The Emergence of Sham Guides
Recently, Amazon has been flooded with generic, low-quality, and potentially AI-generated travel guides, which have sprouted in great numbers. According to The New York Times, these sham guides are often advertised as being written by renowned travel authors. Scammers go to the extent of faking 5-star reviews to mislead potential customers. The low pricing of these guides makes them tempting for Amazon users, who are left disappointed with the subpar content they receive.
Unhappy Customers and Generic Content
Amazon customers have expressed dissatisfaction with the travel guides they receive. A user named Katherine, who purchased a seemingly AI-generated guide called “Paris Travel Guide 2023: The ultimate super cheap guide to the city of love,” left a one-star review, stating:
“This was a rip-off. It has the most generic info [about] Paris that anyone planning a trip has already gathered in planning the trip. It is NOT the ultimate super cheap guide, as it offers NO such info.”
Katherine also accused the guide of being fraudulent, deceptive, and engaging in bait and switch tactics.
How to Spot AI-Generated Guides
Discerning customers may be able to identify warning signs of AI-generated content in the listings. Per the NYT, author profiles are often comically vague, sometimes featuring blatantly AI-spun profile photos. The descriptions of the listings also tend to be written in a bland, formulaic style that is becoming increasingly associated with AI-generated text.
However, most people lack the training to recognize such signs when purchasing books online, resulting in disappointment and frustration. AI-generated content is not limited to travel guides, as The New York Times has discovered similar issues with books on cooking, programming, gardening, business, crafts, medicine, religion, and mathematics, as well as self-help books and novels.
Amazon’s Stance on AI-Generated Content
Amazon claims to work diligently to ensure that its library is well-vetted and adheres to content guidelines. An Amazon spokesperson told the NYT:
“All publishers in the store must adhere to our content guidelines. We invest significant time and resources to ensure our guidelines are followed and remove books that do not adhere to these guidelines.”
Despite these assurances, the sheer volume of AI-generated content slipping through the cracks raises concerns about Amazon’s near-term trustworthiness.
A Poetic Outcome?
Ironically, this situation might lead to a resurgence of brick-and-mortar bookstores, which Amazon has been pushing towards extinction since the dot-com era. With the trustworthiness of Amazon’s content in question, customers may start looking for alternative marketplaces or even return to physical bookstores for their literary needs.