How to spot AI-generated books in online bookstores

How to spot AI-generated books in online bookstores

The Rise of AI-Generated Books: An Unsettling Trend in the Publishing Industry

Image source: ZDNet

With artificial intelligence (AI) tools becoming increasingly popular and accessible, various industries are experiencing both the benefits and challenges of incorporating and defending against them. The publishing industry, in particular, is grappling with a concerning trend – the proliferation of AI-generated books in online stores.

These AI-generated books have inundated the virtual shelves of bookstores, including the prominent Amazon platform. Amazon’s Kindle e-reader, controlling up to 80% of book distribution in the US, is known to drive e-book sales. However, this surge in AI-generated books has raised concerns about content quality and even authorship.

Renowned authors like Jane Friedman have discovered fake books attributed to them on platforms like Goodreads, with their names being used without their permission or knowledge. Notably frustrated, Friedman shared her experience in a blog post, stating, “Whoever’s doing this is obviously preying on writers who trust my name and think I’ve actually written these books. I have not. Most likely they’ve been generated by AI.” Such incidents have led to a loss of trust and have sparked a sense of urgency to address this issue.

AI-generated books have primarily affected travel guides but are now spreading to other categories, including cooking, self-help, programming, and even fiction. Clarkesworld, a science fiction magazine, had to halt new submissions after experiencing a rise in AI-generated stories shortly after the launch of ChatGPT, an AI language model.

The alarming flood of AI-generated content published on Amazon, often misleadingly or fraudulently attributed to authors, raises questions about the responsibilities of authors to constantly police such content. Friedman emphasizes this point, asking, “how can anyone reasonably expect working authors to spend every week for the rest of their lives policing this?”

For readers, there are some strategies to identify potential AI-generated books before making a purchase:

  1. Check the author’s name and conduct a quick Google search. If the author has genuinely written the book, it should be easily discoverable on their official website, in news articles about the book launch, in reader and book club forums, and in online libraries.

  2. Read the reviews with a discerning eye. Look for any mentions or suspicions shared by other buyers regarding the possibility of the book being illegitimate. AI-generated reviews may exhibit similar patterns in structure and language, characterized by a simplistic and consistent style.

  3. If you have concerns about an e-book purchased on Amazon, consider returning the book and explaining your suspicions to the customer service team. While Amazon does not explicitly prohibit AI-generated content, they have content guidelines that address violations of intellectual property rights and misleading content.

AI chatbots like ChatGPT, Bing AI, Google Bard, and Claude, equipped with the ability to generate text in various styles, are increasingly utilized for creating written content. These chatbots have become widely accessible, requiring nothing more than a valid email address to create an account. Their user-friendly interfaces allow for intuitive interactions, where users simply input questions or prompts, receiving conversational responses.

It is important to note that these chatbots are built on large language models (LLMs) trained using a wealth of available digital data, including books, websites, studies, and other texts. However, the utilization of copyrighted materials in the training process has made some AI companies the targets of copyright infringement lawsuits.

Concerns about the quality of AI-generated content have been amplified by the observed decline in performance of language models like GPT-4 over time. Inaccurate answers and contradicting responses have raised doubts. Ensuring content quality and addressing misattribution and misinformation are paramount to maintaining the credibility of AI-generated content.

Given the impact of AI-generated books on authors and readers alike, industry experts such as Friedman have called on platforms like Amazon and Goodreads to implement systems to verify authorship or allow authors to easily block fraudulent books attributed to them. Establishing these measures would not only protect authors but also safeguard readers from inadvertently supporting illegitimate content.

While AI technology continues to advance and find its place in various industries, the importance of human connection and the expertise of authors remain integral to the publishing industry. Ted Oberwager, a private equity partner at Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR), affirms, “Authors, and the human connection and experience, will not be replaced.”

The rise of AI-generated books poses significant challenges, but with proactive measures in place, the publishing industry can strike a balance between leveraging AI tools and preserving the authenticity and quality of written works.