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Print-On-Demand Publisher VDM Infects Amazon

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the scam-on-demand dept.

Wikipedia 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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Read the license? (5, Informative)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719026)

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.

Re:Read the license? (1)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719054)

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.

Re:Read the license? (1)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719080)

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.

But doesn't that make the original Wikipedia writers liable if they copied someone else work? I've seen many occasions when newspapers have copied each other and just attributed the original source for the info when it later turned out to be false. But as it was attributed, the liability kind of went to the original writer. In either case, it would also make Wikipedia in serious danger if any of their writers would be held liable if they were just copying or attributing other sources.

Re:Read the license? (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 4 years ago | (#31720030)

Yes, this makes the original Wikipedia authors liable for copyright infringement. This is a point I've made on several other public wikis where sometimes contributors are fast and loose with culling copyrighted content. Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects even have a "test" they apply which is simply called the "Google test". If a suspect piece of prose is considered to have been lifted from another source (there are various ways to suspect this), simply post about 10-15 words into Google and check if the text is somewhere else on the internet.

Such passages tend to be removed on the better Wikipedia and Wikibooks articles.

Attribution implies that the source was noted, and that something more than a paraphrasing was turned into a verbatim quote.

As far as making it dangerous to post on Wikipedia, just make sure all of your own personal contributions are original prose. It may take a little more work (compared to those so lazy they just copy whole paragraphs or more from another source), but it keeps you from any sort of liability on the issue.

The Wikimedia Foundation is absolved of any liability as they function more as an internet service provider with the associated protections that come with it. The WMF does have DMCA take-down procedures that have and are being used when copyright violations are formally noticed as well, with the content being deleted not just from the public view but from the administrator's view of the pages as well. Wikipedia itself isn't going to be in any danger at all, but certainly you should be aware of potential liabilities if you contribute.

Re:Read the license? (1)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 4 years ago | (#31720626)

The Wikimedia Foundation is absolved of any liability as they function more as an internet service provider with thee associated protections that come with it. The WMF does have DMCA take-down procedures that have and are being used when copyright violations are formally noticed as well
Wikipedia may be able to avoid liability through the DMCA safe harbour but I doubt reusers would have that protection. Especially in the case of reusers that are compiling then selling copies of subsets of the wiki.

Also often the attribution information is available but buried. e.g. an edit summary may say something was moved from another article. Someone checking manually could folow the trail to the history of the other article and get the information but I don't see any real way to automate this.

Re:Read the license? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31719126)

See http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Terms_of_Use [wikimediafoundation.org]

"""Attribution: To re-distribute a text page in any form, provide credit to the authors either by including a) a hyperlink (where possible) or URL to the page or pages you are re-using, b) a hyperlink (where possible) or URL to an alternative, stable online copy which is freely accessible, which conforms with the license, and which provides credit to the authors in a manner equivalent to the credit given on this website, or c) a list of all authors. (Any list of authors may be filtered to exclude very small or irrelevant contributions.) This applies to text developed by the Wikimedia community. Text from external sources may attach additional attribution requirements to the work, which we will strive to indicate clearly to you. For example, a page may have a banner or other notation indicating that some or all of its content was originally published somewhere else. Where such notations are visible in the page itself, they should generally be preserved by re-users. """

Re:Read the license? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31719062)

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

Re:Read the license? (5, Insightful)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#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 (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:VDM are Spammers (4, Insightful)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#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:Read the license? (2, Insightful)

LurkerXXX (667952) | more than 4 years ago | (#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? (5, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719084)

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.

Re:Read the license? (4, Insightful)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719226)

> 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:Read the license? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31719880)

Porno mags don't count.

Re:Read the license? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31720788)

Porno mags don't count.

Sure they do. At least the people buying them aren't complaining.

Porn is just real people expressing honest emotions and behavior, presented in an unambiguous and unimpeachable media . Pretty much like VDM. What's the problem there?

Re:Read the license? (2, Insightful)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Read the license? (1)

SendBot (29932) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719326)

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? (2, Interesting)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719620)

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? (0, Offtopic)

SendBot (29932) | more than 4 years ago | (#31720128)

I chose a similar solution: I dropped the university for a better life. Very rarely during my time at university did I feel it was worth my time to be there. But *every* moment felt like a huge waste of money.

