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Wikipedia Books News

Print-On-Demand Publisher VDM Infects Amazon 190

erich666 writes "In recent months a flood of so-called books have been appearing in Amazon's catalog. VDM Publishing's imprints Alphascript and Betascript Publishing have listed over 57,000 titles, adding at least 10,000 in the previous month alone. These books are simply collections of linked Wikipedia articles put into paperback form, at a cost of 40 cents a page or more. These books seem to be computer-generated, which explains the peculiar titles noted such as 'Vreni Schneider: Annemarie Moser-Pröll, FIS Alpine Ski World Cup, Winter Olympic Games, Slalom Skiing, Giant Slalom Skiing, Half Man Half Biscuit.' Such titles do have the marketing effect of turning up in many different searches. There is debate on Wikipedia about whether their 'VDM Publishing' page should contain the words 'fraud' or 'scam.' VDM Publishing's practice of reselling Wikipedia articles appears to be legal, but is ethically questionable. Amazon customers have begun to post 1-star reviews and complain. Amazon's response to date has been, 'As a retailer, our goal is to provide customers with the broadest selection possible so they can find, discover, and buy any item they might be seeking.' The words 'and pay us' were left out. Amazon carries, as a Googled guess, 2 million different book titles, so VDM Publishing is currently 1/35th of their catalog, and rapidly growing."
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Print-On-Demand Publisher VDM Infects Amazon

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  • Read the license? (Score:5, Informative)

    by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Saturday April 03, 2010 @04:56PM (#31719026) Journal

    It's all about the license

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Text_of_Creative_Commons_Attribution-ShareAlike_3.0_Unported_License [wikipedia.org]

    Creative Commons Deed
    This is a human-readable summary of the full license below.

    You are free:
    - to Share—to copy, distribute and transmit the work, and
    - to Remix—to adapt the work

    Under the following conditions:
    - Attribution—You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work.)
    - Share Alike—If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same, similar or a compatible license.

    With the understanding that:
    - Waiver—Any of the above conditions can be waived if you get permission from the copyright holder.
    - Other Rights—In no way are any of the following rights affected by the license:
    -- your fair dealing or fair use rights;
    -- the author's moral rights; and
    -- rights other persons may have either in the work itself or in how the work is used, such as publicity or privacy rights.
    - Notice—For any reuse or distribution, you must make clear to others the license terms of this work. The best way to do that is with a link to http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/ [creativecommons.org]

    As it is, they fit all of these. They attribute the original writers in their books. They are fully legit.

    If you make content under Creative Commons or other licenses that allow paid redistribution, you also agree for someone else making money out of it in a suitable way. That is the real freedom and the basis of Creative Commons ShareAlike license - everyone is free to use it as they please, as long as the original author is attributed. If you don't like that, then don't write to a site that releases your content under that license. Simple as that.

    • Attribution—You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work.)
      Which is actually somewhat hard to do for wiki articles. You really need to go through the history pretty carefully to find not only the authors who contributed directly but also the authors whose work was copied and pasted around with only a vauge reference to the source in the edit history to put together a proper atribution for a wiki article.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 03, 2010 @05:03PM (#31719062)

      It's more about the questionable nature of their publishing than their use of Wikipedia content.

      • by causality (777677) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @05:19PM (#31719172)

        It's more about the questionable nature of their publishing than their use of Wikipedia content.

        It made me smile to see someone appreciate a very simple matter without feeling a need to delve into copyright law or otherwise complicate it. I hope this is modded up.

        VDM is trying to charge money for a static copy of frequently-updated information that is trivial to obtain for free. They seem to be counting on Thomas Tusser's observation that "a fool and his money are soon parted." As far as I know, no one is accusing them of using force or fraud so anyone who does business with them is acting voluntarily. For that reason, I have no moral objection to what they are doing, though I believe it deserves to fail because it lacks merit.

        • VDM are Spammers (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 03, 2010 @05:34PM (#31719282)

          This is simply book spam, a new form we're not used to seeing. The conditions are all there: it's randomly generated nonsense blasted to as many people as possible with the intent of getting money from them. Ergo, it's spam.

