Students at Country Day have been accidentally purchasing counterfeit books on Amazon. 

After noticing that some students had counterfeit copies of “Ethan Frome,” English teacher Jane Bauman checked out the counterfeit version on Amazon and noticed it was the first book mentioned in a sponsored ad.

After clicking on “See inside,” Bauman noticed that the author’s name was spelled “Edit Warton” instead of “Edith Wharton.” 

This book was one of the many counterfeit novels available on Amazon. Others include “My Ántonia” by Willa Cather, “Animal Farm” by George Orwell and “The Marrow of Tradition” by Charles Waddell Chesnutt.

In addition to misspellings, the counterfeits contain different page numbers and font sizes and incorrect formatting, Bauman said.

Junior Layla MoheyEldin encountered several problems in her copy of “My Ántonia.”

“The cover was missing an accent on the ‘A’ in ‘Ántonia,’ ” MoheyEldin said. “I noticed it a few days into having it and showed it to Bauman. She told me that my book was a counterfeit. The book itself contained quite a few typos and incorrect grammar. (It) also had no publishing, manufacturing information or copyright by the author.”

It wasn’t the first time that MoheyEldin dealt with counterfeit products on Amazon. She has also accidentally bought counterfeit skincare products.

“I’ve known for a while now that Amazon doesn’t really check the legitimacy of the things they sell,” she said. “I’ve bought counterfeit products before, and now I know that I just have to be more careful with what I buy.”

Prices for “My Ántonia” on Amazon range from $5 to $20. MoheyEldin purchased her counterfeit copy for $6.99.

Despite the issues, MoheyEldin continued to use her book.

“The problems weren’t big enough that I needed (a refund),” she said. “When using it, I had to be cautious with my citations because the page numbers in my counterfeit copy were different from everyone else’s.”

MoheyEldin found a simple way to get around these problems.

“All I needed to do was find where the quotes were located in the official book (by borrowing) someone else’s copy to get the accurate citation,” she said.

Junior Sydney Turner also encountered problems with counterfeit books.

“I accidentally bought the counterfeit version of ‘My Ántonia,’ ‘The Marrow of Tradition’ and ‘Ethan Frome’ from Amazon,” Turner said. 

Turner and MoheyEldin had the same problems with “My Ántonia.” Like MoheyEldin, Turner never bought a new copy of the novel.

However, instead of using the copies of “The Marrow of Tradition” and “Ethan Frome,” Turner bought the correct versions.

“The page numbers on the books didn’t align with the copy that the rest of the class was using,” Turner said. “It made it difficult to use during discussions, so I decided to just get the actual copies.”

Still, Turner said the experience was comical.

“It didn’t upset me or change my perspective on Amazon at all,” Turner said. “I thought it was funny because I managed to do it three different times, which is a classic Sydney thing to do!”

MoheyEldin, however, said she was slightly annoyed by the situation.

“Having a counterfeit just made it necessary for me to have to pay even closer attention during class,” she said. “My version made it very easy to get lost during class, but overall, it wasn’t a big deal.”

According to Bauman, only a few students bought counterfeits.

“The majority of students found their copies of the books using the designated ISBN, which eliminated the possibility of them purchasing the counterfeit copies,” Bauman said.

A New York Times article last June addressed counterfeits sold on Amazon, stating that they ranged from textbooks to official company handbooks.

According to the article, Amazon did not check the authenticity or quality of the books it sold or oversee vendors.

In response to the Times story, an Amazon blog post stated the company “strictly prohibits the sale of counterfeit products. We invest heavily in prevention and take proactive steps to drive counterfeits in our stores to zero.”

Amazon’s anti-counterfeiting policy on its seller central website states if any inauthentic products are sold to the company, Amazon may immediately suspend or terminate the seller’s account (and any related accounts), destroy any inauthentic products in its fulfillment centers and/or withhold payments to the seller.

The website also says Amazon works with manufacturers, rights holders, content owners, vendors and sellers to improve the ways it detects and prevents inauthentic products from reaching its customers. 

—By Miles Morrow

Originally published in the April 28 edition of the Octagon.

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