Because there is nothing more exciting to research than Internet Panic merging with Internet scams (ok, that’s not quite true, but it is pretty fun), I played with the ebooks-tree.com beast that reared it’s ugly head today. (original post from fyeahcopyright )
First, yes, it appears to be utterly random. I have twelve “stories” listed there, out of the almost 200 I have at AO3. Those twelve include one that’s got only a few hits and is only a drabble, and another marked incomplete on AO3. None of the stories have big enough hit/word counts to distinguish them on AO3 in any way (or me, as a writer, in general), and they’re not all recent, alphabetical, or any other pattern I can see. So how those were chosen beats the hell outta me.
Second, more importantly, I’m not sure there’s any content at ebooks-tree.com at all?
On the page for each of my stories at ebooks-tree.com, there is a “Download” link (in the center), and there’s also a link to the left for a mobi file. And, at least for all my stories, the mobi files are direct links to download the mobi files from AO3. (eta: AO3 has now blocked ebooks-tree from offering the downloads, so that takes care of that).
The “Download” links are weird and sketchy. When you click on them, they refer to urbookdownload.com or urbooklibrary.com (the same fic has referred me to both, and they appear to be the same search site just in different skins, if you go there directly). Then trying to get at the title forces you to LilPlay to register (or LazyGame? I keep getting the LilPlay link, but the original post at fyeahcopyright says LazyGame). At the bottom of the urbookdownload.com referral, is a notice that says basically, “this title has been furnished by a third party and we don’t know that it actually exists”. And you know what? When you go directly to urbookdownload.com and search the title, it’s not there (I would guess because AO3 excludes itself from that search, though I can Google the fic just fine). So the possibility exists that even if you register, there is nothing to find/read directly if the ‘LilPlay system’ requires a refer through the search service to find a copy of the work.
I also took a look at other works at ebook-tree.com, and at least from my sample of half dozen titles (randomly chosen, books with cover pictures and summaries, unlike the blank AO3 ones), I found that trying the center download link refers to LilPlay registration and Urbooklibrary/download.com, same as before, but trying to download the mobi or pdf file, bypasses the LilPlay registration but sends me elsewhere. One of those sites was “NitroFlare.com” which looks suspiciously similar, name-wise, to “CloudFlare” the apparent host of ebooks-tree server, according to the fyeahcopyright update. So they may be hosting works there at NitroFlare.com, but there was also at least one more filesharing service I saw, which claimed to be a UK company (NitroFlare says in its ToS they’re registered in Cyprus). There was also a book that linked straight to Smashwords - both to read online and to download directly. And if you look up a public domain book (I looked up Middlemarch) you will see a plethora of versions they’ve linked to, which you can read or download.
Anyway, the point being, it appears to me as if the left-hand links go straight to the download link/s, including online reading and whatever formats the bot could scrape easily from a variety of ebook sources. But the center “download link”, appears to function more like a pop-up ad purporting to be a download, than an actual download link. (on a different site that ad would be trying to get you to download a toolbar). The real links are the left-side ones, the middle one is a fake/ad.
Other than trying to inflate their “catalog of titles” I don’t even know why ebooks-tree.com is bothering with the AO3 stuff, since it’s not searchable (except by author/title) and there are no summaries with the stories. And yes the whole thing is shady as hell (given that they seem to be run by the same people who run a pirate site, is probably not a shock), leaning heavily on both legal uploads elsewhere and probably pirated versions elsewhere, but I’m gonna need something else to make me think they’re actually hosting my content.
Just as a general rule of thumb though, don’t give your credit card number to businesses who claim to “regulary” do anything. >:/