Most data shows that Amazon and Flipkart are currently locked in a dead heat in terms of popularly in the e-commerce race in India, but Congress MP Shashi Tharoor has left no doubts over which way his loyalties lie.
“I have tried to shame Amazon India many times but they are utterly shameless. They have sold pirated copies of my books repeatedly & across the country,” Tharoor raged on Twitter. And he didn’t stop there — Tharoor exhorted his followers to buy his books from arch-rival Flipkart instead. “Please use Flipkart to buy An Era of Darkness and Why I Am A Hindu,” he said. He even threatened so sue Amazon for selling pirated books.
I have tried to shame @amazonin many times but they are utterly shameless. They have sold pirated copies of my books repeatedly & across the country. Please use @Flipkart to buy #AnEraOfDarkness & #WhyIAmAHindu. Urge @AlephBookCo to begin prosecution @kapish_mehra https://t.co/NL0aCvuvNd
— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) February 23, 2018
Tharoor has a reason to feel aggrieved — pirated books that are sold on Amazon hurt authors the most, who don’t end up earning commissions on their sale. The book sales do, on the other hand, benefit the book counterfeiters and Amazon, both of whom make money from these transactions.
Tharoor’s outburst has seem to have had its desired effect — he has more than 60 lakh followers on Twitter, and many of whom, thanks to his image of being an public intellectual, are avid readers. Amazon got in touch with him after his comments. “Amazon has reached out and pledged to solve the problem,” he later tweeted. “I will meet them in constructive spirit.”
While Amazon has assured Tharoor that it’ll stop his books from being pirated, it’s likely going to be easier said than done. Tharoor’s case is hardly a one-off — customers have been taking to social media after ordering books from e-commerce marketplaces, and finding the fonts and pages to be a little off. These books, they later realize, aren’t original at all, but copies made by fly-by-night publishers. But these publishers, thanks to the reach of e-commerce marketplaces, are now able to sell their books all across India.
Bought three copies of The Legend of Lakshmi Prasad by @mrsfunnybones from @Flipkart and the copies just don't look original! From the outside cover, to the paper inside, just looks a pirated copy. @Flipkart Do you think you can tell me what's happening? pic.twitter.com/07IHpgfaUY
— Vandana (@vandanakanak) February 24, 2018
— Chetanram S (@Chetanram_S) January 31, 2018
@amazon @amazonIN @JeffBezos It’s displeasing to get PIRATED/COUNTERFEIT books from Amazon. I am ur customer since 10 years & have to face this thing while gifting it to a friend? It has put black spot on my reputation…..Very bad Amazon!!!
— Ratnaraj Sheth (@RBShethOfficial) February 3, 2018
India, of course, had a rich tradition of book piracy even before the first e-commerce companies stepped foot into the country. Boys selling stacks of pirated books can be found at traffic signals in most metros in India, and pirated books are often sold at little shops on footpaths and pavements. But Indian consumers might not be wrong to expect a higher standard from billion-dollar e-commerce companies — if Amazon can make deliveries through flying drones, and have robots run its warehouses, maybe it can also prevent counterfeit books from being sold on its website.