Amazon refuses to remove apparent AI rip-off of LifeSite journalist’s new book on St. Alphonsus – LifeSite

(LifeSiteNews) — Two weeks ago, my first book, St Alphonsus for the 21st Century: A Handbook for Holinesswas published. 

St Alphonsus for the 21st Century is doing well, having ranked as the number 1 book in Amazon’s Self-Help for Catholics and Christian Saints categories on several different days.  

It took me over six years to write the book; it was finally printed on September 5th. It took artificial intelligence bots fewer than ten days to steal my book and publish a copy-cat, nonsensical version. That came out on Thursday, September 14.

This past weekend I visited Amazon to read my book’s latest reviews. I confess: it wasn’t the first time. Usually I just type “Saint Alphonsus 21st Century” into the Amazon search bar, and it comes right up. But when I did this on Saturday morning, I noticed a new book on St. Alphonsus listed directly below mine. It’s called St. Alphonsus Reimagined: A 21st-Century Guide to Holiness. 

I was shocked. “What is this?!” I said aloud. “Is this real? Who could have come up with this? It’s the same book! And published less than two weeks after mine? This cannot be a coincidence.”

I clicked on the link and was taken to the listing of a poorly formatted 38-page “book” with ridiculous graphics. I clicked on the “read sample” button to see inside. Unsurprisingly, it has tons of grammatical mistakes, as if written by someone ten years old and not a native English speaker. Not only that, it doesn’t provide any quotes from St. Alphonsus. Below are just a few of its most comical sentences. Notice how the author uses words that sound intelligent but don’t make any stylistic sense.

“Greetings and welcome to an exploration of the remarkable  life and teachings of St. Alphonsus Liguori. In the  forthcoming chapters, we embark on a captivating  journey into the essence of his existence, the profound wisdom he  imparted, and the enduring significance he holds for us in the 21st  century. “

“In the labyrinth of history, there are figures whose existence  transcends the boundaries of their time—individuals whose lives  and teachings retain a profound and enduring relevance. Among  these luminaries, we find St. Alphonsus Liguori, a man whose  earthly journey, though firmly rooted in the 18th century, extends  an inviting hand into our 21st-century lives.

“St. Alphonsus’s legacy encompasses not only profound spirituality  but also an extensive literary corpus. His writings span theological  treatises, pastoral letters, and spiritual masterpieces that continue to  illuminate and inspire. His theological prowess and moral sagacity  shine as luminous beacons of guidance for modern seekers.”

“St. Alphonsus’s moral  theology beckons us to ponder the significance of principled  living. In an era characterized by the relativism of ethics, we  can invoke his teachings to navigate the labyrinthine  corridors of personal and professional choices with sagacity  and moral acumen.”

Earlier today, I typed into ChatGPT several different commands to see if it could compose a book on St. Alphonsus. What it produced is eerily similar to the content of St. Alphonsus Reimagined. 

“In the hustle and bustle of the 21st century, where the cacophony of technology, ambitions, and material pursuits often drown out the whispers of our souls, the teachings of St. Alphonsus Liguori hold a timeless relevance. As I reflect on his wisdom, it becomes evident that his principles can guide us towards a more meaningful and spiritually enriched life, even in our modern, fast-paced world…” 

As I reviewed the imposter book’s description, I noticed that it uses the exact same words as I did for my book, albeit with a few synonyms thrown in to ensure it wasn’t a 100% replica. Below are some of my bullet points:  

  • This succinct, easy-to-read book … presents, in an engaging manner, many of this beloved saint’s most profound insights.
  • [St. Alphonsus for the 21st Century] simplifies thousands of pages of St. Alphonsus’ extensive writings into a condensed, 7-chapter format so readers of all learning levels can understand his key teachings.
  • Presents hard-to-find prayers and other compositions of St. Alphonsus that are not widely known. Also shares powerful stories about his upbringing and private life. 
  • Perfect for fallen-away Catholics, young adults considering religious life, clergy, and everyone in between! 

 Below is the copycat book’s description. I’ve bolded the most obvious examples of plagiarism:  

  • The profound influence that St. Alphonsus has exerted upon the Catholic Church is indeed beyond measure. In this book, I have taken great care to distill his extensive teachings into a format consisting [sic] thoughtfully constructed chapters.
  • My intention in doing so is to ensure that these valuable insights are made accessible to a diverse readership, regardless of their prior exposure to theological concepts. Explore rarely seen prayers and insights into the saint’s life.
  • “St. Alphonsus Reimagined” is a guide for seekers of spiritual growth, whether you’ve strayed from faith, contemplate religious life, serve in the clergy, or seek a deeper connection with the Divine. Join us in embracing St. Alphonsus’ timeless wisdom for the 21st century. 