Even the classes that interested me weren't as valuable as they could be because I had to waste my time doing BS homework for BS classes instead of studying worthwhile things in the depth I would have liked to.

Re:Read the license? (4, Interesting)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Read the license? (2, Interesting)

ultranova (717540) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Read the license? (3, Funny)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719638)

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) ..."

worth publishing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31719524)

I've never been published nor produced anything worth publishing.

That hasn't stopped a lot of other people from publishing. :)

Re:Read the license? (1)

aurizon (122550) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719800)

Now, let's examine the cost of entry to this market. Why, it costs SFA to enter and with a little smarts you can let your digital slave do all the work.
I bet VDM has many such slaves. I and a million like me go slave hunting. Slave scripts appear online.
Soon, the woods will be full of the sound of book-spam

Re:Read the license? (5, Insightful)

Enleth (947766) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719104)

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.

Re:Read the license? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31719160)

... I can't imagine anyone buying this crap for any purpose, other than maybe some extravagant and expensive kind of toilet paper.

I would buy toilet paper Wikipedia articles.

Re:Read the license? (1)

DarkTempes (822722) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719370)

Reading material on the toilet paper itself. Brilliant!

Re:Read the license? (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719660)

I would buy toilet paper Wikipedia articles.

Sorry to disappoint you but it's only one article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toilet_paper [wikipedia.org]

I'll sell you a print version if you really want it.

Re:Read the license? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31719296)

"as I can't imagine anyone buying this crap for any purpose"

I can't imagine anyone buying items from spam - but they do.

Re:Read the license? (1)

517714 (762276) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719872)

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.

There is no statement of a license compatible with the Creative Commons ShareAlike license in any product listing for these books from any source I could find. If they omitted it from the printed books I believe that would constitute fraud.

It's Not Just Amazon (5, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719038)

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 not exist elsewhere [amazon.com] and the reviews are appropriate. If these are glorified wikipedia articles how do they come up with a name? Is it randomly generated as well? This naming caveat, I would surmise, could be a weak point in their desire to publish things with non-consensual authors. Are these paid off shills or is there a shady service that offers you American sounding named individuals in a third world country (paid two cents per title) as scapegoats should someone come knocking at the publisher's door for plagiarism issues?

Re:It's Not Just Amazon (1)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719060)

What about if some people just want to get a paper version of those? I'm not sure if Wikipedia currently offers such, but if I wanted to get encyclopedia on my bookshelf I would want it to be Wikipedia and all of its contents. If someone is legitly offering that (by the creative commons sharealike license), why shouldn't they be allowed to do so?

I would buy a book that is based on for example all of the gaming articles on Wikipedia. Maybe it's not up to date, but so ain't any other encyclopedia, and Wikipedia has a lot of content that isn't found on others.

Re:It's Not Just Amazon (4, Interesting)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719154)

What about if some people just want to get a paper version of those?

Those what? Wikipedia articles? Someone is [labnol.org] but it's only the top 400 articles I think. Anyway, once you print wikipedia it's not wikipedia anymore. Wikis are living documents. It's some sort of Snapshot of a Wiki.

I'm not sure if Wikipedia currently offers such, but if I wanted to get encyclopedia on my bookshelf I would want it to be Wikipedia and all of its contents.

Get a printer and get ready to spend lots of money. There are resources out there to help you format wikipedia. But seriously if you want Wikipedia on your bookshelf, burn a snapshot cd [download.chip.eu] (newest ones are torrented) of the HTML and put that in a jewel case and put that on your bookshelf and update it yearly ... for free. Yes, you can't just flip pages but you have it "on your shelf." Although it's cheating, that's your best bet.

I would buy a book that is based on for example all of the gaming articles on Wikipedia. Maybe it's not up to date, but so ain't any other encyclopedia, and Wikipedia has a lot of content that isn't found on others.

What follows is my opinion. Books tend to fail when they set grandiose objectives. "All of gaming" is setting up an author to fail. Seriously. Hard. Embarrassingly so. That's why we get books limited to dates and ranges and specialties. It's possible. Sometimes you get great books written by groups like the gang of four and they complement each other. Sometimes you get complete trash that is badly titled and that's what's happening in this article.

My advice is not to look for one be-all-end-all book on gaming but instead to seek out the gems that cover your most interested specialties and then augment them with online works. Yes, you have to do work. Like a lot of things there's no silver bullet for something so large. I'm a nerd, such research is fun.

