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Author Topic: A legal scam  (Read 3881 times)

pwhodges

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A legal scam
« on: 15 Jul 2010, 12:10 »

So there's these three guys who have written some software that assembles articles from Wikipedia into a PDF to be printed as a book - the articles should be related, but it sometimes gets it hilariously wrong - and publishes them via Amazon.  Wikipedia's licence explicitly allows commercial use, so Amazon are happy. The books are printed on demand by Amazon, so the guys don't have to lay out any capital.  There are something 54,000 of them in Amazon's list so far!

So, they are legally selling people a bundle of free information from Wikipedia (often with missing images) for £25 or more.  I call that a scam, even though it's legal.

Blog about it.
Wikipedia article about it(!)

The book that alerted me to this, which contains articles to which I have contributed - note the snappy title, and the apparent availability of copies from other suppliers (the two labelled as "used" are described as "new - print on demand", so that's OK).
« Last Edit: 15 Jul 2010, 12:16 by pwhodges »
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Re: A legal scam
« Reply #1 on: 15 Jul 2010, 12:14 »

That's kind of interesting considering the fact that so much of the Wiki is nonsense, badly sourced or at least grammatically incorrect. When I was much younger and the Wikipedia was relatively new I started or completed the pages for many independent rock bands I like and sporadically I still see bits of my weird broken English in press releases or music reviews, somehow having survived for years without significant editing or correction.

I hope somebody does this with the Simple English Wikipedia too.
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pwhodges

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Re: A legal scam
« Reply #2 on: 15 Jul 2010, 12:22 »

Actually, much of Wikipedia is impressively good, accurate, and well-researched.  Studies comparing it with Britannica and another encyclopaedia (I forget which) have given Wikipedia the edge.  It might not be the final authority on anything, but it doesn't want to be - hence the incessant demand for more citations in serious articles (as opposed to those on teenage pop bands).  Wikipedia is used, for instance, as a resource in the teaching of medicine at the University of Oxford.
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Re: A legal scam
« Reply #3 on: 15 Jul 2010, 12:35 »

Don't get me wrong, I like the Wikipedia a lot and think it's a terrific achievement but the fact is that unless they were meticulously source checking and scan reading before going to print it would be full of factual errors and vandalism.
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pwhodges

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Re: A legal scam
« Reply #4 on: 15 Jul 2010, 12:37 »

And the books are; the book on Georgia (the country) has a picture of Atlanta on the front cover, apparently.

The guys doing this justify it by describing it as "the Internet in print", and pointing out that a printout this month of Wikipedia articles will often be more up-to-date or correct than the traditional book you bought last year.
« Last Edit: 15 Jul 2010, 12:39 by pwhodges »
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Re: A legal scam
« Reply #5 on: 15 Jul 2010, 14:28 »

"the Internet in print"


This is about a few good steps down from 619 scams. For an indication of just how fucking retarded this all is, here's a quote from a guy defending the practice (in what I surmise to be copypasta from someone involved with this whole thing):

Quote from: Some idiot
Nearly all media worldwide -- such as newspapers, magazines, TV -- use internet for their researches and as a basis for their texts. This is exactly what Alphascript publishing does. And we go even further: with the Wikipedia-texts at free disposal we create books on interesting topics.
There is hardly another platform for quick and better processing of information than by Wikipedia -- and this is too for the benefit of the Alphascript publishing-readers who want to be informed on a specific subject. Of course you can have online everything free of charge, but for good reason you have decided for a book. Alphascript publishing is internet in form of a book. There can hardly be a faster process.

Internet in form of a book. What a novel fucking process. Of course, if you have the ability to access Amazon.com you probably have the means to access Wikipedia, which would be a hell of a lot faster than FUCKING ORDERING IT FROM AMAZON AND WAITING SEVERAL DAYS FOR SOMETHING YOU COULD HAVE FOUND FROM THE INTERWEBS ABLOOBLOOBLOOBLOOBLOOBLOOO

forgive my vitriol, but it's been a while since I've seen something so massively stupid as this. God forbid anyone actually buying one of these.
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Re: A legal scam
« Reply #6 on: 15 Jul 2010, 14:43 »

Well, a lot of people still prefer reading actual books, and will pay money to get the same information they can find on screen for free or cheaper in the form of a bounded book. I wouldn't, but I know many people who would if it was something they were actually interested in. So the concept isn't too bad, I think, but the execution in this case is pretty awful, with the lack of proof reading, steep prices, too much automation involved (and while as much automation as possible in computer systems is usually a good thing, when the source material isn't guaranteed to be correct, it will often fail), lack of information about the sources on product pages and the whole company just seems sort of shady.

