Friday, April 19, 2024

Amazon is filled with garbage ebooks. Here’s how they get made

Amazon is filled with garbage ebooks. Here’s how they get made - Vox

Vox: “…It’s so difficult for most authors to make a living from their writing that we sometimes lose track of how much money there is to be made from books, if only we could save costs on the laborious, time-consuming process of writing them. The internet, though, has always been a safe harbor for those with plans to innovate that pesky writing part out of the actual book publishing. 

On the internet, it’s possible to copy text from one platform and paste it into another seamlessly, to share text files, to build vast databases of stolen books. If you wanted to design a place specifically to pirate and sleazily monetize books, it would be hard to do better than the internet as it has long existed. Now, generative AI has made it possible to create cover images, outlines, and even text at the click of a button. 

If, as they used to say, everyone has a book in them, AI has created a world where tech utopianists dream openly about excising the human part of writing a book — any amount of artistry or craft or even just sheer effort — and replacing it with machine-generated streams of text; as though putting in the labor of writing is a sucker’s game; as though caring whether or not what you’re reading is nonsense is only for elitists. 

The future is now, and it is filled with trash books that no one bothered to really write and that certainly no one wants to read. The saddest part about it, though, is that the garbage books don’t actually make that much money either. It’s even possible to lose money generating your low-quality ebook to sell on Kindle for $0.99. The way people make money these days is by teaching students the process of making a garbage ebook. It’s grift and garbage all the way down — and the people who ultimately lose out are the readers and writers who love books. 

None of this is happening through any willful malice, per se, on the part of the platforms that now run publishing and book-selling. It’s happening more because the platforms are set up to incentivize everything to cost as little as possible, even if it’s garbage…”

Washington Post [Red states threaten librarians with prison as blue states work to protect them read free]: “…library-friendly measures are being outpaced by bills in mostly red states that aim to restrict which books libraries can offer and threaten librarians with prison or thousands in fines for handing out “obscene” or “harmful” titles. At least 27 states are considering 100 such bills this year, three of which have become law, The Post found. That adds to nearly a dozen similar measures enacted over the last three years across 10 states. 

Lawmakers proposing restrictive bills contend they are necessary because school and public libraries contain graphic sexual material that should not be available to children. Some books’ “sole purpose is sexual gratification,” said West Virginia Del. Brandon Steele (R), who introduced a bill that would allow librarians to be prosecuted for giving obscene titles to minors….

But other lawmakers say bills like Steele’s are ideologically driven censorship dressed up as concern for children. They note that, as book challenges spiked to historic highs over the past two years, the majority of objectionstargeted books by and about LGBTQ people and people of color…“To attack library books, you’re attacking the ability to learn, grow, think,” said Missouri state Rep. Anthony Ealy (D), who introduced a bill this year to prohibit book bans in public libraries.

 It “has nothing to do with protecting kids.” Chrastka of EveryLibrary said he fears red and blue parts of America are charting different courses for the future of reading. “I see an emerging divide about the right to read, the right to access stories about people like you, the right to be yourself in the library,” he said. “We do have two Americas settling into place.”

Determining the true value of a website: A GSA case study “It’s more complicated than you might think. Cleaning up: A hypothetical scenario Consider this scenario: you’ve been told to clean up a giant room full of Things Your Agency Has Made in the Past and Now Maintains for Public Use. This means disposing of the Things that no longer add value, and sprucing up the Things that are still useful. How do you determine which Things belong in which category, especially when all the Thingsin that giant room have been used by the public, and available for all to see? 

When the “things” we’re talking about are websites, this determination is often much more complicated than it might appear on the surface. This scenario is one facing web teams across the government, including at the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), every single day. If you’re in this situation, consider all the ways you might begin to tackle this cleanup job.” [h/t Pete Weiss]