Re:It's Not Just Amazon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31719586)

Not hardly. Try mag my Kindle.

Yust a torsketunger minute! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31719458)

"Vreni Schneider: Annemarie Moser-Pröll, FIS Alpine Ski World Cup, Winter Olympic Games, Slalom Skiing, Giant Slalom Skiing, Half Man Half Biscuit" is a good and fine and upstanding Norwegian family name you insensitive clods!!!

So little outsidenkulturevergnugen you feheraveylander peepolen hat!!!!

welcome to the world of UGC (1, Insightful)

alen (225700) | more than 4 years ago | (#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

Re:welcome to the world of UGC (0, Redundant)

sourcerror (1718066) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719086)

Tell in the description that it's collection of printed wikipedia articles.

Re:welcome to the world of UGC (2, Insightful)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719280)

and I suppose they should put warnings on all of their movies that they are recycled Shakespearean plays?

Re:welcome to the world of UGC (1, Offtopic)

sourcerror (1718066) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719676)

Please, which Shakespeare play is about a killing machine sent back from the future?

Re:welcome to the world of UGC (0, Offtopic)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719956)

Please, which Shakespeare play is about a killing machine sent back from the future?

The first was "Steam shalt have returneth", in 1593.

Re:welcome to the world of UGC (1)

Garble Snarky (715674) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719680)

This is a completely nonsensical analogy. If what they were publishing were at all distinct from the actual Wikipedia snapshot, you might have a valid point.

Re:welcome to the world of UGC (1)

sourcerror (1718066) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719690)

If you zoom in the cover image, it tells it's from Wikipedia, however, it isn't mentioned in the Amazon product description, so the angry reviewer might not have noticed it.

Re:welcome to the world of UGC (2)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719132)

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.

Re:welcome to the world of UGC (1)

jack2000 (1178961) | more than 4 years ago | (#31720754)

What are these "pop-cap" games and the like doing on steam? EH, EH? Get this filth away from us!

Re:welcome to the world of UGC (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719244)

> 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.

web browser in kindle is free to use (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31719056)

Why on earth buy these articles when you can have them for free in the kindle's built in web browser?

Re:web browser in kindle is free to use (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719252)

Why on earth buy these articles when you can have them for free in the kindle's built in web browser?

Not all countries have Kindle with free web browsing, and not everybody even in supported countries can afford Kindle.

Re:web browser in kindle is free to use (1)

517714 (762276) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719420)

Why on earth buy these articles when you can have them for free in the kindle's built in web browser?

Not all countries have Kindle with free web browsing, and not everybody even in supported countries can afford Kindle.

And how would these these people buy from Amazon.com?

Re:web browser in kindle is free to use (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719812)

You can buy from an online bookstore on a home PC, a work PC during break time, or a public library PC. But even if you have a home PC, you're not always in the same room as it, and there might be more people than PCs in your household.

VDM? (2, Funny)

the_humeister (922869) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719092)

Made me think of venereal disease...

I'm so tempted... (2, Interesting)

BitterOak (537666) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:I'm so tempted... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31719314)

Get any old book at a thrift store for 25 cents. Then print out the cover of the Biscuit Skiing book and glue it on the cheap book. And save over $45. :-)

The obvious question (1)

DiamondGeezer (872237) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719114)

Will the publisher be liable if the Wikishit they sell proves to be libelous, defamatory or gratuitously wrong?

Re:The obvious question (4, Interesting)

Absolut187 (816431) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719156)

1 - If publishers were liable for publishing demonstrably false information, it would be a lot harder to find a copy of the holy bible.

2 - As for defamation, that poses an interesting question. Wikipedia themselves would qualify for the "safe harbor" of section 230 of the communications decency act (CDA). But I don't think a print publisher would fit the definition of those entitled to the safe harbor. so .. maybe?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communications_Decency_Act#Section_230 [wikipedia.org]

Half man half biscuit (1)

heffrey (229704) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719206)

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

Indeed (1)

mutube (981006) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719536)

May I suggest this book [amazon.com] as a starting point?

Re:Half man half biscuit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31720008)

Next on Amazon, Joy Division Oven Gloves?

