Counterfeit Books on Amazon


Did you buy this book from a third-party seller on Amazon? It is very possible you purchased a counterfeit copy, and a rather poor knock-off at that. You also robbed the book’s publisher of revenues and the book’s author of her royalties.

The story about this broke today on Christianity Today. The book is Liturgy of the Ordinary, a book by Anglican priest Tish Harrison Warren on encountering God in the ordinary of everyday life–from making beds to peanut butter sandwiches to hunting for lost car keys. It was Christianity Today’s Book of the Year in 2018. The publisher was InterVarsity Press [in the interests of full disclosure, I work for IVP’s parent organization, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA]. The publisher revealed today that they have discovered that at least 15,000 copies of the book were sold on the Amazon site by third-party sellers that were counterfeits. The retail value of these sales would have been $240,000. I do not know the details of the author’s contract, but suspect this represents a loss in the neighborhood of $20,000 in royalties. Only after Christianity Today contacted Amazon in connection with this story were the third-party sellers of Warren’s book removed from the Amazon site.

The New York Times reported on this practice on June 23, 2019. They reported a hands off attitude by Amazon. While Amazon warns against the sale of counterfeit products on their site, they do not screen third-party sellers apart from responding to complaints. A seller that sells enough copies, which appears to be what happened with Warren’s book, becomes the default seller, taking over the “buy” button. When I first read about this in the NYT article, it just confirmed my low estimate of Amazon’s business ethics. I’ve long observed the practices of paid reviews, read reports of treatment of workers in their warehouses, and the pressures they’ve placed on vendors. When it came to print publications and other physical products, I’ve long ago decided to buy only from brick and mortar vendors.

Today it became personal. Amazon allowed my friend to be stolen from, and not just for a few bucks or a few copies of her book. Tish Harrison Warren was a former colleague in campus ministry, and following publication of her book she offered a workshop for some of those I minister with. She is an gifted and thoughtful writer and speaker. Amazon claimed in the NYT article that counterfeiting wasn’t a big problem. I think my friend would beg to differ.

One of the problems with counterfeits is that while you probably saved some money, you not only unknowingly participated in theft from my friend and her publisher, you likely received an inferior product. Warren posted a list of defects found in counterfeits of her book, and separately posted images of these defective copies including differences in the colors on the cover. Here are some of the specific issues she noted:

-Annotation numbers throughout the book being in full size font, not superscript. This is not consistent—the copy I’m looking at has a large 1 on page 18, followed by superscript 2 and 3 later on the page.

-Condensing of words—the best example of this is Greg Jao’s name on the endorsements page. It looks like GregJao without the space. I can also see it on the subtitle at the start of chapter 2 on page 25.

-Incorrect running headers: The left page should always have the chapter title, the right page should always have the chapter subtitle. The copy I’m looking at has the previous chapter’s subtitle on the left page (p. 26)

-Missing character glyphs—the best example of this is on page 74 in the chapter title. The Y in “my” (Fighting with My Husband) is missing the lower part of the letter

-Darker section breaks (the little graphics throughout the chapters) are darker, like nearly black. In one of our copies, they should be a pale gray.

Warren recommends these steps if you are one of those who suspects they purchased a counterfeit:

1. If you believe you have received a counterfeit edition, please return the book to Amazon and ask for full credit.

2. Please note the seller from whom you purchased the counterfeit edition and send that information to We are attempting to stop the sales of these editions through Amazon’s marketplace re-sellers.

3. Please rate the seller experience low on Amazon. This will help decrease the visibility of the re-sellers who have made counterfeit editions available.

4. If you desire to ensure you are buying authentic editions, visit the following URL: This will allow you to buy from InterVarsity Press at 40% off plus free shipping for all addresses in the U.S.

5. If Amazon refuses to grant a full refund for the purchase of the counterfeit edition, please email and IVP will be in touch with you on a special price for us to replace the counterfeit editions at the best possible price.

You might look for similar defects and pursue similar remedies with other counterfeits. Good luck! Just another instance where the old axiom caveat emptor comes into play. If you are not buying from Amazon itself, read the ratings, report poor service and counterfeits. Amazon relies on you to “drain the swamp” (do you like the idea of doing Amazon’s work for them?).

I personally love the fact that the publisher is offering the book at such a discount, which is available for anyone who wants to purchase the book. Here is the Bob on Books review, if you want to learn more about the book before you buy, helping the author retrieve lost royalties (don’t use the publisher link in the review).

As I mentioned, I’ve long ago decided to buy books and other physical products from local vendors. Sure, I will shop for good prices like anyone, but I want to sustain the businesses committed to my community, booksellers and others. Can you tell I’m pretty fed up with Amazon? It seems to me that the only thing they respond to is customer behavior and perhaps well-publicized negative publicity, and perhaps not even that. As someone who not only reviews but loves books, appreciates the people who write them (including a number of friends) and the skilled professionals who publish, distribute and sell them through legitimate channels, I am against anyone who undermines the flourishing of the book trade. I’m against those who undermine local commerce. Allowing the unscrupulous to steal from my friends is just about the last straw.

How about you?