The AI book’s Table of Contents noticeably includes a chapter titled “Prayers to St. Alphonsus and Deep Reflective Prompt Questions.” This seems to be directly copied from the last section of my book, which is titled “Prayers of St. Alphonsus.”

RELATED: New book on St. Alphonsus can help solve the crisis in the Church

Moreover, at the end of each chapter in my book, I provide a list of 5 bullet points for readers to reflect on. They are simple questions that drive home the key points of the chapter so readers can more deeply ponder St. Alphonsus’ teachings. In the AI book, the “Deep Reflective Prompt Questions” section has these and other questions like them:

“Envision how you might incorporate practices of spiritual  renewal into your daily routines, mirroring the unwavering  dedication of St. Alphonsus to the path of holiness.”

“As you turn your gaze inward and reflect upon the contours  of your life, consider instances where pride or arrogance may  have cast shadows upon your path. How might St.  Alphonsus’ profound teachings on humility serve as a  compass, gently steering you towards a more humble and  receptive disposition?” 

 Compare those questions to the following ones that I present in my book at the end of Chapter 2, “Love of God”: 

The “author” of the AI book (which, like my own book, has seven chapters) is listed as “Arthur Tom Mitchell.” Another work has been published under this name. It, too, is a poorly formatted, “large print” book on a Catholic saint. Coming in at a whopping 36 pages, its title is “Novena to Saint Hildegard of Bingen: Powerful Catholic prayers, living wisdom, and devotions for saint of our time.”

Notice the inconsistency in the title’s capitalization? This is a hallmark of all forgeries, or so say media outlets that have already reported on the proliferation of AI books.  

It’s important to also recognize that Arthur’s book on St. Hildegard was released the same day as his St. Alphonsus book, September 14. No sane author would ever release two books on the same day. Meanwhile, no one I know has ever heard of this person.  

What is Amazon doing to fight AI productions?

I alerted Amazon to the fraudulent St. Alphonsus book on Saturday, September 16. They have an intellectual property and copyright infringement policy for authors who, like me, use their Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) services. 

I received an email from them on Sunday morning saying that they were reviewing what happened and that they’d get back to me within 5 business days.  

While browsing Amazon on Sunday afternoon, I noticed that the paperback version of the AI book on St Alphonsus was no longer for sale. The Kindle version, however, is still up. Amazon informed me Sunday night that they would not be removing it: 

Thank you for your message, In reviewing your claim, it appears that your objection is to the title of this book and/or its inclusion of similar content to your own work. Please note that copyright protections do not extend to the title of a given work and only cover your own particular expression of an idea.

It is not possible for us to do a comparison of the texts. If, after you have reviewed the complete text of each work, you believe that the book(s) referenced contain text you wrote without your permission, please submit a new notice of copyright infringement and include specific examples for review.

I have since sent Amazon a follow up request for an investigation into whether the book is, in fact, AI-generated and to see if further legal action is possible, as it is abundantly clear to me that this book was released as an imposter to divert sales from my own. 

I have been told by several friends who work in the publishing industry that this sort of thing is happening far more often these days. If that’s true, it’s extremely troubling.  

What this means, practically speaking, for the book industry is difficult to say. If AI is going to be used to publish rip-off versions of books, then there needs to be more oversight of the industry and someone needs to be held accountable for the new forms of intellectual property theft. Readers may easily be tricked into buying the wrong book and scammed into wasting their money if things don’t change. I’m fortunate to have noticed this particular fraud as early as I did. It’s obvious the devil doesn’t want St. Alphonsus’ teachings to re-emerge in the 21st century.

As Elon Musk and others have said before, AI poses many risks to society. Publishing fake books is seemingly its newest threat.  

READ: Google will use everything you’ve posted online to improve its AI model

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Stephen Kokx is a journalist for LifeSiteNews. He previously worked for the Archdiocese of Chicago under the late Francis Cardinal George. A former community college instructor, Stephen has written and spoken extensively about Catholic social teaching and politics. His essays have appeared in a variety of outlets, including Catholic Family NewsCatholicVote, and Alpha News.

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