If the title on this Amazon.com book (Culture of Pakistan: Culture of Pakistan. Pakistani literature, Urdu, Books and publishing in Pakistan, Pakistani poetry, List of Urdu language poets, Music of Pakistan) seems suspicious to you, you’re just one of many customers bewildered at Amazon.com’s decision to sell books from publisher VDM. Under the aliases Alphascript and Betascript, VDM is simply copying Wikipedia articles, binding them in fancy covers, and selling them on Amazon.com and on their website.
When the Internet , the blogosphere, and Amazon.com customers started calling fraud, they were politely reminded that there is nothing illegal about the operation. Under the Creative Commons licensing and copyright framework, as long as the author is properly attributed, Wikipedia is open game for publishers around the globe. Each one of the books is clearly labeled, making it very clear where the information is coming from, and thereby easily deflecting complaints to the publisher.
Aside from the legitimacy of the publisher, many are more irked by the behavior of Amazon.com. if it’s obvious that the books are just copies of readily-accessible, free, online, content, why would Amazon.com participate in a pitch that is clearly all about taking money from unaware and ignorant customers? Amazon.com has replied to complaints with the following:
“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.”
Amazon.com lists 39,827 books in a search for Alphascript publishing, and the number seems to be growing. In this new wave of so-called “book spam”, the publishers and the retailers seem to be ready to dupe customers into purchasing Wikipedia articles. Only time will tell if customers have the aptitude to know when they’re paying for something original, or paying for a free Wikipedia article.