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Summer Reading Prime: How to Avoid Buying Counterfeit Books on Amazon

Updated: Apr 11, 2021

Image of woman reading a book on a dock with water in the background.
Photo by Bethany Laird on Unsplash

As you prepare for your summer vacation, you may be stocking up on sunscreen, electronics and books for summer reading, both professional and pleasurable. While some of us still visit brick and mortar stores to fill our summer shopping lists, many of us buy instead from Amazon, the “world’s largest retailer,” according to Forbes. Bloomberg reported that last year Amazon was responsible for a whopping 7.7% of all retail sales.

Their share of the book market is significantly higher, with Amazon reportedly selling over half the books in the United States. Unfortunately, a number of the books sold on the platform are counterfeit. A recent New York Times article describes numerous examples of counterfeit books sold on Amazon – most notably a medical handbook where recommended dosages for medications were illegible, a potentially dangerous practice for both medical professionals and patients.

Book counterfeiting not only violates copyright laws, but is also harmful to publishers, writers and ultimately consumers, as highlighted by the Association of American Publishers in its recent FTC submission, which called for increased regulation to combat the troubling trend. Amazon responded to the Times article with a blog post describing its efforts to address counterfeits, including its Brand Registry, Transparency service and recently launched Project Zero program. Despite these efforts, counterfeits continue to be a problem.

If you’re an Amazon shopper, you’ll want to be on the lookout for counterfeit works from your favorite writers and scholars. Here are some tips for reducing your risk of buying a counterfeit on the e-commerce site:

1. Familiarize yourself with the genuine product’s features and pricing, and avoid deals that seem too good to be true, as they often are.

2. Before you add an item to your cart, check the box on the right and look carefully at both the seller and the shipper. Ideally, the seller should be the product’s manufacturer. If the seller is not the manufacturer, carefully research the seller and its return policy. Be sure to inspect your purchases promptly so any counterfeits can be returned.

3. If you can’t buy from the manufacturer, look for items bearing the description “Ships from and sold by,” as Amazon sold products are generally considered less likely to be counterfeit. Note, however, that even these can be counterfeit. Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, and other manufacturers recently sued Amazon for this practice. On the bright side, all Amazon-shipped products have a 30-day return policy if it turns out that your purchase is a fake.

4. If you must buy from a third-party seller, try to select products shipped by Amazon (including through Amazon Prime), as shipping is guaranteed and the return process is easier.

Shopping from your sofa is convenient, but not without risk. Counterfeits are less of an issue if you buy from a brick and mortar shop, and you might also get the opportunity to support your local independent bookstore, and stretch your legs! Food for thought as you work through your summer reading list.

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