          Although they're certainly free to use Wikipedia content, the problem people have with them is that they're spammers. Nobody likes spammers. We're not against them because of how they generate their messages from a mish-mash of other texts, we're against them because they're spamming us and making it hard for real people to communicate.

          • by causality (777677) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @06:22PM (#31719584)

            This is simply book spam, a new form we're not used to seeing. The conditions are all there: it's randomly generated nonsense blasted to as many people as possible with the intent of getting money from them. Ergo, it's spam.

            Although they're certainly free to use Wikipedia content, the problem people have with them is that they're spammers. Nobody likes spammers. We're not against them because of how they generate their messages from a mish-mash of other texts, we're against them because they're spamming us and making it hard for real people to communicate.

            This is part of what I meant when I said I believe it deserves to fail because it's without merit. I don't view it as morally wrong but I don't believe it should be rewarded either. The best way to discourage this behavior is for VDM to waste their time and money on it. If that happens, others who might be inclined to do the same thing will take notice that it has been tried and has failed.

            I agree that it's a nuisance but I'm not certain it's spam. I am not receiving unsolicited e-mails or cold-calls to my phone about this. Unlike my personal inbox or my personal telephone, Amazon is a place of business. I am not going to see any of VDM's products unless I go to such a place of business and search for books. If I go to say, Wal-mart and see advertisements for products Wal-mart carries, those ads might or might not be annoying and might or might not worsen my shopping experience, but I would not call them spam. If all spam worked this way, we would not have a situation where over 90% of SMTP traffic is due to spammers.

            Though I believe they are shoddy, these are legitimate products that are being sold at a legitimate store. Amazon and other booksellers offer these books because they have voluntarily made agreements with VDM, not because they need to use more sophisticated captchas. I think your real issue is with Amazon and other online businesses that are providing VDM a forum. If it annoys enough of their customers, they will probably cease.

            For what it's worth, I don't like this company or its practices any more than you do. I just think "spam" is a strong word, and should be, but becomes weakened by using it where it doesn't really apply. It's sort of like what has happened to words like "lady" or "gentleman".

            • Re:VDM are Spammers (Score:4, Interesting)

              by The boojum (70419) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @12:16AM (#31721666)
              <quote>I agree that it's a nuisance but I'm not certain it's spam. I am not receiving unsolicited e-mails or cold-calls to my phone about this. Unlike my personal inbox or my personal telephone, Amazon is a place of business.</quote>

              Maybe you haven't seen it yet, but I've received a number of e-mails from Amazon announcing "new books" from these guys with titles referring to topics that I'm interested in. Yes, I can opt-out of such e-mails from Amazon but automatic notification of new books in my field is a useful service to me, and it's led directly to Amazon getting sales out of me because they provide it.

              So yes, it does lead to spam of a form, and I think Amazon needs to handle this very carefully.
        • by LurkerXXX (667952) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @06:46PM (#31719716)

          Yep. I consider them the digital equivalent of selling bottled water. You know, that stuff that is generally the same stuff that comes out of municipal faucets for pennies.

        • Re:Read the license? (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Blakey Rat (99501) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @12:31AM (#31721740)

          I can say that Amazon (and Barnes and Noble, and whoever else is carrying this content) isn't going to de-list them until they get a massive PR backlash. They're indirectly making money off of this as much as VDM is.

          You could try to get your local consumer advocate news program to cover it, perhaps... that might force Amazon into taking some kind of action.

      • by Darinbob (1142669) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @11:23PM (#31721444)
        88 pages for $46...

        I'm pretty sure no one's buying this stuff. Too expensive, nonsense titles. Maybe only some libraries will grab them. What's the motivation here?
        • by Hadlock (143607) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @04:31AM (#31722564) Homepage Journal

          Throw enough shit at a wall and eventually some of it will stick...
           
