Content Farm Publishing of US Dissertations (Slate)

Slate has a disturbing article about content farm publishing of American student dissertations–one of the forms of title-bloat affecting Amazon and Bookfinder. Joseph Stromberg decided to make himself a guinea pig after being contacted by one such content farm publisher. He had just finished a BA with an undergraduate dissertation, Lands of the Lakota Policy Culture and Land Use on the Pine Ridge Reservation. After being contacted via spam from LAP Lambert Academic Publishing, he decided to try the service.

Founded in Düsseldorf, Germany, in 2002 by a man named Dr. Wolfgang Philipp Müller, the company is notorious for using on-demand printing technology to package all sorts of strange content in book form and selling it online. The company declines to release financial data but claims to publish 50,000 books every month, making it, by its own accounting, one of the largest book publishers in the world. How can it possibly churn out this many titles? Although a huge number are academic texts, hundreds of thousands result from an even stranger process: They’re built entirely from text copied from Wikipedia articles. On VDM’s own online bookstore, Morebooks.de, the listings for books like Tidal Power, Period (number), and Swimming Pool Sanitation (published by VDM’s Alphascript and Betascript imprints) directly acknowledge this fact. Thousands are listed for sale on Amazon, all with the same cover design (albeit with different stock photos swapped in) and the same three names (Frederic P. Miller, Agnes F. Vandome, and John McBrewster) listed as the “authors.” Some go for as much as $100. Though the practice is technically legal—most Wikipedia content is published under licenses that allow it to be reproduced—critics say that it’s unethical and deceitful for the company to profit from content freely available on the Web.”

The article, while a bit sensational, does show how and where this material is being re-packaged and re-presented as if it’s original content. What’s particularly troubling to any researcher or librarian is that Lambert is claiming other people’s work for their own. 

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Published by Paul Romaine

Paul Romaine is a grant writer and independent curator in New York City.

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