But I wouldn't call it a scam if someone actually did a decent job of collecting free material into books as long as they actually, you know, ran a decent business and let buyers know what they were doing.
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Re: A legal scam
« Reply #7 on: 15 Jul 2010, 14:52 »

Yeah, I heard about this a while back as part of the general interest in Print on Demand as a technology and a business model on some of the publishing forums I frequent. Legal scam is a good phrase for it. Very little added value, and the biggest loss of value is being able to follow the citation links back to their sources.

I could imagine a good product stemming from this approach on some specific topics, but that takes work, and any work at all kills the profit margin for what these guys are doing.
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Re: A legal scam
« Reply #8 on: 15 Jul 2010, 15:09 »

But I already had the "print on demand" option for that information, I could just... print it. It is instant and free! Whut.
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Re: A legal scam
« Reply #9 on: 15 Jul 2010, 15:19 »

I guess, I'm in the boat of "whatever. Good way to make money I guess. Nothing wrong with that."

Yeah, people are dumb if they buy it, but I could say them same for a snuggie.
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Re: A legal scam
« Reply #10 on: 15 Jul 2010, 15:20 »

at least a snuggie has practical applications and isn't morally questionable

but yeah, I pretty much agree with you
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Re: A legal scam
« Reply #11 on: 15 Jul 2010, 15:30 »

You know what else has practical applications? A blanket.
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Re: A legal scam
« Reply #12 on: 15 Jul 2010, 15:39 »

you have obviously never worn a snuggie
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Re: A legal scam
« Reply #13 on: 15 Jul 2010, 15:44 »

Who'd want a blanket without sleeves? That'd just be stupid.
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Re: A legal scam
« Reply #14 on: 15 Jul 2010, 15:46 »

My arms would get cold, reaching for that telephone


I wanted to post something after Tommy's post, but I couldn't think up anything besides, "Good lord this is fucking stupid, what kind of inbred idjit would think about buying something for free?"
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Re: A legal scam
« Reply #15 on: 15 Jul 2010, 15:46 »

Weren't snuggies designed for people stuck in wheelchairs, so they could keep their upper body warm without having to bunch a blanket behind them all day?
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Re: A legal scam
« Reply #16 on: 15 Jul 2010, 16:22 »

I guess, I'm in the boat of "whatever. Good way to make money I guess. Nothing wrong with that."

Yeah, people are dumb if they buy it, but I could say them same for a snuggie.

Except the listings for these books on Amazon make no mention of the fact that they're just reprinted wikipedia articles. They just tell you the subject they're on.

And it's not just a good way to make money. It's deliberately using the work people put in to spread free information in order to make a profit, without recompensing people for their labour. It's good that wikipedia don't restrict the way that the information they provide can be used, that's good and proper, but that doesn't mean it's ethical to take advantage of that just because it's legal.
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Re: A legal scam
« Reply #17 on: 15 Jul 2010, 17:59 »

I'm on my phone now, so I can't double check this, but ifrc they do actually mention wiki on them. Maybe I'm mistaken, but I'm fairly certain that the websites linked even said they did.
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Re: A legal scam
« Reply #18 on: 15 Jul 2010, 18:13 »

Their parent publishing company is based in Saarbrücken. Do I need to say more?
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Re: A legal scam
« Reply #19 on: 15 Jul 2010, 18:15 »

I think this is hilarious, great, and inevitable. Kinda reminds me of the virtual companies used to control other companies in Accelerando. It does no harm because I doubt anyone will buy any of these books for a serious reason, I like the theories and architecture behind it though.
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Re: A legal scam
« Reply #20 on: 15 Jul 2010, 19:19 »

Their parent publishing company is based in Saarbrücken. Do I need to say more?

Probably, yeah. What's up in Saarbrücken?
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Re: A legal scam
« Reply #21 on: 15 Jul 2010, 20:09 »

Dogg Saarbrücken is like the Phenix City, Alabama of Europe.