          At $45-60 per book, the risk:profit ratio is pretty favorable here. Print-on-demand makes it very lucrative since there's no cash up front to start the business, and you can contract out/automate all the printing. Hell, I bet most of those "books" aren't even written/generated; they'll just crunch the data to print if/when someone actually buys one of the "books".

    • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn.gmail@com> on Saturday April 03, 2010 @05:07PM (#31719084) Journal

      If you don't like that, then don't write to a site that releases your content under that license. Simple as that.

      You're confused about where the complaint is originating from. Honestly I'd be flattered to buy my words from Amazon.com in a printed format. I've never been published nor produced anything worth publishing. Sure I might be annoyed money went to a shady company but "Look, ma, it's me!"

      The complaints are coming from the people buying this tripe--and rightfully so. You used to be able to acquire a book and know that since it was a book the author(s) had done their homework. It was hard for idiots to get publishing deals because the publishers would actually read their work. Sure, you'd have small publishing houses printing "work" on things like free energy or whatever might sell to a niche market. But you'd never have a publisher capable of VDM's feat because of the print-on-demand requirement.

      So now we're in this transition period where a few folks know everything about Multigrid GPUs and notice a new book has come on sale [amazon.com] and they must have it to complete their library. Well, it's pure unadulterated shit. But VDM Verlag gets that $60 on a couple sales for college libraries or well paid GPU engineers. And it takes a while for word to get out that VDM is what it is. VDM is capitalizing off of this transition period of consumer trust in books to consumer awareness about print-on-demand. VDM is making a boatload of money but I can't think of a good way to fix the system and, like you said, there's nothing technically illegal about their strategy.

      Sadly instead of empowering books and their content, the advent of print-on-demand will cause people to doubt the once rigid standards books held. And rightfully so with entrepreneurs like VDM waltzing around. Don't think this won't spread or VDM won't set up fronts to publish under to avoid their known muckraked name.

      • by John Hasler (414242) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @05:27PM (#31719226) Homepage

        > You used to be able to acquire a book and know that since it was a book the
        > author(s) had done their homework.

        Not in the nearly sixty years that I have been reading books.

      • by causality (777677) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @05:34PM (#31719278)

        The complaints are coming from the people buying this tripe--and rightfully so. You used to be able to acquire a book and know that since it was a book the author(s) had done their homework. It was hard for idiots to get publishing deals because the publishers would actually read their work. Sure, you'd have small publishing houses printing "work" on things like free energy or whatever might sell to a niche market. But you'd never have a publisher capable of VDM's feat because of the print-on-demand requirement.

        So now we're in this transition period where a few folks know everything about Multigrid GPUs and notice a new book has come on sale [amazon.com] and they must have it to complete their library. Well, it's pure unadulterated shit. But VDM Verlag gets that $60 on a couple sales for college libraries or well paid GPU engineers. And it takes a while for word to get out that VDM is what it is. VDM is capitalizing off of this transition period of consumer trust in books to consumer awareness about print-on-demand. VDM is making a boatload of money but I can't think of a good way to fix the system and, like you said, there's nothing technically illegal about their strategy.

        This is really simple, at least to me. You guard against this by actually knowing a little about the company and/or product before you make the purchase. Legitimate companies that believe in the merits of their products will make this easy. If you cannot be bothered to do the few minutes of Googling this requires, or if you are the very first person to ever patronize this company and no one has ever written a review, then you accept that you're taking a risk. I don't view this as a system that needs fixing.

        Incidentally, that risk should be easy enough to mitigate with a physical object like this (as opposed to something like boxed software). If you're going to buy it, buy it with a credit card. If you don't like it, return it. If they want to hassle you on returning it, perform a chargeback. I am amazed that there's been no mention of whether VDM has received a lot of chargebacks from this series of books.

      • by SendBot (29932) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @05:40PM (#31719326) Homepage Journal

        You used to be able to acquire a book and know that since it was a book the author(s) had done their homework.

        I used to be forced to buy textbooks and know that I was being screwed by my university and the textbook publishers simultaneously. In one year I had to get three different calculus textbooks that basically all had the same contents. Even in middle school I'd find inaccuracies in the textbooks.

