In one way I guess I don’t really mind this sort of thing — caveat emptor after all — but in theory I should (and do) disapprove. Aggregators like BiblioLife, publisher of the gem illustrated below, assemble their books by using software that searches websites like Project Gutenberg and the Internet Archive for out-of-copyright literature, and then reformats the found digital files for print publication via POD. The business appears to rely on the gullibility of the customer: the versions offered are usually inaccurate and cost money, whereas the text (which they used as a source) is available free of charge (or if you have to have print, for less) in response to minimal searching.

image1Digital Humanities Quarterly has a pretty devastating study of what might seem a fairly obviously problematical instance. After all who’s not going to be alerted by the Jhon Milton reference? This particular edition seems not to be available any longer, but a search on Amazon for BiblioLife* yields 225,406 results. Now some of these are no doubt duplicates, but these guys are still making books. You can (of course) still buy Areopagitica for $6.95 at Amazon from Forgotten Books, a similar organization. They have used an OCR scan to originate and have to apologize on the main page that the description of the book is screwed up because of this. They also tell you, at “Look inside” where the layout looks wonderfully wonky, “This view is of the Paperback edition (2012) from CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. The Paperback edition (2012) from Forgotten Books that you originally viewed is the one you’ll receive if you click the Add to Cart button on the left.” What this means I guess is that they will POD the book for anyone stupid enough to click that button at CreateSpace, Amazon’s POD manufacturing operation. In return for your $6.95 you will become the proud owner of a book with probable errors throughout, looking like a large-print verse epic, while you could have bought it in a different edition from CreateSpace for $3.32, $5.99, $6.99, or $9.99 and no doubt lots of other prices (time has limited my research of the options among the 487 editions on offer) or as a Kindle edition for $0.00. (I wonder if in many of these instances CreateSpace is acting as agent for some unnamed indie publisher.) Interestingly, if you search the Kindle store, you’ll be offered 14 different editions, but not the one priced at $0.00 which comes up in a search of “Books”. Of course Areopagitica is available free of charge at Project Gutenberg, and no doubt other places too.

Isn’t the market wonderful? In a way one has to be impressed with the ingenuity of these guys.


* This link presents a more favorable view of BiblioLife.