He Wrote 200,000 Books (but Computers Did Some of the Work)


Story in the New York Times: It’s not easy to write a book. First you have to pick a title. And then there is the table of contents. If you want the book to be categorized, either by a bookseller or a library, it has to be assigned a unique numerical code, like an ISBN, for International Standard Book Number. There have to be proper margins. Finally, there’s the back cover.

Oh, and there is all that stuff in the middle, too. The writing.

Philip M. Parker seems to have licked that problem. Mr. Parker has generated more than 200,000 books, as an advanced search on Amazon.com under his publishing company shows, making him, in his own words, “the most published author in the history of the planet.” And he makes money doing it.

Among the books published under his name are “The Official Patient’s Sourcebook on Acne Rosacea” ($24.95 and 168 pages long); “Stickler Syndrome: A Bibliography and Dictionary for Physicians, Patients and Genome Researchers” ($28.95 for 126 pages); and “The 2007-2012 Outlook for Tufted Washable Scatter Rugs, Bathmats and Sets That Measure 6-Feet by 9-Feet or Smaller in India” ($495 for 144 pages).

But these are not conventional books, and it is perhaps more accurate to call Mr. Parker a compiler than an author.

Full story here


I bet that in some of these 200,000 books of compiled information the creator of these books has managed to snag some copyrighted material. Since he is selling the books I don't think he is going to be able to meet the test for fair use.

Line from article: "While the most popular of his books may sell hundreds of copies, he said, many have sales in the dozens, often to medical libraries collecting nearly everything he produces."

Medical libraries should make note of this guys name and be aware of what they are getting when they buy his books.

I love the world we live in where privacy and property rights are no longer assumed but something you need to fight to protect. Some people don't believe in copyright protection, feeling that data posted publicly is open for anyone to use (I feel the same as long as I reference the source). I'm not sure how thorough his software can be at citations.
And so I'm guessing his fiction is made up of blurb formatting and plot descriptions pulled from publisher sites to capitalize on trends.
But good for him. I wish I had that computing power.

But honestly, how good can free medical research be? If you are a medical library buying this for patients, and it's all freely available information, is that best for your patients?

This mega"author"'s story showed up in Improbable Research earlier. One wonders just what percentage of U.S. annual title production is these nonbooks...or, shall we say, unwritten books.

On the other hand: Facts can't be copyrighted--at least not in the U.S.. If his computer squadron is datamining for facts, he's not infringing on copyright.

You are correct about copyright and facts but here is what I am thinking. The article says that he has created 200,000 books. If he is using a template and pulling in facts I don't think he would have had time to create 200,000. Creating a template that is decent is going to take some work. That times 200,000 is a lot of work. This leads me to believe that he might be lifting entire entries from websites and not just facts.

Well, yes, but that assumes that he much cares about the quality of his "books." I saw nothing in this story to indicate that's true. Shoving numbers into tables isn't hard; adding boilerplate and doing noun replacement isn't hard either.

Writing? That's not so easy. Doesn't sound like the world's most prolific book-creator worries too much about that end of it.

And, apparently, more than five thousand of those titles are available from Netlibrary/OCLC! (Search Worldcat on Netlibrary and au:Parker, Philip M.) I wonder how much Netlibrary/OCLC paid for rights to these titles? Or do they split revenue based on sales?

Steve Johnson

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