      • Re:Read the license? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by causality (777677) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @05:44PM (#31719360)
        You know, I hit "Submit" too soon. I wanted to comment on your final paragraph as well:

        Sadly instead of empowering books and their content, the advent of print-on-demand will cause people to doubt the once rigid standards books held. And rightfully so with entrepreneurs like VDM waltzing around. Don't think this won't spread or VDM won't set up fronts to publish under to avoid their known muckraked name.

        I would love for this to happen. It's about damned time the average person became more savvy and learned that skepticism and the ability to distinguish good information from bad are extremely healthy traits. These things are not burdens that one should resent having to perform; they are privileges. For that matter, it's about time it was widely understood and appreciated that no one has your best interests at heart quite like you do. Over-reliance on someone else to be your "gatekeeper" is for people who need to be spoon-fed and have their information interpreted for them. All of the damage VDM could possibly do to anyone would be a very small price to pay for this. I do not exaggerate in the slightest when I say that if critical thinking became a common skill, it would radically change our society for the better.

        • by sincewhen (640526) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @11:26PM (#31721462)

          So, what you are saying is that we should all buy the books VDM publishes, and judge for ourselves?

          Won't that reward them, even when we find their products to be lacking?
          So, doesn't this become an argument about replacing one reputation system (publishers) with another, or perhaps with none except self-evaluation?

      • Re:Read the license? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ultranova (717540) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @06:09PM (#31719490)

        The complaints are coming from the people buying this tripe--and rightfully so.

        If this spam really starts turning up in every Amazon search, I'd imagine a lot more people will be complaining, and eventually looking for alternatives. Someone at Amazon has let greed got to their heads, and is chasing their golden egg laying goose with an axe on hand and a mad glint in the eye.

        You used to be able to acquire a book and know that since it was a book the author(s) had done their homework. It was hard for idiots to get publishing deals because the publishers would actually read their work.

        Um, no. People who have no idea what they're talking about - or know but lie intentionally - have never have any problem getting heard. Publishers select books based on how much they'll sell, not on whether or not they're factually correct. If you want the latter, you need to subscribe to a peer-reviewed journal, and even those are ultimately untrustworthy.

        If you trust a book just because it's a book then, to put it bluntly, you are an idiot.

    • by Enleth (947766) <enleth@enleth.com> on Saturday April 03, 2010 @05:10PM (#31719104) Homepage

      Sure, you're right, they're a-OK from a legal point of view, but they still are a bunch of douchebags. If nothing else, because they flood the search indexes of Amazon and Google with useless crap that matches almost anything and makes it harder to find relevant publications. This benefits absolutely no one. Actually, I don't see how it could benefit even them and Amazon, as I can't imagine anyone buying this crap for any purpose, other than maybe some extravagant and expensive kind of toilet paper.

      Additionally, this doesn't seem to have anything to do with the spirit and purpose of Wikipedia, which is not as well-defined and, arguably, as important (well, from a legal point of view, it's not important at all) as the license, but it is there nontheless. People who create content and release it under permissive licenses still have their right to say that they don't appreciate some uses of their work, even though they allow it. Of course, any wise author will admit that it's just the price of making Free things, but even wise people need to rant and gripe sometimes.

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn.gmail@com> on Saturday April 03, 2010 @04:58PM (#31719038) Journal
    Why are we concentrating on Amazon, Barnes and Nobel lists 12,381 results [barnesandnoble.com] for VDM Verlag as a publisher. On the US Amazon, I see 25,127 for a similar search [amazon.com]. The UK's Blackwell just sets it at an even five thou [blackwell.co.uk] (but what's the real number?). You want infection, take a gander at Abe Books' hilarious 191,042 results [abebooks.com] on the same search (even putting it in quotes results in that)!

