind of digital literature, after the web.

The project wants to raise questions like: who do YouTube videos/comments belong to? Where does authorship start and end? To what extent does the e-book format have to be reconsidered with regard to the traditional book form, and what are its most innovative opportunities? How could we act and work on it?

Indeed. When I first read the TechReview about this, my first thought was about how long it would be until they were sued for copyright infringement. Still, I was intrigued by this so I went to check out some of “Janetlw Bauie’s” works… only to discover they’re all gone. No one seemed to mention this anywhere, but the creators just noted that Amazon pulled them because “they could lead to a poor customer experience.” Not sure that’s really true, but… Either way, it seems unfortunate to have them just “disappear” (poof!) like that. Were these books really so problematic that they had to be deleted entirely?

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Companies: amazon, youtube

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Comments on “Amazon Deletes Ebooks Automatically Generated From YouTube Comments Leaving Many Questions Unanswered”

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19 Comments
Shmerl says:

Did they also disappear from devices of those who already got them? Amazon has full control over their distribution, so they can pull what they want in order not to distribute it anymore. It’s not pleasant, and those who care about that should use some other distribution channels which are under their own control. But pulling stuff off the devices is another matter, and Amazon was already caught before doing this.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Amazon is Starting to Operate Under Grocer's Rules.

Look at it this way, my most recent Amazon purchase was a couple of gallons of lemon juice. I drink unsweetened lemonade the way some people drink coffee, and it’s probably better for me too. One part of lemon juice and seven parts of water make eight parts of lemonade, and I’ve got the lemonade jugs duly scribed with fill-lines. You can substitute a small quantity of lime juice, say, substitute lime juice for a quarter of the lemon juice, for a bit more bite.

Previous purchases have included correspondingly large quantities of canned tuna fish, canned vegetables, Parmesan cheese, potato flakes, and egg powder. Approximately speaking, these are the fixings of various kinds of chillies and curries. Amazon sells all kinds of things which keep indefinitely, and don’t require refrigeration until opened, and it sells them at prices competitive with the local grocery store, even if you don’t have special issues of delivery. It’s only a matter of time before they reach a deal with United Parcel to build refrigerators and freezers into the brown trucks so that they can sell cheese and frozen goods. Of course, economic orders of frozen goods presume a customer who is willing to buy a chest freezer, so that he can take delivery of a couple of cubic feet at a time.

In round numbers, the grocery market is twenty to forty times the size of the book market. As a firm which sells groceries, Amazon doesn’t need to be associated with people who play funny games, such as charging money for content which is available for free on the internet. Very well, it took them a little while to catch onto the robot, but when the figured out what was going on, they acted decisively. Kindles now have internet browsers, which work wherever WiFi is available. Someone who is legitimately trying to communicate can always put his content up on a website for free, and doesn’t need to plug into the Kindle e-book system. Amazon will simply have to learn how to set up a system which automatically Googles for statistically improbable phrases when an e-book is submitted for publication, and rings alarm bells accordingly.

ryven says:

Amazon is Starting to Operate Under Grocer's Rules.

But plugging into the Kindle system was an integral part of the communication. It’s combination appropriation art/performance art. Rehosting Youtube comments as ebooks on a private website that consists entirely of such would not be the same at all – mixing them into the general Kindle experience is the whole point.

I agree that Amazon can take them down if they want, but disagree that TRAUMAWIEN and Bernhard Bauch weren’t “legitimately trying to communicate.”

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