Saturday, 15 January 2011

The Great Internet Bookselling Rip-Off

I started buying and selling books on the internet about thirteen years ago and at that time although geographically internet bookselling covered the whole world, in other ways it was a small and friendly world with reputable booksellers selling to reasonable customers.

Unfortunately now criminals, scammers, con artists and worst of all those acting technically within the law but supplying a product that is a con trick inside the law, have infiltrated this friendly small world.

The latest of these technically legal scams is lifting articles from Wikipedia, bunching about one hundred pages worth of vaguely related articles into a paperback book and the advertising the book online as though the whole book was about the subject.

Here is an example of an Amazon listing this is what it say on the Amazon page

Ramsgate Harbour Railway Station [Paperback]

Lambert M. Surhone (Editor), Mariam T. Tennoe (Editor), Susan F. Henssonow (Editor)

Be the first to review this item

Price: £29.00 & this item Delivered FREE in the UK with Super Saver Delivery. See details and conditions

Usually dispatched within 8 to 11 days.

Dispatched from and sold by Gift-wrap available.

3 new from £26.24 1 used from £30.59”

And this is the article you actually get for your money

Here is a description of the book ISBN 6133677554

“High Quality Content by WIKIPEDIA articles! Ramsgate Harbour railway station is a former railway station in Ramsgate, in the Thanet district of Kent, England. Opened in 1863 as part of the Kent Coast Railway company's extension of its line from Herne Bay, it was conveniently More...

situated for the seaside resort's beach, but it closed in 1926 after a reorganisation of railway lines in the Thanet area. The Herne Bay & Faversham Railway company was founded in 1857. In 1859 it became the Margate & London Railway, and two years later took the name Kent Coast Railway, by which it was known for the rest of its independent existence. It built a line from Faversham to Whitstable Town in 1860, extended it to Herne Bay & Hampton-on-Sea in 1861 and opened the section from there to a station called Ramsgate on 5 October 1863.


  1. Michael,

    What does Amazon have to say about this?


  2. That is a bit of a shame when we know that Wiko is not really verified source of information about subjects. I guess it makes the book less creative than it might have been due to lack of genuine research.
    Thanks for the heads up on this one.

  3. John, googling “wikipedia amazon book scam” produces plenty of other articles about this problem and it would seem that several people have contacted Amazon, but as I said it is within the law, so there isn’t much that Amazon has done.

    Marty, I came across this one looking for old books about Ramsgate to reprint and found the listings flooded with this stuff and several firms that seem to have machines to automatically reprint all of the free books available on the internet.

    With local history in Thanet accuracy has been a problem for as long as people have been writing about Thanet, errors in the main history of Thanet first published in the 1720s still appear in histories published in the 1820s.

    If you are going to play local history you have to approach everything with a degree of scepticism, so it isn’t the accuracy that is the main problem. The main problem is spending about £30 on what appears to be hundred page book on Ramsgate Station, only to receive a bind up of various wikipedia articles about trains with less than half a page on Ramsgate station.

  4. Michael, surely history of anything is questionable for view point, source and memory tricks come into play. All too frequently people wait until late in life, when they have time, to write their memoirs yet, often by then, their own recollections are fading. I find myself that, when recalling incidents from my early army days, it is hard to distinguish actual memory from related versions one has talked over at reunions. "Do I actually remember that or was I told it?"

    As to internet book buying, well I would have to say I have found some little gems browsing around but then, I know what I might be interested in or what I am looking for. The best of my buys have been from individuals or small book dealers rather than the big boys like Amazon. The latter though are great for reference works needed for study.

    I do appreciate your warning though and will look out for potential scams or packaged downloads.

  5. Bluenote, some local history sources are likely to be accurate, mostly for commercial reasons, take this map of Ramsgate I don’t think it would have been easy to sell back in 1849 if it had major inaccuracies.

    For me a major problem with the internet scam books for sale is the colossal amount that have been produced recently, they all carry ISBNs and without looking at the listings in detail you can’t tell them from genuine publications. This means that it now takes ages for me to find books about Thanet that I haven’t got.


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