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In December 2021, a number of social media users expressed confusion and skepticism over a series of books that had been published on Amazon about the new COVID-19 omicron variant. How was it possible, these people wondered, for someone to research, write, and publish a book about a strain of COVID-19 that had been discovered just days or weeks earlier.
Other social media users commented:
How can there be so many books knowing all about the #Omicron variant when we only found out about it 2 weeks ago?
Amazing how there are 30 books available on Amazon on the Omicron variant when it was just named Nov 26,this one in particular was published on that date…..almost like it was planned
Go to Amazon and search “Understanding Omicron Variant” How can scientists do any kind of reputable work, write a book, have it peer reviewed, have it proofed, published AND printed in a couple WEEKS? Can you say scam?
There are truly a number of books on Amazon about the omicron variant that were published within days of the announcement by the World Health Organization (WHO) that the new strain had been identified. This isn’t proof that the pandemic was “planned,” or that it is a “scam.” Rather, it’s proof of just how quick and easy it is to self-publish a book on Amazon.
Just Because a Book Exists on Amazon Doesn’t Mean Its Content Is Worth Reading
Self-publishing authors can submit their books to Amazon in as little as 5 minutes and can see their books up for sale the following day.
The social media users quoted above all expressed skepticism that a book about something as complicated as the omicron variant could be researched, written, and edited in a span of just a few days. This skepticism is rightfully placed. The omicron variant books on Amazon that were published in December 2021 likely did not go through rigorous research, writing, or editing phases.
Unlike a scholarly journal where material has to go though peer review, anybody can self-publish just about anything on Amazon. The material can contain an infinite amount of typos (no editing), the content doesn’t have to be factual (no research), and in some cases the text can be artificially generated or plagiarized (no writing). In other words, just because a book exists on Amazon doesn’t mean its content is worth reading.
Amazon Has Been Flooded with Self-Published Books Since the Start of the Pandemic
In March 2020, near the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Amazon was flooded with self-published books about the illness. These books were shoddily put together and often contained plagiarized content. The Guardian reported:
As the coronavirus spreads around the world, it is not only health professionals and politicians who are being kept busy. Amazon has been flooded with badly put together, often plagiarised “guides” to combatting the virus.
The retailing giant has already been removing “tens of thousands” of listings from “bad actors” attempting to artificially raise prices on items such as face masks and hand sanitiser. Now it is fighting a losing battle against the writers rushing out self-published books to profit from coronavirus fears. Generally shorter than 100 pages, dozens have been published in the last few weeks, promising worried readers ways to prevent or avoid the virus.
On Amazon.co.uk on Thursday morning, the top results returned for books about coronavirus included Corbi Yang’s Coronavirus, which promised to answer “how this virus was identified and what measures have been taken up till now”. Running to 44 pages, much of the writing was lifted directly from web pages.
Omicron Variant Book Published in 2020?
While social media users were skeptical of the rash of books published on Amazon about the omicron variant, there was one title that drew special attention. According to social media posts, a book by “Dr. Teresa Bishop” titled “UNDERSTANDING OMICRON VARIANT: All You Need To Know About Omicron Variant, Where It Comes From, Answers To Questions You Have, And Lots More Update To Keep You Well Informed” was copyrighted in 2020, nearly a year before the omicron variant emerged.
How was this possible? How was a book about the omicron variant copyrighted before the emergence of the omicron variant? We reached out to Amazon for some specifics about this title and we will update this article if more information becomes available. For the moment, here’s what we know:
- This book wasn’t published on Amazon (or anywhere else) until Dec. 5, 2021, 7 days AFTER the omicron variant was announced by WHO.
- While the book’s author claims to have “conducted many studies on the covid19 virus,” we weren’t able to find any published studies under this author’s name.
- The book doesn’t contain references or citations to indicate how it knows what it claims to know.
- The book is poorly written, with typos, repetitive phrases, and seemingly nonsensical sentences.
- We weren’t able to find this book in the International Standard Book Number database or the Copyright Public Records Portal.
- Bishop published three books (two about omicron, one about sleep deprivation) in December 2021.
This title is no longer available on Amazon. A few days after this book was removed, Bishop published a similarly titled book “UNDERSTANDING OMICRON VARIANT: Everything You Need To Know About Omicron Variant, Where It Comes From, Answers To Questions You Have, And Lots More Update To Keep You Well Informed Kindle Edition.” That book claims a copyright date of 2021.
“As Coronavirus Spreads, Hastily Produced Books Capitalize on Fear.” Undark Magazine, 6 Mar. 2020, https://undark.org/2020/03/06/coronavirus-books-amazon-outbreak/.
Flood, Alison. “Amazon Flooded with Self-Published Coronavirus Books.” The Guardian, 12 Mar. 2020. The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/mar/12/amazon-flooded-with-self-published-coronavirus-books.
Matsakis, Louise. “Amazon Quietly Removes Some Dubious Coronavirus Books.” Wired. www.wired.com, https://www.wired.com/story/amazon-quietly-removes-coronavirus-books/. Accessed 21 Dec. 2021.
“Self-Published Book on Omicron Was Not Copyrighted before Variant Was Discovered.” Politifact, https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2021/dec/20/facebook-posts/self-published-book-omicron-was-not-copyrighted-va/. Accessed 21 Dec. 2021.
Update on Omicron. https://www.who.int/news/item/28-11-2021-update-on-omicron. Accessed 21 Dec. 2021.