When Is a Book Not Really a Book?

March 29, 2011

Recently I received a RINC on a title that’s published by a company called Alphascript, part of VDM.  I had never heard of it until now. Because I can understand how this could look like a perfectly good, useful book to a customer, I rejected this with some regret.

Amazon lists some of these titles and even our Ingram jobber lists the title that was requested- The Legend of Billie Jean King (ISBN: 9786132748249).  It piqued my suspicion to see Ingram’s Tennessee warehouse listing exactly 100 copies in stock, which is the practice for many print-on-demand and some very small publishers. 

Doing a bit of checking, I found out this company basically trolls Wikipedia articles and throws them together to create PDF files that they then print as books.  With a hint of irony, I’ll point you to the Wikipedia article for VDM Publishing.  

Sure enough, if you look at the cover on Amazon.com, you’ll see a green label on the cover with the words “High Quality Content by Wikipedia articles!”

Setting aside the issue of Wikipedia’s reliability as a citable, factual source in the first place, the consolidation of freely accessible online Web articles into a “book,” with all the authority and legitimacy a traditionally edited and published non-fiction book used to carry, is a troubling and misleading practice in my opinion.

Now that Publisher’s Weekly is itself also reviewing some self-published material in a new quarterly insert called PW Select , what constitutes a true “publication” might become an even murkier issue in the future.  Network technology has allowed industry to follow a “just in time” model for meeting demand. When the printing industry does likewise, I think the quality control function of traditional publishing is weakened for the consumer of content.

Posted by Darren

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4 Responses to “When Is a Book Not Really a Book?”

  1. Dawn Says:

    Directly from Wikepedia? That is just ridiculous.

  2. David Says:

    I wrote a blog entry for President’s Day about Wikipedia’s entry on George Washington, specifically his use of “shark attacks” to defeat the British Army. Someone needs to hire more proofreaders…

    And here’s a photo someone submitted after they actually printed out Wikipedia as a book:

    http://flavorwire.com/165732/pic-of-the-day-what-wikipedia-looks-like-printed-out

  3. Darren Says:

    David,

    Thanks for fun pic! Do you have one of the attack sharks? Speaking of George Washington, I recently started Inventing George Washington by Edward Lengel. It’s astounding how many legends sprang up in the early 1800’s about GW, including the cherry tree bit probably first spread by Parson Weems. I guess lapses in fact checking go way back.

  4. Anne Says:

    Just yesterday I noticed on Wikipedia the option to “Create a Book.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Special:Book&bookcmd=book_creator&referer=Main+Page

    Lovely to see that enterprising people are using it to rip people off already.


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