And if you want to buy bestseller Thinking, Fast and Slow on Amazon, be careful where you click. A number of Amazon shoppers looking for the book by Nobel Prize-winning economist Daniel Kahneman ended up with Fast and Slow Thinking by Karl Daniels, which until recently was also on Amazon. Says Kahneman of his doppelganger, "There is no such expert, it's a rip-off. The comments on it are quite amusing – rather shocking that Amazon allows this sort of thing."Amazon not only allows such knock-offs to be sold, but it facilitates their creation through its service for self-publishing authors.
All of the apparent copycat books that Fortune found on Amazon were made through CreateSpace, which is a division of Amazon. Authors can use CreateSpace's system to design and self-publish their own books. The books then go on sale on Amazon and other sites. Amazon splits the proceeds with authors.Those authors use pseudonyms that resemble the original authors’ names (especially for a reader typing a few letters into a search engine) and choose similar titles. Amazon doesn’t vet CreateSpace books until someone complains—which of course reduces its costs while maintaining revenue.
Of course, there have always been quickie books published to exploit a trend or interest. But this sort of knock-off scheme was unprofitable when the time and labor it took to create, manufacture, and distribute a book was too costly to be sure it would reach the market before demand cooled. Digital technology has sped up those steps, especially for “authors” who take their material off Wikipedia.