No AI at Libreture

Libreture exists to support readers, independent publishers, and authors. There’s no place in that for machine-generated tools, especially those that steal content.

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I recently received an email from my fantastic hosting company letting me know about some outages they’d spotted on Libreture.

The support engineer thought it looked a lot like an automated bot scraping the site, likely for feeding into an 'AI' tool. The bots were knocking Libreture over for an hour or more at a time, affecting every reader's ability to access or upload their ebooks.

‘AI’ is stealing

As you may have guessed, I’m no fan of so-called AI tools. They’re built on theft.

Over at my ebookshop, Scarlet Ferret, I already have a No AI policy. As I state there that “AI-generated content may have been created from work done by original artists, but it cannot be said to be original work.” It’s simply mashed together from other people’s years of hard work and practice, and usually means the original authors or artists lose out.

In the book series, Dune, Frank Herbert’s future society has banned the use of thinking machines, or AI, after a war between humans and these machines, called The Butlerian Jihad. In his further writings, Herbert explains the simple beginning of the situation humans found themselves in:

Once men turned their thinking over to machines in the hope that this would set them free. But that only permitted other men with machines to enslave them.”

Frank Herbert, Dune

Machines and software are built by people, and it’s those people who are enabling the mass theft of created works, and causing huge detrimental impact on water supplies, energy use, and human resources. The proliferation of machine-generated junk has created informational flotsam that is disabling web searches, even while search engine providers themselves add to the junk with their own tools.

The CEO of Microsoft AI is even claiming that web content is effectively fair game. Which is kinda stupid.

Software companies who provide very specific tools and services are finding ever more ridiculous ways of integrating AI into their products, usually to the detriment of the product itself or the ability of their users (often already paying users) to use the tool without having to circumvent the new AI-driven feature.

I’m writing this very post in LibreOffice, since the product I once used to write these posts easily and quickly now promotes completely worthless AI tools so hard as to be impossible to avoid.

Neil Clarke, the editor of Clarkesworld Magazine, has written about the breakdown of their submission process due to spamming with AI-generated rubbish, often plagiarised directly from existing works.

Fight the machines!

The hosting company’s support engineer suggested updating Libreture’s robots.txt file in an attempt to block these bots. He added a ‘list of web crawlers associated with AI companies and the training of LLMs’ that the server would automatically attempt to block. This list needs constant monitoring and updating to include new ones and replacements.

But it’s a start.

The next step is to update Libreture’s policies.

I’ll be updating the Terms & Conditions of use and all site wide policies soon with clear statements on how Libreture does not, and never will use tools and software that is based on machine-generated content. Such content is almost certainly built on stolen works – usually from the very authors I’m here to support.

Some reading services have already embedded AI tools into their software. This is surprising, and I’m very disappointed to see them being so inconsiderate to the very people – the authors – who make their business possible. Authors and publishers put a lot of time and hard work into book descriptions. Reading services who generate automated previews of books, replacing the existing descriptions, are trampling over the people they claim to be helping.

Libreture’s book descriptions come from the book files themselves. And are usually written by the author or publisher. If those descriptions or ‘blurbs’ are not included in the ebook files, readers can add their own. Whenever I add missing descriptions to ebooks I’ve bought and uploaded, I tend to look on the author or publisher’s website for the original blurbs and copy those across. Just click the edit icon!

I ask everyone who enjoys reading and wants to support authors, publishers, artists, and everyone involved in creative work to take a close look at the tools and software they themselves use. And decide if you really want to support a service that is adding to the huge issues caused by ‘AI’.

 

Happy (AI-free) Reading,

kevin's avatarKevin
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