Imagine you had access to a printing press and a huge market for books, and all you needed was some content to put in those books. Wait, that’s easy – there’s plenty of content out there for free, in sites like Wikipedia! Because Wikipedia’s in the Creative Commons, it’s not even illegal* to copy that content into your books and sell it. Sure, people will realize something is fishy as soon as they open the book, but too late – they’ve already given you their money!
This slimy practice is actually happening. Companies like Vandome Publishing and Alphascript Publishing are making a killing doing exactly what I just described. They claim to be providing a service by “packaging” Wikipedia content in a print form. But if you wanted a Wikipedia article, you could get it for free from Wikipedia, and then at least you would be able to see all the recent updates and click the hyperlinks.
It’s common knowledge that Wikipedia is not academic quality research material, even if it’s repackaged in book format. It’s a reference resource (a form of tertiary source, which means it’s too many steps removed from the original source of the information to be cited in a research paper) and furthermore, Wikipedia’s quality control is inconsistent. The fact that somebody is making a profit representing copied and pasted Wikipedia articles as academic books is almost funny, except that they are taking money from real people with their scam.
It is easy to stumble across these fake books when you are searching the web or Google Books. They may have covers and citation information that makes them look like reputable resources. But you should always have a look at the content and use your own educated judgment before you invest too much time or money in a resource.
- Go here to learn more about Evaluating Sources.
- You can also sign up for Better Sources, Better Papers at the @ Home Library Workshops sign-up page.
* If you are yelling “Wait, isn’t that plagiarism?!?!” you’re right. But plagiarism isn’t illegal, just severely unethical. It will get you expelled or fired from academic institutions and blacklisted from professional associations, but it’s probably safe to say that these people don’t belong to those things to begin with.