Who would buy one of those books? (1)

jtownatpunk.net (245670) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Who would buy one of those books? (1)

JustOK (667959) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719382)

a room-temperature IQ (or higher)

Fahrenheit or celsius?

Re:Who would buy one of those books? (1)

fucket (1256188) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719440)

If it's Kelvin, we're screwed.

Re:Who would buy one of those books? (1)

JustOK (667959) | more than 4 years ago | (#31720074)

why, is he stewpid?

FUHHHREEEEEDOOOM OFFFF SPEEEEEAAAACH!!!111 (4, Insightful)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719272)

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.

Re:FUHHHREEEEEDOOOM OFFFF SPEEEEEAAAACH!!!111 (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719526)

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?

Re:FUHHHREEEEEDOOOM OFFFF SPEEEEEAAAACH!!!111 (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719596)

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.

Re:FUHHHREEEEEDOOOM OFFFF SPEEEEEAAAACH!!!111 (1)

sourcerror (1718066) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719698)

I have to repeat myself:
"f you zoom in the cover image, it tells it's from Wikipedia, however, it isn't mentioned in the Amazon product description, so the angry reviewer might not have noticed it."

Re:FUHHHREEEEEDOOOM OFFFF SPEEEEEAAAACH!!!111 (1)

Nemyst (1383049) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719706)

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?

Re:FUHHHREEEEEDOOOM OFFFF SPEEEEEAAAACH!!!111 (1)

linzeal (197905) | more than 4 years ago | (#31720196)

Piratebay has an ebook store without the infection, I guess I will shop there.

Size of Amazon's Book Catalog (3, Interesting)

LegoEvan (772742) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719344)

> 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.

Re:Size of Amazon's Book Catalog (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719392)

I wonder how many of those are "* For Dummy" titles.

Re:Size of Amazon's Book Catalog (1)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | more than 4 years ago | (#31720786)

I wonder how many of those are "* For Dummy" titles.

Might I recommend to those buying these compilation books that instead, they start with this For Dummies [amazon.com] book?

Yes, let's ruin our credibility. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31719404)

This kind of article is exactly why the open source/copyleft movement doesn't get taken seriously. Free use is only respected when it's someone the neckbeard hivemind loves, cue stories like this or the once-a-year like clockwork furor about Windows containing fragments of BSD. It's especially laughable that somewhere like Slashdot, which prides itself on devotion to the movement, joins in the rage and betrays both readers' and editors' complete incomprehension of the licenses they're constantly on about as ideals.
This isn't even new, most major booksellers have been carrying print-on-demand copies of -manpages-, usually out of date at printing and definitely so within a few months, for over a decade. Charging $15 or so, too. But that was wonderful because it was retail exposure for Linux, wasn't it?

Re:Yes, let's ruin our credibility. (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719492)

I like my "linux in a nutshell" book, you insensitive clod!

Re:Yes, let's ruin our credibility. (1)

causality (777677) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719678)

This kind of article is exactly why the open source/copyleft movement doesn't get taken seriously. Free use is only respected when it's someone the neckbeard hivemind loves, cue stories like this or the once-a-year like clockwork furor about Windows containing fragments of BSD. It's especially laughable that somewhere like Slashdot, which prides itself on devotion to the movement, joins in the rage and betrays both readers' and editors' complete incomprehension of the licenses they're constantly on about as ideals.

So the ideals of freedom and openness, and the efforts to have it in the realm of information are invalid because a very small minority of people will abuse it and try to exploit it for their own selfish gain? That's such a disheartening viewpoint that I hope I am grossly misinterpreting you. If you really do feel that way, please reconsider. The whole concept of freedom is that it's so precious that it's worth the occasional asshat, many times over, even if people fail to take it seriously.

Re:Yes, let's ruin our credibility. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31719974)

They have an excellent chance of being seen as invalid when even their proponents add the caveat "...but this free access only counts if we like you". Either you believe works being free for use is a good thing, or you don't, and the abject rage whenever someone puts a price tag on GPLed/copylefted works smacks of the movement considering the concept a weapon against entrenched publishers rather than a goal. If you're terming something that the lawyers that wrote the license considered a positive feature "abuse" and an opportunity for "selfish gain", perhaps you should reconsider your position on copyright and support French-style stricter rather than looser copyright laws with a moral right clause.

