Massive eBook scam rips off game guide authors

Gamers who have spent countless hours playing, researching and writing guides to their favourite releases are being ripped off by nefarious types looking to make a quick buck.

Over the holiday season, customers looking for game guides on Amazon discovered a number of very cheap guides available for the company’s Kindle eReader. Selling for around US$3 a pop (with some as much as double that), the guides were available for games as varied as L.A. Noire, Red Dead Redemption, Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure and Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess UnOffical Guide

Spelling errors intact.

As pointed out by GameFAQs member cloud VS sephiroth:

What is particularly bothersome is that some of the guides are actually in “top 100” lists of subcategories, which indicates people have been scammed. Worse still, for example, the Oblivion guide even has two comments of “happy customers” that are thankful and rate it with 4 and 5 stars. In other cases, such as with the Skyrim guide, comments are less positive.

A suspected 122 guides have been added by one of two accounts, and it seems that the scam artist hasn’t bothered putting much effort into the “get rich quick” scheme.

The negative comments include observations that the eBooks are “nearly impossible to read”, that it is “pretty much a text file” and that chapter headings are formatted in an odd, ASCII-like image.

There’s a simple reason for that: The guides were originally written for popular site GameFAQs, and formatted appropriately in HTML, using fixed-width plain text, forced line-wraps and minimal decorations. It’s an approach that works well for simple text documents which are easily updated and can be read by any browser – but it translates to a super-ugly eBook when loaded as-is onto a Kindle or other eReader.

An excerpt from the Twilight Princess "Unoffical Guide"

An excerpt from the Twilight Princess "Unoffical Guide"

At this stage, it is unknown how widespread the scam is, but at least four “author” accounts have been identified: Wallsberg Books, Wallsberg Stradegy, Jay Stafford and Bill Frist. Many of the guides still contain the original author’s name and contact details – if you’ve purchased a Kindle version of these guides, please reverse the transaction (if you’re quick enough), add a negative review, or complain to Amazon about the copyright infringement.

…and after all that, if you still want the hints and tips for your game, check out GameFAQs – information there about virtually every game under the sun, and absolutely no access fee.

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