    Now before you fall all over yourself to point in horror at the infected zombie Abe Books lumbering your way, lets engage in a simple mental exercise. We hate expensive books. Online retailers know this and they cater to us by giving us near wholesale prices. Good. Now, they shave a little bit off but in their strive to be number one, they rely on large volumes of sales with razor thin profits on each sale. This means that its in the company's (and your) best interest for them to automate book sales for publishers and remove the human element. But also remove the overhead cost that comes with it. And maybe even encourage several thousand books so their marketplace looks vibrant and full of sellers selling anything imaginable.

    Enter VDM Verlag. All too happy to profit off of the above situation. They have freely available material to publish and they have end users ready to pay.

    I'm not an expert in any of this but my gut tells me that this is what is going on. Go to Borders and note their 4 VDM "books" [borders.com]. Now, if the lack of titles was a matter of principle and ethics, there would be zero titles. If they had a difficult to use process to register book sales with them then you would have few books (likely case) and if you were streamlined like Amazon, Abe Books or Blackwell then you hit the hilarious numbers. Everybody hates the big guy but in this case the One-Click-Demon is not really the culprit nor are they the lone retailer.

    There's really no way to fix this except consumer awareness. Be aware that your paying an exorbitant fee for something that is just a few keystrokes away and a bit of link clicking.

    Can someone help me out with an example of how they came to an author for each particular "book"? I'm having a hard time tracing these people. Some of them appear to be legit authors published through other publishers like (random example) Michael Sage [amazon.com]. Other people appear to
    • by erich666 (109137) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @06:47AM (#31723028) Homepage

      VDM Publishing itself specializes in print of demand of various people's theses [blogspot.com]. Something like a vanity press, but as a bonus the authors don't have to pay anything, and VDM takes 80% of the earnings. These are sometimes weak offerings, and often available to download for free [realtimerendering.com], but the practice itself is nothing out of the ordinary. So VDM Publishing's authors really are authors, but of theses and similar.

      Alphascript and Betascript Publishing (and Fastbooks, in German) are the Wikipedia-aggregation publishers, imprints of (i.e., marketing names [wikipedia.org] for) VDM Publishing. They entirely avoid the expense of looking around for theses and approaching authors, instead simply sucking related articles from Wikipedia. The book titles are goofy as a result, there are no authors, but the costs are miniscule. With a pool of a few hundred million unsuspecting customers exposed via Amazon and others, it just takes one out of every thousand to misstep to make for a profitable business, one that basically makes money off of people's ignorance. At least cigarettes offer nicotine in addition to lung cancer. To the people who argue, "well, you should just be aware of the problem", this sounds to me like smug "I'd never get fooled, I'm so smart" blather to me. Would you say the same if you were the one who bought such a book? Maybe you would, maybe you're the type of person who blames themselves for getting conned, but I blame the con man.

      Speaking of blather, I'm sad that no one's commented on one of the Betascript "editors" names is Lambert M. Surhone, which the Internet Anagram Server [wordsmith.org] turns into "Blather Summoner" as the first match, a great fit for the products offered. My original article on VDM [realtimerendering.com] mentions this and other fine anagrams.

      One ray of sunshine is that giving these books 1-star ratings on Amazon does kick them down the lists. For example, I gave 1-star ratings to a number of their so-called books on Transnistria on Amazon [amazon.com]. 3 of their books were the top three books listed on this subject on Amazon before I rated them, now they appear further down the list.

      As far as other firms go, AbeBooks indeed sells Alphascript Publishing (45333) and Betascript Publishing (953) books. Oddly, they are all the same price (vs. those on Amazon, which appear to be priced by the pound), from a few different shops. Borders, to their credit, does not carry any Alphascript or Betascript books. Barnes and Noble does.

      I will say one thing for VDM, they do add a tiny bit of value (beyond the wacked titles) in their choices of covers, e.g. this peculiar one [amazon.com] for a book on legal disputes about Harry Potter.

  • by alen (225700) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @05:02PM (#31719050)

    what exactly is Amazon supposed to do here? unless it's something clearly illegal like kiddie porn their model is not to take sides and let people sell their content

  • VDM? (Score:3, Funny)

    by the_humeister (922869) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @05:08PM (#31719092)

    Made me think of venereal disease...

