Metafilter in my bookspam? It's more common than you think. January 10, 2012 12:45 PM   Subscribe

A bookseller on Amazon is selling content including mefi as part of a collated book. This looks suspiciously spammy, and I assume nobody at mefi has actually authorised this. Is this something that Metafilter Networks cares about?
posted by jaduncan to MetaFilter-Related at 12:45 PM (105 comments total)

*Network
posted by jaduncan at 12:46 PM on January 10, 2012


I think there was an FPP about these kind of long-tail, auto-generated books a few years ago. There's loads of that kind of stuff on Amazon, books compiled entirely from wikipedia and the like.
posted by anazgnos at 12:48 PM on January 10, 2012


I can only hope that some of my contributions are in there, mixed in haphazardly with Little Green Footballs with no distinction or attribution attempted.

Seriously, though. I wonder what content is in there and what, if any, methodology the "author" employed to choose what got printed from each site. Favorite counts and upvotes? Keyword searches on topics? Someone should go steal a copy to find out.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:49 PM on January 10, 2012


These things seem to make up the humus of the forest floor of the ebooks ecosystem - I guess *someone* might buy them, and so because there is no barrier to creating them on the offchance they spring into being. They are all kinds of iffy, and they spam up search results, and nobody sane would buy them, but I guess it's questionable how actionable they are what the effectiveness of taking action would be.
posted by Artw at 12:51 PM on January 10, 2012


That's bizarre. Certainly not anything we know about, yeah, it's pretty clearly some kind of aggregation crapfest.

I don't know of any reasonable way of finding out what's inside, but I would not be surprised if it was in fact just a collection of Wikipedia articles on the named subject, bound and printed. That'd be consistent with some of the other crazy bullshit aggregate-and-print stuff I've seen before.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:52 PM on January 10, 2012


I wonder how there are 7 used book stores with 'brand new" copies for sale.
posted by nomisxid at 12:52 PM on January 10, 2012


Aggregation crapfest indeed and certainly not authorized by us.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:53 PM on January 10, 2012


Any idea what this is?
posted by Artw at 12:53 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Books compiled from wikipedia are great; that's what the GDL/CC are for, after all. It just seems a bit of a jump to be using fully copyrighted stuff.
posted by jaduncan at 12:55 PM on January 10, 2012


mumble mumble copyright mumble.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:55 PM on January 10, 2012


Molecular Gastronomy, Including: Dippin' Dots
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:56 PM on January 10, 2012 [9 favorites]


Information wants to be free, but collation doesn't grow on trees.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:57 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Warhammer Fantasy Armies, Including: Skaven (Warhammer), Vampire Counts (Warhammer), Tomb Kings (Warhammer), Bretonnia (Warhammer), Wood Elves (Warhammer), High Elves (Warhammer), Orcs and Goblins (Warhammer), Goblin (Warhammer), Kislev (Warhammer)

warhammer
posted by a_girl_irl at 12:57 PM on January 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


WE MUST TAKE THEM TO SPACE COURT.
posted by The Whelk at 12:58 PM on January 10, 2012 [14 favorites]


Books compiled from wikipedia are great

In theory, perhaps. In practice, the books meeting this description that have been produced to date are garbage and anyone who buys them is wasting their money.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:01 PM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


These things seem to make up the humus of the forest floor of the ebooks ecosystem

I'm not sure it's an ebook - there's the word "[Paperback]" after the title, and the links on the page suggest it isn't available for Kindle.

How odd it would be to read Metafilter without links.
posted by Clandestine Outlawry at 1:01 PM on January 10, 2012


"Collated?"
posted by Wolfdog at 1:01 PM on January 10, 2012


In theory, perhaps. In practice, the books meeting this description that have been produced to date are garbage and anyone who buys them is wasting their money.

