Posts Tagged ‘Print-on-Demand’

Is Webster’s Digital Services The New Hephaestus Books?

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

You may remember my piece on Hephaestus Books, the “publisher” who automatically packages up free digital content (like Wikipedia articles) and slaps them together as a Print on Demand book with a deceptive title available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Well it appears that a company called Webster’s Digital Service is doing the same thing. Here’s a volume on Octavia Butler that appears to be put together the same way, though the title doesn’t look quite as misleading as those Hephaestus Books used. The first line of the description reads “Please note that the content of this book primarily consists of articles available from Wikipedia or other free sources online.”

The “author,” one “Elizabeth Dummel,” appears to be quite the busy bee, being listed as the author of no less than 907 books on Amazon, including this one on Jo Walton. I wonder if she know about it. I suspect not. I’ll send her email after I post this.

I wonder just how many other content scrapers are assembling such books?

Like Hephaestus Books, these books are complete ripoffs, but not technically illegal. As always, let the buyer beware.

Hephaestus Books: A Different Kind of Ripoff

Friday, November 4th, 2011

Jerry Pournelle and C. J. Cherryh have been among the first to report on the nefarious activities of Hephaestus Books, which seems to be publishing omnibus editions of hundreds or thousands of books which they haven’t bothered to obtain the rights for. I say “seems,” because a closer look shows that Hephaestus Books does seen to be ripping people off, but it’s the readers and buyers rather than the authors.

Since Jerry helped sound the alarm, let’s take this collection, titled Novels By Jerry Pournelle, including: The Legacy Of Heorot, The Mote In God’s Eye, The Gripping Hand, Footfall, Inferno (novel), Fallen Angels … Starswarm, Higher Education over at Amazon as an example. The text description reads:

Hephaestus Books represents a new publishing paradigm, allowing disparate content sources to be curated into cohesive, relevant, and informative books. To date, this content has been curated from Wikipedia articles and images under Creative Commons licensing, although as Hephaestus Books continues to increase in scope and dimension, more licensed and public domain content is being added. We believe books such as this represent a new and exciting lexicon in the sharing of human knowledge. This particular book is a collaboration focused on Novels by Jerry Pournelle.

The fact that the book length is a mere 82 pages should confirm that all the novels listed in the title are not in fact present.

So: They’re content scrapers, grabbing anything they can grab off the Internet (it looks like most of their content is scrapped off Wikipedia) and slapping it between two covers as a print-on-demand (POD) book. This is bad and dubiously legal practice, but their primary sin seems to be false advertising, since their “book” titles deceptively suggest that you’re buying an omnibus edition of fiction rather than a collection of stuff you can read for free on the Internet.

Personally, if I were in charge of Amazon or Barnes & Noble, I’d pull all the Hephaestus Books titles due to their dishonest tactics and customer dissatisfaction anyway. (I don’t think even my insane Jack Vance collector friends will be picking up this.) But from my cursory glance, it’s readers, not authors, who are the ones being ripped off.

(Hat tip: Instapundit.)