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Wikipedia Books News

Print-On-Demand Publisher VDM Infects Amazon 190

Posted by kdawson
from the scam-on-demand dept.
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

    • 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

          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 spammin

          • 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.
              • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

                by Matt Perry (793115)

                Just because you aren't interested in the books you think it's spam? Who opted in to receive the emails from Amazon? You?

                • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                  by LihTox (754597)

                  Just because you aren't interested in the books you think it's spam? Who opted in to receive the emails from Amazon? You?

                  Just because you aren't interested in Viagra you think it's spam? Who opted to have an email account? You?

                  These aren't a problem if they are a niche offering, but if every search I make on Amazon winds up containing 10 or 20 of these, then that's interfering with Amazon's business and they're going to have to deal with it somehow.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by LurkerXXX (667952)

          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: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Blakey Rat (99501)

          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)
        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)

          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 AT gmail DOT 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.

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Porno mags don't count.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by causality (777677)

        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 require

      • by SendBot (29932)

        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: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by tomhudson (43916)
          So do like I did - don't buy the books. If they're "teaching from the book", you're wasting your money on the class - bitch about it as "low-quality education" and drop the course for a better one. If they're not "teaching from the book", you don't need the book.
      • 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)

          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: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ultranova (717540)

        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

        • by tomhudson (43916) <barbara.hudson@NOSpAM.barbara-hudson.com> on Saturday April 03, 2010 @06:33PM (#31719638) Journal

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

          "It was the sound of hundreds of millions of Christians grinding their teeth (and their axes) ..."

          • I'd replace "Christians" with "strict constitutionalists". But then it'd be referring to the same people 99% of the time. I reckon they have double sided placards to save time between their teabagging parties - "socialest healthcare - know way" on one side and "Fetuse's for Jebuses" on the other. If you watch carefully there's always one or two at the back who forget to flip 'em around.

    • 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.

      • This was actually discussed at length on foundation-l. Basically, as long as they keep to the licence, there isn't much the Wikimedia Foundation or even the individual contributors can do to stop them. That they don't mention Wikipedia is actually in their favour because they then aren't abusing the trademark. Etc., etc.

        Unfortunately, freedom to reuse for any purpose includes freedom to cut'n'paste into spam.

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT 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
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by erich666 (109137)

      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 publish

  • 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

    • by FooAtWFU (699187)

      If there's a flood of garbage content like this on their website, Amazon suffers from customer perceptions of reduced quality, harming the rest of their (potentially more-profitable) business.

      On a vaguely-related note, the Steam "New Games" list would be a lot more interesting if every other entry weren't another $20 RailWorks add-on.

      • by jack2000 (1178961)
        What are these "pop-cap" games and the like doing on steam? EH, EH? Get this filth away from us!
    • > what exactly is Amazon supposed to do here?

      They could charge $1 up front for each title listed.

      But it's their problem, not ours.

    • by dangitman (862676)

      hat 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

      What the fuck are you talking about? Very recently, Amazon has delisted the entire offerings (both print and electronic) of a major publisher because they disagreed with their pricing on Kindle ebook titles. Amazon has also threatened to delist the entire catalog of other publishers who disagree with their Kindle pricing.

      Given the above behavior, what is to stop Amazon from delisting all VDM publications? It's not like VDM is even close to being in the league of the publishers that have already been threat

  • 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.
  • Will the publisher be liable if the Wikishit they sell proves to be libelous, defamatory or gratuitously wrong?
  • I can assure you that half man half biscuit are not computer generated. Do some research!

  • 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, intell

  • 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.

    • by Trepidity (597)

      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

    • 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)
      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)
      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)

      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.

  • 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]

  • 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

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by CAIMLAS (41445)

      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
      *

      • by crossmr (957846)

        Not really. This kind of stuff is categorized on wikipedia making it pretty easy to find related articles, especially for well known topics like castles or diseases. If it was a mass amount of articles use something like mechanical turk (from amazon) to cheaply and quickly whittle it down.

  • 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!

  • 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

  • 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.
    • It's not the Wikipedians who are complaining about this - it's the idiots who bought the books (never mind that Amazon probably gave them a refund).
  • Amazon can help here (Score:2, Informative)

    by davidwr (791652)

    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 $5,0

  • 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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ZorroXXX (610877)
      My experience with VDM is positive. My master thesis (written in 2006) got published last year, Someone actually doing systematic non-functional software maintenance [amazon.com]. It is not a 100% copy of the master thesis, I did a few adaptations to make it into a book.

      As an author you receive one free copy, not five. The list price on my book is $73 on amazon, which is not cheap but it is not hundreds of dollars. Truely I will not receive any cash payment unless the book sells above some threshold, but hey - for me

  • 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.
  • 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?

  • 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 movi

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