I base this on absolutely nothing. Saarburg, however, is charming.
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Re: A legal scam
« Reply #22 on: 15 Jul 2010, 20:24 »

Who'd want a blanket without sleeves? That'd just be stupid.
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Re: A legal scam
« Reply #23 on: 15 Jul 2010, 22:34 »

But I already had the "print on demand" option for that information, I could just... print it. It is instant and cheaper! Whut.

Corrected it for you.  You still have to pay for the paper and the ink but it is a lot cheaper than a book for small amounts of printing.

Dogg Saarbrücken is like the Phenix City, Alabama of Europe.

That doesn't mean anything to me.

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I was going to say that if they could make money out of it, good luck to them, but, if they're not stating what they're doing in their listings, then they are conning the public (and may actually be breaking the law).  Then again, I'm not a legal expert.
« Last Edit: 15 Jul 2010, 22:41 by HiFranc »
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Re: A legal scam
« Reply #24 on: 15 Jul 2010, 23:46 »

Years ago a former buddy (now very distant acquaintance, not that you care, but there you go) worked in a computershop. We used to laugh about all the stupid peole who walked into his shop and asked stupid questions like if they sold a new coffee cup holder for their PCs and whether this internet thing came in bookform. Odd deja-vu this. I'm amazed that this works. I suppose that it''s legal and stuff but I feel that it's taking advantage of the work of others and as such I don't like it.

Will never buy one of their books! That'll teach 'em.
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Re: A legal scam
« Reply #25 on: 16 Jul 2010, 05:02 »

I don't own a snuggie but I do sleep in a makeshift bed made out of pages I have printed from the Wikipedia.
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Re: A legal scam
« Reply #26 on: 20 Jul 2010, 08:48 »

Is it true that misinformation is warmer and more comfortable than truth, tommy?
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Re: A legal scam
« Reply #27 on: 20 Jul 2010, 10:01 »

If it was cheap enough I don't think I'd be able to resist the opportunity to have the entirety of Wikipedia contained in a single book and just refer to it as my Hitchhiker's Guide
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smack that isaiah

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Re: A legal scam
« Reply #28 on: 20 Jul 2010, 10:52 »

you sorta can have all of wikipedia with you at any time.
http://thewikireader.com/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WikiReader
It doesn't have the images or infoboxes from the pages, but other than that it's wikipedia.

My roommate got one for Christmas last year, and he has referred to it as his Hitchhiker's Guide once.

I joked that my other roommate (who was obsessed with the new Pokemon craze at the time) could get one and fill it with bulbapedia and call it his PokeDex
« Last Edit: 20 Jul 2010, 10:54 by smack that isaiah »
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Wasteroo

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Re: A legal scam
« Reply #29 on: 20 Jul 2010, 10:58 »

I have to admit, the ten year old in me just got a visceral thrill from reading that
« Last Edit: 20 Jul 2010, 11:10 by Wasteroo »
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Re: A legal scam
« Reply #30 on: 20 Jul 2010, 11:47 »

I wonder how many times the Earth entry on wikipedia has been edited down to "Mostly harmless."
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Re: A legal scam
« Reply #31 on: 20 Jul 2010, 12:00 »

I wonder how many times the Earth entry on wikipedia has been edited down to "Mostly harmless."

Once, twice since end March, both times by Mark Swingle!
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Re: A legal scam
« Reply #32 on: 21 Jul 2010, 03:59 »

I saw something like this a while back, but it was just generally getting shit from the internet at large.  I guess these guys have gotten it down to an art from an information source they won't get sued for using.
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Re: A legal scam
« Reply #33 on: 21 Jul 2010, 06:20 »

If it was cheap enough I don't think I'd be able to resist the opportunity to have the entirety of Wikipedia contained in a single book and just refer to it as my Hitchhiker's Guide

There is actually an online Hitchhiker's Guide which pre-dates the Wikipedia. Some of it is very funny.
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Re: A legal scam
« Reply #34 on: 23 Jul 2010, 09:00 »

For some wild reason I thought you were linking to the infuriating Hitchhiker's game which I could never beat.
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Re: A legal scam
« Reply #35 on: 03 Oct 2010, 14:57 »

So, they are legally selling people a bundle of free information from Wikipedia (often with missing images) for £25 or more.  I call that a scam, even though it's legal.
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Re: A legal scam
« Reply #36 on: 03 Oct 2010, 15:00 »

There's a sucker born every minute, and they're all on the internet.

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Re: A legal scam
« Reply #37 on: 05 Oct 2010, 18:38 »

This way to the Egress
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