Ironically, these people are almost definitely outsourcing their printing, and probably not even generating a layout until after an order. If it's so bothersome, why not run the same wget->latex->gs chain they do, undercut by half a dollar, and donate all proceeds to Wikipedia?

Re:Yes, let's ruin our credibility. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31720042)

This is exactly why socialism doesn't work, yes.

It's not that people sell each other out for 0.05 pence, though a very small percentage who it's usually fairly easy to see coming wil given half a chance. It's because at the top of the pyramid, all of those 0.05 pences add up to millions, and given the choice between siphoning off 5% of those millions to make their own families lives a little easier, and suffering along with the masses, most people put their own family first. That's all the corruption it takes to produce a Stalin, or a Mao.

Re:Yes, let's ruin our credibility. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31720216)

As opposed to capitalism, where the corruption occasionally repaid with a bullet is instead profit which should be taken as virtue.

Re:Yes, let's ruin our credibility. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31720738)

No, but liberalism and capitalism do (depending on your definitions of liberalism and capitalism) admit that you need checks and balances (courts and such) to try and keep things on an even keel, whereas naivety gets you straight to a dictatorship most of the time.

Life just isn't simple, Einstein was right that "simpler than it can be", doesn't work, and I would assert that socialism/anarchism is simpler than the real world allows.

Interesting thoughts on openness (1)

KingAlanI (1270538) | more than 4 years ago | (#31720148)

Kudos to you, Mr. Coward.
True openness shall sometimes lead to apparent "non-openness"

Seeking 'openness' for its own sake seems to me to be, ironically, just as close-minded.

It seems only logical that there's some room for both, especially if you're really looking at each individual product on its own merits.
If the independent/open model inherently produced better results like it supposedly does, than that will show itself.

(I find music label discussions to be an analogue or component of these issues, as my signature refers to.)

New money-making scheme (4, Interesting)

Smallpond (221300) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719434)

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

Re:New money-making scheme (1)

jack2000 (1178961) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

High Quality Content by WIKIPEDIA articles! (1)

alanw (1822) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719472)

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]

Well could be funny as a novelty (1)

Nicolas MONNET (4727) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719534)

For the Babylon 5 fan or something, if it's nicely printed.

Not really (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | more than 4 years ago | (#31720374)

SHADOW VESSELS ARE NEVER REFERRED TO AS CRABS!!

Shadow "spider" nightmare but never in any of the material from any source connected to B5 as Crabs

This might actually be a pretty good development. (1)

aix tom (902140) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:This might actually be a pretty good developmen (1)

sourcerror (1718066) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719724)

Wow, I imagine sending a handwritten HTTP request to the publisher, who sends me the book, containing the page!

Re:This might actually be a pretty good developmen (2, Interesting)

CAIMLAS (41445) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719908)

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?

Its an infestation (1)

unity100 (970058) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719540)

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 (5, Interesting)

mutube (981006) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719580)

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

Re:Circle jerk (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31719608)

Dear sir, could you please not use the term "circle jerk" on slashdot.org? It presents a very ugly mental picture.

Ha Ha Ha Ha (1)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719600)

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.

French meaning... (2, Funny)

Fantasio (800086) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719688)

In French, VDM stands for "Vie De Merde", which means "Shitty Life". Appropriate

Check this one out... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31719726)

http://www.amazon.com/XKCD-Independent-Contractor-Mathematical-Apollonian/dp/6130409834

Re:Check this one out... (1)

NemosomeN (670035) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719938)

Ouch, they could, somewhat hilariously, be in trouble for trademark violations for some of these books. I'm sure xkcd isn't a registered trademark, but if it were, and I'm sure other examples are, they could get sued to titling their book "XKCD" as they have.

If you edit Wikipedia, you agreed to this. (2, Informative)

NemosomeN (670035) | more than 4 years ago | (#31719924)

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.

Re:If you edit Wikipedia, you agreed to this. (1)

greenreaper (205818) | more than 4 years ago | (#31720472)

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).

Under that CC license (1)

Ed Peepers (1051144) | more than 4 years ago | (#31720062)

... can't anyone resell the VDM content (which they have so generously compiled for you) at a slightly lower cost? It seems like their low margin business model relies on "owning" the very content they're repackaging. Oh the irony!

Amazon can help here (2, Informative)

davidwr (791652) | more than 4 years ago | (#31720140)

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)

VDM wanted to publish my Master's thesis! (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

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