Oh, sure. I more meant on the legal, why-would-you-expose-yourself-to-liability-for-bookspam level. I can also point you to a great collation of wikipedia that was produced for use in African schools without reliable power, but that's a book rather than bookspam, so bar that of course I agree.
posted by jaduncan at 1:04 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Hephaestus Books" is one of the main offenders in this garbage pseudo-book endeavour. They're just horrible. Here's a roundup of some skiffy writers' mads at Hephaestus.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:06 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thanks, jaduncan! I should have said "Most of the books" because obviously stuff like what you describe is awesome.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:06 PM on January 10, 2012


I don't know of any reasonable way of finding out what's inside, but I would not be surprised if it was in fact just a collection of Wikipedia articles on the named subject, bound and printed.

Circle gets the square; from a review of a different book from this publisher:
What do you get for your money? You get 41 pages of widely-spaced Wikipedia articles that you could have found yourself in only a few minutes and printed out for pennies. Warning - since the title very carefully does NOT say it - you do NOT get the stories listed on the front of the book. You just get the synopsis from Wiki.
posted by griphus at 1:06 PM on January 10, 2012


Chapter 5: identifying Portabello mushrooms.
posted by nathancaswell at 1:12 PM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


MetaFilter: some kind of aggregation crapfest.

On sale at a bookstore near you!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:13 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


A review of Brian Eno, Including: Oblique Strategies, a Year with Swollen Appendices, Paul Rudolph (Musician), Brian Eno Discography, 77 Million Paintings, Bloom (Software), Ride, Rise, Roar, More Dark Than Shark [Paperback], published by Hephaestus Books:
This is probably free in an honest world
I dont even think this book should be for sale. It is just lists of the subjects I want to read but not the subjects.
From the publisher of American Blogs: Some Lists. Friend of Lambert M. Surhone.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:22 PM on January 10, 2012


I'm not sure it's an ebook - there's the word "[Paperback]" after the title,

ebook and POD then - I tend to think of them as largely interchangeable.
posted by Artw at 1:23 PM on January 10, 2012


Any idea what this is?
posted by Artw at 3:53 PM on January 10 [+] [!]


I believe that's one way to get Metafilter content as a subscription on your Kindle. It was kind of useful on those early generation Kindles with crappy whispernet connections. It would download a bunch of the site to your device for offline reading. But especially with Metafilter, I'm not sure the content made sense offline and without access to the context. You could read FPPs offline, but then needed to go online for the links and the comments. Matt set it up.
posted by Toekneesan at 1:24 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Probably it's just the Wikipedia articles on all the sites listed. No need to breach copyright when you've made no promises about the content in the first place and you've got a model for making money for old rope without all the aggro of cease and desists.
posted by ambrosen at 1:24 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Artw: ebook and POD then - I tend to think of them as largely interchangeable.

Except the latter chews through trees, and arrives at your doorstep, in additional wrapping and protective bubble fillers, via a series of vehicles.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:25 PM on January 10, 2012


Hephaestus was a Greek god whose Roman equivalent was Vulcan. He is the son of Zeus and Hera, the King and Queen of the Gods - or else, according to some accounts, of Hera alone. He was the god of technology, blacksmiths, craftsmen, artisans, sculptors, metals, metallurgy, fire and volcanoes. Like other mythic smiths but unlike most other gods, Hephaestus was lame, which gave him a grotesque appearance in Greek eyes.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:26 PM on January 10, 2012


I'm going to waste the afternoon going through this seller's other books, aren't I?

"Railway Stations in Powys, Including: Hay-On-Wye Railway Station, Four Crosses Railway Station, Llanfaredd Halt Railway Station, Newbridge on Wye Rail"

"Bucks Fizz Albums, Including: Bucks Fizz (Album), Are You Ready (Bucks Fizz Album), Hand Cut, I Hear Talk, Writing on the Wall, the Ultimate Anthology"

"Tram Transport in Germany, Including: Berlin Tram, Bergische Museumsbahnen, Stadtbahn, Rheinbahn, Kirnitzschtal Tram, Bremer Stra Enbahn AG, Hanover S"

I'll take one of each, please!
posted by no regrets, coyote at 1:27 PM on January 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Except the latter chews through trees, and arrives at your doorstep, in additional wrapping and protective bubble fillers, via a series of vehicles.

