This story was originally published in Portuguese on Aug 22, 2023. Read it here
Dozens of books in paper and digital formats written with the aid of generative artificial intelligence tools have surfaced on Amazon Brazil's bookstore over the last couple of months, kickstarting a new era of books co-authored by AI models and fears of 'literary spam' in the online retailer.
Núcleo has found at least
59 publications co-authored by AI in Amazon's Brazilian store. Within that group,
52 titles clearly state the use of AI tools for text generation, attributing co-authorship to "Artificial Intelligence" or "ChatGPT", OpenAI's chatbot.
There are three cases in which authorship is credited to MidJourney (an image generation AI tool), and Núcleo's team was able to confirm four other cases via authors' YouTube videos.
It's ✷ important ✷ because...
Writers have been reluctant about the use of AI to emulate writing styles of famous authors
Users and creators have complained publicly about the amount of spam books on Amazon
In July, Amazon and six other leading companies in the development of AI made a commitment with the White House to employ the technology responsibly.
Representatives of these companies signed an agreement that includes the implementation of a watermark system, which, in theory, will inform users of any content generated by artificial intelligence through their platforms.
The subject matter of these titles varies from children's books to self-help, fiction and even impersonations of renowned authors. Some exploit the so-called metanarrative, by means of which ChatGPT scrutinizes its own nature.
Confirmation of the use of this technology was obtained by analyzing the assignment of authorship and co-authorship, as well as cross-references, such as content creators who document the development process of AI-generated titles.
YOUTUBE AND TIKTOK TUTORIALS
On YouTube and TikTok, Núcleo came across countless videos that guide viewers through the intricate process of creating books with the help of artificial intelligence, explaining how to put these products on sale on commerce platforms, including Amazon.
A simple YouTube search shows a plethora of content, many of which full of unverifiable claims, such as estimations of income.
Some people claim to be able to achieve a substantial income, that can go as high as
R$1,500 per hour (approximately
U$300) only by generating e-books through artificial intelligence.
Six months ago, Wesley Paulino posted a video with that same premise on his personal channel. His "Goddess of the Forest" title is currently on sale on Amazon. The author did not clarify to buyers, however, that his work was co-authored by generative AI tools, although he did mention that in his YouTube video.
59 books identified by Núcleo as having AI authorship, in
four cases confirmation of the use of such technology was obtained through to video tutorials (as in the example above). Metadata description of those titles on Amazon does not explicitly mention the use or artificial intelligence.
Globally, Amazon has been facing several complaints related to AI works on its platform. Recently, the e-commerce giant removed books under suspicion of using the technology to emulate the writing style of American author Jane Friedman.
Similary, this same scenario is emerging in Brazil.
On Amazon's Brazilian site, Núcleo discovered a book mimicking the distinct style of late local writer Clarice Lispector being sold for
U$1) and available for free on Kindle Unlimited, a subscription-based e-book platform.
Influential authors are also venting their worries about another aspect of this debate: spams. Some assert that the amount of AI-generated books represents a harmful pressure on independent writers by creating click farms – a term which describes the mass and objectionable production of derivative content to win attention and unattentive buyers.
Between June 26 and 27, US Amazon's adult novel section was stormed by AI-generated titles. In addition to that, the best-seller list soon was crammed with dozens of those books.
Amazon responded by removing some of those offerings from their rankings. However, according to Motherboard, the tech-oriented section of VICE magazine, they remain available for purchase.
The US landscape is very different from Brazil, since none on the ai-backed titles ranks among the best-sellers of their respective categories in Portuguese. At least no right now.
So far, Amazon has not shared any specific directives on how it's going to address this issue and guide its customers in Brazil.
Replying to Núcleo's inquiries, Brazil's Amazon stated that "all books on Amazon.com.br must follow our content directives, including compliance with intellectual property rights and all applicable laws".
As far as complaints, there is scarce information on how users may proceed. For consumers who purchase such books by mistake, the return policy remains unclear.