  • I'm so tempted... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BitterOak (537666) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @05:09PM (#31719094)
    I'm really tempted to buy a copy of that skiing book. It might really be worth something, someday. Especially if Amazon drops this publisher. At the very least, with a title like that it would be a great conversation starter as a coffee table book.
  • by DiamondGeezer (872237) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @05:11PM (#31719114) Homepage
    Will the publisher be liable if the Wikishit they sell proves to be libelous, defamatory or gratuitously wrong?
  • by heffrey (229704) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @05:25PM (#31719206)

    I can assure you that half man half biscuit are not computer generated. Do some research!

  • by jtownatpunk.net (245670) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @05:26PM (#31719212)

    Seriously. I'm asking for reals. Anyone with a room-temperature IQ (or higher) would look at those listings and say, "What the Hell is this crap?"

    Generally, when I purchase something online, I either know exactly what I want or I base my purchasing decision on the description and reviews. These titles have absolutely nothing that would lead me to believe they would be useful or even interesting. A few random facts and that's it. There's nothing in those descriptions that would induce a rational, intelligent person to complete the purchase.

    I'd say VDM is doing the world a favor by shifting a small bit of wealth away from people who are clearly too stupid to manage it. Maybe we should take the list of buyers and 5150 them.

  • by Alex Belits (437) * on Saturday April 03, 2010 @05:33PM (#31719272) Homepage

    Regardless of all possible problems or lack of ones with licensing, it is obvious that the purpose of this "publishing" is fraudulent, as publisher relies on customers believing that those "books" are not random compilation of Wikipedia articles.

    However since this publisher apparently "infected" all online book stores, Amazon will do nothing, as it doesn't make Amazon any less attractive for the customers than its equally shitted-up competitors. The only solution is to clarify the law that would make this kind of fraud trump publisher's "freedom of speech", just like many other kinds of fraud should.

    • It's possible it does already violate the law, since misrepresenting a product is already not covered by the First Amendment. One problem is that the only people who could complain are those who were actually misled: customers who genuinely thought the book was legit from the description, and only after purchasing it found it to be auto-generated crap. But they most likely can just return the book, so don't have a very strong complaint either.

      Really the main people harmed are customers who never get misled into buying the book, but just find their search results spammed up. Sadly, spamming up your Amazon search results is not a crime. Amazon itself ideally should care, if they want their results to be useful, but so far they seem not to. Maybe if it got bad enough, so e.g. these crap books were 50% of their books, they would?

    • It is costing Amazon money by consuming their resources and distracting customers who may give up and go away rather than buying something. However, if Amazon is willing to tolerate it, that's their business.

    • by Nemyst (1383049) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @06:43PM (#31719706) Homepage
      I wonder... What if someone were to make thousands of "books" consisting entirely of computer-generated high-profile keywords (IE spam) with no value, no purpose and no use and submit those to Amazon using print-on-demand, hence spamming the search results to death with fake results, what would they do?
  • by LegoEvan (772742) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @05:41PM (#31719344) Homepage
    > 27 million. Just go to amazon.com, choose the books department to the left of the search bar, don't enter anything in the search field, and press go. So that reduces the significance by a factor of 10. That said, it's still 0.2%, which is quite high considering they're not a traditional publisher.
  • by Smallpond (221300) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @05:58PM (#31719434) Homepage Journal

    1) Vandalize the wikipedia article about yourself
    2) Order the print-on-demand book
    3) Sue VDM for libel
    4? Profit!

    • by jack2000 (1178961) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @09:23PM (#31720804)
      That would be interesting to watch, also aren't there trolltastic vandalisations about current events(whenever that may be) that could land VDM in quite some trouble.
    • by mkiwi (585287) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @10:09PM (#31721084)

      While VDM's strategy is "interesting," they are going to have some problems making this work. If they steer clear of copyright infringement, they are fine.