Aggregation bot cares not for these distinctions.
posted by Artw at 1:30 PM on January 10, 2012


Railway Stations in Powys, Including: Hay-On-Wye Railway Station, Four Crosses Railway Station, Llanfaredd Halt Railway Station, Newbridge on Wye Rail

I have a one hundred year old book entitled "An Introduction to the Study of Local History and Antiquities" which is almost certainly wrong in nearly every particular at this point but is quite interesting to read. I would eat a real book on the railway stations of Powys with a spoon, because it would almost certainly be a droll blast from the past.

Alack I do not think that book would be the one that I would want.
posted by winna at 1:34 PM on January 10, 2012


The "Tags Customers Associate with This Product" section is insightful.
posted by scruss at 1:39 PM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I liked the tags too.

As noted above, I suspect it's a bunch of scraped Wikipedia entries, including the Metafilter entry; the Amazon description includes this:
this content has been curated from Wikipedia articles and images under Creative Commons licensing
so autogenerated garbage, but not necessarily stolen autogenerated garbage?
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 1:54 PM on January 10, 2012


What ambrosen said. From following the links it seems they print out Wikipedia articles about books or websites, and people are suckered into buying them thinking they're getting the actual books or websites.

IANAL but I'd guess it's probably not a breach of copyright, but it may well be Passing Off.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 2:14 PM on January 10, 2012


STOP SAYING SPACE COURT
posted by shakespeherian at 2:26 PM on January 10, 2012


SPACE HALL OF JUSTICE
posted by The Whelk at 2:30 PM on January 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


SPACE JAM
posted by shakespeherian at 2:32 PM on January 10, 2012


SPACE HEATER
posted by griphus at 2:44 PM on January 10, 2012


SPACE BEATER
posted by The Whelk at 2:45 PM on January 10, 2012


SPACE MUNICIPAL BUILDING
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:47 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


SPACE SEVENTH CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS
posted by shakespeherian at 2:48 PM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


SPACE EATERS
posted by Artw at 2:49 PM on January 10, 2012


SPACE DMV
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:49 PM on January 10, 2012


Blog entries are copyrighted (unless copyright is explicitly waived). If they're aggregating blog posts without permission, then that book is a titanic copyright violation.

DMCA takedown notice? (Of course, you'd have to buy a copy in order to prove that your copy right was violated, and I'm not willing to do that.)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:50 PM on January 10, 2012


SPACE COURT was the planned reunion/followup sitcom to Night Court. Set in the 23rd century, the cast, premise and formula was largely the same, except that the courtroom was on a space station floating at the L1 Lagrange point between the earth and the moon; Anderson, Larroquette, Post and Warfield were all playing 10-generations-removed descendents of their original characters; and Richard Moll's character Bull, who had as fans will clearly remember been transported off of Earth during Night Court's series finale, is revealed to be a long-lived extraterrestrial being who is now the emperor of known galactic space.

It was cancelled after the pilot tested poorly.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:50 PM on January 10, 2012 [9 favorites]


SPACE POORLY
posted by shakespeherian at 2:51 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


SPACE 1999 just seems sad and laughable now.
posted by crunchland at 2:58 PM on January 10, 2012


LARROQUETTE ON THE MOON.
posted by The Whelk at 2:59 PM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


It was cancelled after the pilot tested poorly.

To be fair, it isn't like Space Stations are known for their handling.
posted by Gygesringtone at 3:07 PM on January 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


SPACE 1999 just seems sad and laughable now.

That's no space station. It's a moon!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:13 PM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


You've made your Space Law, now lets see you enforce it.
posted by The Whelk at 3:14 PM on January 10, 2012


It was cancelled after the pilot tested poorly.

...but the L. Ron Hubbard-composed space-jazz theme song was a #1 hit on Jupiter.
posted by mintcake! at 3:16 PM on January 10, 2012


(only to be outsold that year by "How Do You Talk to an Angel" from The Heights
posted by mintcake! at 3:19 PM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


"SPACE SEVENTH CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS"

GRAMMAR PEDANTRY REQUIRES ME TO POINT OUT THAT IT IS THE SEVENTH SPACE COURT OF APPEALS
posted by klangklangston at 3:19 PM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


"You've made your Space Law, now lets see you enforce it."

trail of space tears
posted by klangklangston at 3:20 PM on January 10, 2012


You guys, I worked really hard on this book.

