As panicked consumers buy up hand sanitizer, masks, and other supplies in the hopes of staving off the fast-spreading coronavirus, a shadowy array of grifters and opportunists are flocking to Amazon.com and other online booksellers to capitalize on public fear, producing a steady stream of books and manuals that claim to hold the secret to surviving the outbreak.
Since late January, hundreds of titles related to COVID-19—as the disease caused by the virus is known—have come up for sale online, many of which appear to be written under false or misleading names. One series of books, which includes Coronavirus 101: Everything You Should Know to Avoid Illness and Protect Yourself from the Wuhan 2020 Outbreak and Coronavirus and Face Masks: The Truth, claim to be co-authored by a Dr. Zoe Gottlieb.
Gottlieb’s author page, which features a stock photo of a woman in a lab coat—shot from behind—describes her as a “psychology and infectious diseases expert” with a degree in bioengineering and biomedical sciences from the University of California. A literature search for Gottlieb and her “extensive publication record in immunology and infectious disease outbreaks” turns up zero results. Some of Gottlieb’s books appeared “out of print” Friday morning, following questions from Undark.
Another two books, which were available Wednesday but have since been removed, listed their author as Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who was said to hold a medical degree, along with multiple masters degrees. (The biographical details did not match those of CNN’s chief medical correspondent by the same name.) Yet another publication, titled Coronavirus Disease: A Practical Guide for Preparation and Protection, listed the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as its lead author, and a non-existent agency, the U.S. Department of Health, as a co-author. It has also been removed by Amazon, but remains available to order from Barnes and Noble. Representatives of HHS did not respond to multiple emails seeking comment regarding the book.