      However, if they are automating the production of these books without checking for copyrighted material, Company A will not be happy when they find their copyrighted material in there. Not to mention that being a "legitimate" business puts a massive litigation target on their back. Since the material is print there is no more DMCA slap on the wrist. In other words, do not be around them when the shit --> fan.

      Just imagine how the RIAA or MPAA could exploit this.

  • Look for anything on Amazon by one or more of Lambert M. Surhone, Miriam T. Timpledon, and Susan F. Marseken

    "Showing 1 - 12 of 18,308 Results" for just Surhone alone

    For instance

    http://www.amazon.com/Shadow-Battlecrab-Spacecraft-Humanoid-Technomage/dp/6130461658 [amazon.com]

    A rip off of a Wikipedia page on Babylon 5, or

    http://www.amazon.com/Valgrind-Programming-Debugger-Performance-Debugging/dp/613052904X [amazon.com]

  • by aix tom (902140) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @06:09PM (#31719488)

    I really hope they succeed. When a PUBLISHER can make money by publishing stuff that is actually free to get from somewhere else, that would pretty much contradict the preaching of the MPAA/RIAA that publishers can only make money when they put heavy DRM on their stuff and lock it down as much as possible.

    And it *might* actually be a sensible service to offer. Putting together articles / web pages you need for something, and order a reasonably priced hardcopy of them might actually wind up up being cheaper than printing them on consumer printers.

    • by CAIMLAS (41445) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @07:18PM (#31719908) Homepage

      These books are not likely to sell all that well on account of their computer-generated nature. People will buy them expecting one thing (on an impulse buy), and get something else.

      On the other hand, if a publisher were to undertake the same thing this company is BUT have their books be topical while being accurately targeted...

      For instance, you could make a selection of books such as:

      * The Thralls of Greece - Greece, Past and Present
      * Castles of the World
      * Indigenous Cultures of The World
      * Common Diseases
      * Plants of North America
      * Pocket Guide to British Columbia
      * Military Ships of the Victorian
      * History of the British Royal Family

      And so on. Granted, it would take a fair amount of human selection to get a quality publication, but such a publication would likely sell pretty well. No, they'd not be in-depth but they would provide a good high-level topical look at things which do not get covered in such detail in, say, a typical encyclopedia. There are many books out there that do this already, yes. But those sell; why couldn't these?

  • by unity100 (970058) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @06:17PM (#31719540) Homepage Journal

    computer generated meshes of articles are as good as spam. if amazon doesnt take necessary precautions, more than half of their index of books will be comprised of VDM shit soon.

  • Circle jerk (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mutube (981006) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @06:21PM (#31719580) Homepage

    Does this mean Wikipedia articles can now cite themselves in book form as authoritative sources? Super-holy-shit-vicious-circle Batman!

  • by cdrguru (88047) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @06:24PM (#31719600) Homepage

    When content is available for free, someone will take it and make money with it.

    Here we have a bunch of text often with inaccuracies, distortions and lies. But it is a lot of text. That should be worth something, right? So we have a company taking that because it is free to take and making money from it.

    This should be the first guidepost for those that would like to remove copyright protection from things. They will be picked up by companies like this and sold. So if your music is free to download and do whatever with. expect to find someone selling CDs of it somewhere. Might just be at a flea market, might be on Amazon or WalMart.

    Is it right? Well, the door WAS left open. If you wanted to retain control you wouldn't have used a Creative Commons license now would you? So without that control, someone is going to make money with it. Maybe not a lot of money and maybe not very ethically, but it will happen. And there is nothing that can be done about it.

    Think they will make a lot of money from this? I doubt it. But just wait until the blogs of someone that licenses them with Creative Commons start showing up on Amazon as their "Collected Writings". Going to happen sooner or later.