I had to copy AND paste.
posted by ColdChef at 3:21 PM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I will take this all the way to the Interdimenional Supreme Court!
posted by The Whelk at 3:22 PM on January 10, 2012


SPACE ATTORNEYS GENERAL
posted by griphus at 3:23 PM on January 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


I didn't go to Space Law School to sit in the Space Stacks reading about Stpace environmental Laws!
posted by The Whelk at 3:25 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Are you saying that you actually passed the space bar?
posted by crunchland at 3:28 PM on January 10, 2012 [9 favorites]


How much is it? SAIT?
posted by infini at 3:39 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


scruss: The "Tags Customers Associate with This Product" section is insightful.

And amusing to see how people classify things. My favorite: garbage, where you'll find The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx, Salo [DVD] by Pier Paolo Pasolini, One Nation [Explicit] by 2pac, and Version 2.0 (Eastwest Release) by Garbage, to name a few items.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:39 PM on January 10, 2012


Hephaestus Books is the internet, having achieved consciousness, trying to communicate with humanity.
posted by Kattullus at 3:41 PM on January 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm gonna put this on my CV.
posted by anotherpanacea at 3:41 PM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


I just now caught the centipedes reference in the title.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:47 PM on January 10, 2012


Are you saying that you actually passed the space bar?

yikes, i hope it came out lengthwise
posted by nathancaswell at 3:54 PM on January 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


The evidence should be floating around here somewhere.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:57 PM on January 10, 2012


Yesssss! I'm a published author!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:09 PM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


You know who else was a published author
posted by kingbenny at 4:15 PM on January 10, 2012


Me!
posted by The Whelk at 4:16 PM on January 10, 2012


yeah that's who
posted by kingbenny at 4:18 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hephaestus Books is the internet, having achieved consciousness, trying to communicate with humanity.

That and Horse_ebooks. I have to say I'm a little concerned by the possibility of an emerging omniscient world-consciousness that mainly communicates with us in the form of spam.

Oh well, I suppose it'll be possible soon enough to generate porn algorithmically, and then it can use that too.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 4:18 PM on January 10, 2012


I like the early chapters with you as a struggling street artist.
posted by Artw at 4:19 PM on January 10, 2012


It was cancelled after the pilot tested poorly.

It was our last, best hope for traffic court-themed space procedurals.
posted by Rhomboid at 4:21 PM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Only 1 left in stock - order soon."
posted by Flunkie at 4:21 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Incidentally, if you want a book made up of Wikipedia articles, here you go.
posted by ignignokt at 4:21 PM on January 10, 2012


jscalzi lets loose the flying monkeys.
posted by unliteral at 4:45 PM on January 10, 2012


As long as my comments include the footnote "MeFi Sex Symbol," I'm OK with it.
posted by jonmc at 4:52 PM on January 10, 2012


Some of the reviews draw you in and tell a story themselves. So much for my evening, this review of Television Presentation, Including: Station Identification, BBC One 'Balloon' Idents, BBC One 'Rhythm & Movement' Idents, History of BBC Television Id (Paperback) is its own little vignette of disappointment.
posted by cgk at 5:05 PM on January 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is awesome. I'm now going to put "published author" on my resume.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:07 PM on January 10, 2012


Uh, just like Brandon Blatcher.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:07 PM on January 10, 2012


Husband & husband co-authoring team!
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:08 PM on January 10, 2012


"Collated?"
posted by Wolfdog


That means the pages are in sequential order.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:31 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


As long as my comments include the footnote "MeFi Sex Symbol," I'm OK with it.
posted by jonmc


Symbolic, shambolic; close enough.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:35 PM on January 10, 2012


I can't believe that reviewer gave it two stars. I've seen people give books one star because the delivery was later than they'd hoped for.

