I recently learned from my publisher, InterVarsity Press, that my book Liturgy of the Ordinary has been counterfeited and sold illegally. Christianity Today released a thorough, helpful story about this today, reported by Kate Shellnutt.
Someone (or a group of people) has made high-quality, fake copies of Liturgy of the Ordinary, and taken over the “buy button “on Amazon under a fake name; when Amazon customers purchased my book, counterfeit books—not ones from IVP’s warehouse—were sold and delivered. When this happens, IVP gets no money from or record of the purchase, and I get no royalties. Counterfeiting books and selling counterfeit books are crimes. (This is a NYT story on Amazon and the surge of counterfeit books. This helps explain what happened with my book.)
We don’t know how long this has been happening, but IVP estimates that it’s been happening for around 9 months (though we can’t be sure without a more thorough investigation) with a loss of around $240,000 in retail sales. Suffice it to say, this represents a significant loss of profits, and shrinks my counted sales numbers, which may affect future contracts and advances.
So, readers, I need your help.
What can you do?
A). Please check your copies of Liturgy of the Ordinary to see if you possibly have a counterfeit book. There are thousands of counterfeit copies out there so you may have one.
The counterfeit books are generally high quality, but there are some noticeable differences that make them identifiable.
Here is what an IVP representative said about identifying counterfeit books: “It is very difficult to discern which books are legitimate copies, printed by IVP, and which ones are counterfeit. Some of the signs can include but are not limited to: lower quality paper, letters missing parts of their glyphs, and distorted colors on the book cover.”
None of these things are a hard and fast rule, but here are some differences that I have noticed:
I. The cover colors are slightly different. The green is less vibrant. The jelly colors look darker. The bread looks like slightly burnt toast.
II. So far, none of the counterfeits have the CT Book of the Year Medallion on the front cover. IVP put this medallion on the cover in January 2018. (Granted, there are legitimate older copies still being sold that do not have this medallion, and/or the counterfeiters could add this feature in the future.)
III. The counterfeit books also often (though not always) come shrink-wrapped.
B) If you have a counterfeit book, you possess stolen merchandise. This is not your fault! This is hard to prevent with Amazon’s current purchasing systems, and, if you are like me, you likely did not know that counterfeit books were anything to look out for!
[[[ I’m editing this post with this update from IVP that gives a few more details about counterfeits.
Update from my publisher IVP:
I do think the characteristics you already outlined are very helpful, so you could just continue to direct people there. Also very important: some of the counterfeit copies might have none of these issues and still be counterfeit.
-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.
Some things that COULD indicate that the book is counterfeit, but are NOT definitive:
-8th print run. All of the copies we have are in the eighth print run, which is the last run before we added the CT Award. You can see that on the bottom of the copyright page.
-Score mark on the cover—I’ve been told that it’s possible that this happens on our own copies, but it’s less likely (as in, the printer could add it without us asking for it). That being said, all the copies we’ve got that are counterfeit have the score mark.
-Purchased from Amazon in the last 9 months (it’s possible there were counterfeits outside this window, but we think it’s less likely)]]]
To see photos comparing real and counterfeit copies of my book, go here.
Here is what you should do if you suspect your book is a counterfeit copy:
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 AuthenticEditions@ivpress.com. 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: www.ivpress.com/real-liturgy. 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 AuthenticEditions@ivpress.com and IVP will be in touch with you on a special price for us to replace the counterfeit editions at the best possible price.
Also, if you bought a counterfeit book, can you let me know through twitter or the comments section of this post and tell me when you purchased your copy (and, if you remember, the name listed as “sold by” on Amazon).
Additionally, if you have an illegal book, consider re-purchasing a legitimate legal book for yourself or a friend. If you enjoyed Liturgy of the Ordinary, I’d invite you to purchase a copy or copies directly from IV Press (https://www.ivpress.com/) or from Hearts and Minds Bookstore (https://www.heartsandmindsbooks.com/) or a brick-and-mortar store. Purchasing this way ensures that you don’t have a stolen book and that the author (me) and publisher are paid for their work.
C. UPDATE: Earlier, I posted that the Amazon site said, “Sold by and ships from Amazon” [or similar wording] that this is a way to ensure that you will not get a fake copy.
However, we have just learned that some customers received counterfeits from Amazon directly (not 3rd party sellers). IVP is inquiring about why that may be the case.
If you have received a fake copy, follow the steps listed above. You can return the copy to Amazon. If you have any questions, contact IVP at AuthenticEditions@ivpress.com.
[[[Update on July 11, 2019:
In a meeting with an Amazon representative on Wednesday, July 10, Amazon confirmed that some counterfeit copies were shipped directly from Amazon. This was the result of a now-discontinued co-mingling program that Amazon used for some of its books. Fake editions were inadvertently mixed in with our good inventory. Upon discovering this, Amazon “quarantined” and then destroyed those counterfeit copies.
In that same meeting, the Amazon representative promised to provide a full refund to any customer who bought a counterfeit copy, no matter how long ago they were purchased. This includes fakes from re-sellers as well as those that were inadvertently mixed in with Amazon’s good inventory. All the customers need to do is present the order number, note the reason, and request a refund.]]]
D). If you pray, I’d ask that you pray in a couple of ways.
I. Pray for the “bad guys.” Our two kids overheard my husband and I talking about this situation last week, so we had to explain to them about how some “bad guys” stole from our family. They were full of good questions. And we talked to them about how we need to pray for and forgive the people who committed this crime. We prayed together for their blessing and for their repentance, and my six year old—whose heart is 97% gold and 3 % cotton candy—prayed that the “bad guys” would “read Mama’s book and become Christians.” I would love for all of us to join her in her good, kind prayer and ask God for a redemption story out of this. Maybe it will be a dramatic—a Jean Valjean “I have bought your soul for God” with these candle sticks situation. Crazier things have happened in the kingdom of God. Maybe it is a more subtle story of redemption. Either way, pray for God to use this situation for good and for His glory. It would make it worth it.
II. Pray for wisdom for IVPress, Amazon, and me. We each have decisions to make about how best to proceed now that we know that there are counterfeit books out there. This is a situation that IVP has never faced before and they in particular need prayer for wisdom about how to respond.
I also have never faced this before and need wisdom about how to most wisely respond moving forward.
Amazon executives and decision-makers also need wisdom and motivation about how to respond to improve their systems. Please pray for all involved.
On a final, personal note, I wrote in Liturgy of the Ordinary, “Today is the proving ground of what I believe and of whom I worship.” This latest situation, as much as it sucks and is disappointing, is another chance to know God more deeply and see his kindness, love, and redemption. If nothing else, it’s been a very palpable, gritty reminder to “not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…where thieves break in and steal. But to store up treasures in heaven….where thieves do not break in and steal.”
I want to thank each and every one of you readers for reading and sharing my book—whether your copy was legitimate or not. I’m grateful for you and for the work this book has done and continues to do in the world.
Update: IVP released a statement, which includes photos comparing real v. counterfeit copies: https://www.ivpress.com/press-releases/2019/statement-from-intervarsity-press-on-counterfeiting