  • by Fantasio (800086) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @06:41PM (#31719688)
    In French, VDM stands for "Vie De Merde", which means "Shitty Life". Appropriate
  • by NemosomeN (670035) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @07:22PM (#31719924) Journal
    I'm tired of groups choosing liberal licenses, then getting butt-hurt when people follow them, and use them to their advantage. If you don't want people to take your work and use it for their own gain, GPL, BSD, and CC may not be for you (Though CC has some licenses that may be). I contacted a project owner for a bid sniper for eBay that was warning people that they couldn't take his source code and produce their own product from it, but he had licensed it as GPL. He responded with anger, saying how dare I tell him what he had agreed to do (I had no intention of making my own product, I don't even have an eBay account). My only intention was to tell him he'd chosen the wrong license for what he intended to do. I'm sick and god-damned tired of people picking licenses they do not understand or truly agree to.
  • Amazon can help here (Score:2, Informative)

    by davidwr (791652) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @07:52PM (#31720140) Homepage Journal

    They can provide a checkbox, off by default, that says "include low-selling titles." For logged-in users they can provide user-specified thresholds of what "low selling" means.

    I would recommend a default of something like "has sold more than 10,000 copies worldwide in any edition, at least 1,000 in the last year in any edition, and at least 100 copies in Amazon in any edition" -OR- "in the last 12 months, author has received advanced or earned royalties representing at least 10,000 copies and at least $5,000."

    Of course, the term "any edition" can be gamed but I'm sure Amazon can work on that later.

    Other possible checkboxes:
    ___ Include novelty press
    ___ Include publish on demand
    _X_ Include all non-POD, non-novelty works (checked by default)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 03, 2010 @07:56PM (#31720164)

    A few months after I finished my master's degree I got contacted on Facebook by a VDM representative who wanted me to publish my thesis with them. I was incredulous -- what respectable publishing company contacts people on Facebook??

    Upon Googling it turns out that VDM is a very shady vanity press. They employ people who go through university websites looking for things to publish (anything will do; there is no quality control). The author gets 5 free copies, and VDM puts the manuscript up on Amazon for hundreds of dollars. The author receives some percentage of sales, but only if they exceed some amount (a few hundred, IIRC), which they probably never will. Otherwise the author gets nothing.

    See here [chronicle.com] for a long thread (complete with VDM sock puppets!) of other people's experience with VDM.

  • by cowtamer (311087) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @10:53PM (#31721296) Journal

    I have not had the misfortune of buying one of their books, but if I were Amazon or B&N, I would do something about this book equivalent of SPAM (something which costs NOTHING to produce that you can posts thousands of, with the proviso that you print it when someone shells out $60...).

    The sad thing is, as long as you post enough of these on Amazon, you will make money. The scheme will multiply. I'm sure they'll fix it (perhaps require that they send a single printed & bound copy and have a human look over it for not being absolute drivel) -- because it sounds VERY annoying...

  • by acheron12 (1268924) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @11:59PM (#31721606)
    As with any get rich quick scheme, a bunch of copycats will show up doing the same thing only at slightly lower prices. This will solve the problem. How? Well as the copycats compete the prices of these "books" will keep on dropping until profit is minimal, at which point the service offered - nicely bound hard copies of Wiki articles - will actually be worthwhile. With any luck, they'll start bundling the articles into more logical collections too.
  • by RAMMS+EIN (578166) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @01:12AM (#31721868) Homepage Journal

    There is one thing I don't understand, and that is how people get to the point where they actually buy one of these books. Sure, they may turn up in lots of searches, but wouldn't taking a single look at it be enough to determine it is a piece of drivel?

  • by LihTox (754597) on Sunday April 04, 2010 @01:16PM (#31725694)

    While I would probably call this particular example fraud, because their Amazon listings apparently do not explain the source of their material, the general principle of repackaging online "open-source" content in hardcover form is legitimate (if it satisfies the appropriate licenses). What intrigues me is the fact that these books are being automatically generated. As artificial intelligence gets better, we're going to start having computers which can generate music, poetry, and maybe even novels or movies which have some commercial value, and they might be able to spit out thousands of works a year, swamping the output of any human artists, and online stores like Amazon or iTunes will have to figure out how to deal with that.

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