Also: I'm trying to calculate just how many of these you'd have to produce (assuming you can put one together in, say, fifteen minutes) before the income off of accidental purchases would actually pay you a living wage.
posted by SMPA at 6:40 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


......is there a Mefi Sex Symbol selection process?
posted by The Whelk at 6:43 PM on January 10, 2012


Let me introduce you to my casting couch. I'm going to make you a star.
posted by arcticseal at 7:19 PM on January 10, 2012


This couch is from IKEA I call shenanigans
posted by The Whelk at 8:24 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Actually, the couch is called Jasper, shenanigans is my globe shaped liquor cabinet.
posted by arcticseal at 8:53 PM on January 10, 2012


I NEED AN ADULT
posted by The Whelk at 9:01 PM on January 10, 2012


Don't look here. I was also thinking of getting a couch called Jasper. The liquor cabinet would be redundant though, as no booze lasts long enough to be stored in my place.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:03 PM on January 10, 2012


SMPA: Looking at this site it seems like their bestselling title is moving under 2 copies a week. Most of their top 10 popular are about the same, mostly around 1.7/wk. Given that they are printed on demand and have no real authoring costs, they are grossing ~$15,028/yr (17x52wksx$17) (guesstimating based on the pricing I am looking at) for their top 10 titles. This could all just be made up, but since they are showing 168,000 titles the strategy must be a large number of accidental orders given that they couldn't be generating that much revenue even from their best sellers.
posted by cgk at 9:18 PM on January 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I wonder how there are 7 used book stores with 'brand new" copies for sale.

Arbitrage involving the 'profit' from Amazon's somewhat generous shipping reimbursement.
posted by dhartung at 12:22 AM on January 11, 2012


I think it's time for MetaFilter to register its copyrights.
posted by valkyryn at 5:41 AM on January 11, 2012


168,000 "titles". 168,000.

mind boggled
posted by likeso at 5:44 AM on January 11, 2012


Would leaving a one-star review filled with comments that "This wasn't authorized by the bloggers, FYI" be something you would Prefer We Not Do?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:43 AM on January 11, 2012


I'd like to read Space Bums, but I mean about ladies' asses not homeless people.
posted by Meatbomb at 7:49 AM on January 11, 2012


I would prefer no one do anything that seems abusive of Amazon's review system or that would be embarrassing to have to say "yeah, that was one of our members" about. Beyond that, use your judgement, though given the giant monolith of crap that this company appears to maintain it may be hard to have any effect on anything by reviewing individual titles.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:51 AM on January 11, 2012


Understood, Cortex. I was filled with vigilante umbrage on your behalf but will sit on my hands.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:33 AM on January 11, 2012


There was a great article about this phenomenon on the NYT: Do Androids Dream of Electric Authors?
posted by ErikaB at 4:28 PM on January 11, 2012


Yep, there was a post about it last October. Also (and more memorable for me), a couple of posts in 2008 about Philip M. Parker.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:35 PM on January 11, 2012


I would prefer no one do anything that seems abusive of Amazon's review system or that would be embarrassing to have to say "yeah, that was one of our members" about.

damn. too late.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 7:06 AM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


At work, searching for anime titles for students, I waded through dozens of Hephaestus listings on Amazon (pirated reprints of anime graphic novels; bet the original author/artists aren't too happy).

I wish there was some way "the"* writing community could shame Amazon into refusing "publishers"** of this sort.

*"the" intentional use of quote marks; there is no one writing community
**"publishers" also intentional: Hephaestus is to publishers what spam is to e-mail.

It's also apparent why many academic disciplines have refused to create a greater web presence than they have already, despite the inconvenience and lack of outreach; the monsters have just been lurking in the shadows waiting to devour our work.
posted by bad grammar at 4:38 PM on January 13, 2012


Oops, the books on anime titles aren't even reprints (probably no drawings!) just Wikipedia articles about the anime titles. The original authors might be okay, but it ought to make fans who buy Hephaestus "collections" by accident even unhappier.
posted by bad grammar at 5:58 PM on January 13, 2012


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