Let the buyer beware!
The fact that the Romans had such a saying indicates that we are not the first generation of people to have to beware of con-men and rascals. But we are the first generation to have to deal with electronic ‘pigs in a poke’.
The old saying, “don’t buy a pig in a poke”, meaning don’t buy a piglet sold to you inside a sack is actually related to another old saying, “He let the cat out of the bag,” meaning that he revealed a truth that had been deliberately concealed. It comes from a time when a man in a market might sell you a pig inside a poke, for a very good price. But when you got your piglet home and opened the bag, well, that is when you’d let the cat out of the bag, and realized you’d been cheated.
For a time now, people have been self-publishing their works, and making them available on Amazon and other e-book sites. And I am all for that! I admire the courage it takes to put your own work out there. It’s a tremendous amount of work to prepare you own novel or poetry, put it out in a coherent form, and then market it to possible readers.
Unfortunately, with the door to self publishing opened wide, there were scamps and rascals who came in as well. These fellows did things such as making other people’s books available without acquring the e-rights. That’s piracy. It’s against the law. Publishers and authors can request that such books be removed, at the very least, from the big marketing sites.
But what if instead of that, I gathered up a lot of printed public domain material or internet-published material from a wikipedia, packaged it as an e-book, and sold it? That’s murkier territory. It’s not against the law, so far as I know, to take wikipedia articles that are in the public domain, package them together and sell them for $1.95. Even if I publish the same material under six different titles, so that you unwittingly buy the same e-book six times, I think I’m still on the legal side of the line. And yes, that has been happening quite a bit. Unsuspecting readers who want a book on how to groom a dog may find that they’ve bought an e-book comprised of articles they could have read for free on the internet, articles that the publisher of the e-book did not write nor pay for, because they are public domain. It’s easy to create such volumes, and cheap. The publisher doesn’t have to sell thousands or even hundreds of copies to make a profit. And if he sells you the identical content about dog grooming under three different titles, well, he has tripled his profit.
Let the buyer beware.
Yesterday I discovered a new wrinkle on this, one that offends me mightily. So I’m going to open the sack and reveal that, in my opinion, Hephaestus Books seems to be advertising grain-fed piglets that turn out to be stray cats.
If you go to Amazon.com, or Amazon.co.uk or BarnesandNoble.com and do a search for a book titled Novels byRobin Hobb, you will find one published by Hephaestus. In the description it lists my books, and even adds (novel), just like that, in parentheses, after some of the titles. So one might get the impression that for $12.29, you are getting a nice collection of my novels in a paperback format. After all, there is no detailed description to tell you otherwise. The astute buyer will look at the stats on the book and possibly be astonished to discover that all my novels will fit in a 42 page paperback.
Or they may immediately discern that this is a deceptive description. These are not my novels at all. These are a selection of ‘free to read’ articles about my novels gathered from the internet and put into a print on demand format.
Hephaestus Books is listed as the author. If you do a search for Hephaestus books, you will find that my readers are not the only ones they are luring to buy. There are ‘novels of’ books for readers of Ray Feist, Kurt Vonnegut, Diana Gabaldon, E.M. Forster, Sylvia Plath, Lloyd Alexander and, well, you get the idea. Each 42 pages long, and being sold for $12.29. Ouch. $12.29.
So, I’ve done what I can. I’ve posted a ‘review’ on each of those sites letting people know that Hephaestus is not my publisher, and those publications are not a collection of my novels. I hope I save a few readers from making a $12.29 plus shipping and handling mistake.
If you have bought one of these books, I urge you to post your own review, and to let Amazon and Barnes And Noble know how you feel about Hephaestus Books.
After all, a cat chop is not a pork chop, and kittens don’t make good sausage.