@Horse_ebooks was a widely followed Twitter account and Internet phenomenon. The account was apparently intended to promote e-books but became known for its unintentionally amusing non sequiturs in what seemed to be an effort to evade spam detection.
On September 24, 2013, it was revealed that Horse_ebooks had been sold in 2011 in order to promote an alternate reality game developed for viral marketing towards a larger art project and the release of Bear Stearns Bravo, a series of interactive videos about the 2007 subprime mortgage financial crisis. The Twitter account has not been updated since.
Horse_ebooks was part of a network of similar Twitter spam accounts which promoted e-books organized around a single theme. Based on investigations by Splitsider and Gawker, its creator was believed to be a Russian web developer and spammer named Alexei Kouznetsov or Alexei Kouznetsov Kouznetsov (Russian: Алексей Кузнецов, also romanized Alexey Kuznetsov). Kouznetsov owned as many as 170 domains associated with similar efforts, some of which have been shut down or discontinued. Other accounts include company_ebooks, action_ebooks and mystery_ebooks. Horse_ebooks tweeted fragments of modified text copied from other sources, mixed with occasional promotional links to websites selling e-books that were associated with the affiliate marketing company ClickBank. Examples include "I will make certain you never buy knives again," "We all agree, no one looks cool," "Is the dance floor calling? No," "everything happens so much" and "unfortunately, as you probably already know, people."
Unlike many other Twitter spam accounts, Horse_ebooks did not employ strategies of mass-following and unsolicited replies to Twitter users. Because it did not use typical spammer techniques, the account was not closed as Twitter spam accounts frequently are. Before the revelation in September 2013, it had more than 200,000 followers.
On September 24, 2013, it was announced that Horse_ebooks had become part of a multi-year performance art piece staged by Buzzfeed employee Jacob Bakkila. Bakkila had approached Kuznetsov in 2011 with the intent of buying the account; Kouznetzov agreed, and since 2011, Horse_ebooks has been operated by Bakkila. This change was noticed by the account's followers when, on September 14, 2011, the account began tweeting "via web" instead of "via Horse ebooks," and the frequency of tweets promoting ClickBank significantly dropped while the number of "funny" tweets increased. Many followers speculated that either the spam algorithm had been changed, or that the account had been taken over by a different person, possibly a hacker who acquired the account's password.
Horse_ebooks has become the inspiration for fan art, fan fiction, and unofficial merchandise. Among these are T-shirts and Horse_eComics, a Tumblr blog featuring comic strips inspired by the account.
Horse_ebooks was named one of the best Twitter feeds by UGO Networks in 2011 and Time.com in 2012. John Herrman at Splitsider wrote that Horse_ebooks "might be the best Twitter account that has ever existed."
- Jenna Wortham (6 January 2012). "Web Comic Draws Inspiration From a Twitter Spammer". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 May 2012.
- Orlean, Susan (24 September 2013). "Horse_ebooks is human after all". The New Yorker. Retrieved 24 September 2013.
- Meyer, Robinson (24 September 2013). "@Horse_Ebooks Is the Most Successful Piece of Cyber Fiction, Ever". The Atlantic. Retrieved 24 September 2013.
- Jenna Wortham. "The Human Behind a Favorite Spambot, Horse_eBooks". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 September 2013.
- Herrman, John (9 January 2012). "The Ballad of @Horse_ebooks". Splitsider. Retrieved 3 May 2012.
- Adrian Chen (23 February 2012). "How I Found the Human Being Behind Horse_ebooks, The Internet’s Favorite Spambot". Gawker. Retrieved 4 May 2012.
- Joseph L. Flatley (9 January 2012). "The wild and wonderful tale of @Horse_ebooks". The Verge. Retrieved 4 May 2012.
- "Horse_ebooks". Twitter.com. Retrieved 18 August 2013.
- Susan Orlean, "HORSE_EBOOKS IS HUMAN AFTER ALL", The New Yorker, , 24 September 2013. Retrieved on 24 September 2013.
- Urie, Chris (7 March 2012). "Philly’s What Say Co. Release Horse eLooks, Inspired By Horse_ebooks". Geekadelphia. Retrieved 4 May 2012.
- Jensen, K.Thor (14 December 2011). "Best Twitter Accounts Of 2011". UGO Networks. Retrieved 4 May 2012.
- Townsend, Allie (21 March 2012). "The 140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2012". Time Techland. Retrieved 4 May 2012.