WHILE interviewing former employees of Medallic Art Company for the authorized history of the company, they kept mentioning that a book on the firm already exists. How could that be? I hadn’t written it yet.
“Go on eBay,” they said, “you’ll see.” I didn’t find it on eBay but I did on my favorite book source Abebooks. Sure enough, I found it listed half a dozen times by different vendors.
The title was “Medallic Art Company.” The authors were three people I never heard of before – Miller, Vandome and McBrewster. How could these people write a book on the firm I thought? Was this something from news articles, clipped and pasted to form a book, I thought?
The description was terse: “Alphascript Pub 01/01.2013. Paperback. New Book. Shipped from US. This item is printed on demand,” and it listed a bookseller’s inventory number.
The price was $46.64. With shipping the price was over $50. I ordered it and it arrived this week.
Disappointment. The ‘book’ is small format, 6 x 9 inches with 80 pages. The contents listed eleven articles, two references, and a page marked “License” with two lines so small it was impossible to read.
The article on Medallic Art Company was two pargraphs! One line on recent events: “In July 2009 Medallic Art Company was purchased by Northwest Territorial Mint.”
The remainder of that page listed nine sources, one of my articles on Circle of the Friends of the Medallion, two articles by authors I know, and the rest was from the internet, most from MACO website.
The two paragraphs – 142 words! – came from Wikipedia. All the text, in fact, came from Wikipedia!
Here are some of the sections:
- Sculpture – 26 pages (49-74). Not one word on MACO.
- Danbury Connecticut – 11 pages (9-20). Not one word on MACO.
- Medal – 7 pages (34-43). Not one word on MACO.
- Mint (coin) – 4 pages (44-47). Not one word on MACO.
- Award – 1 page (2). Not one word on MACO.
The rest of the articles are on medals made by Medallic Art – Pulitzer, Peabody, Circle of Friends, Society of Medallists.
The article on medallic art (small m, small a) – the subject – contains long lists of medallic artists by country. Two lines on page 35 state: “Mints Specializing in Art Medals / Medallic Art Company,” the only one listed. Hooray! One correct statement of fact!
Of facts, the publisher’s page was most revealing in its statements. “All parts of the book are extracted from Wikipedia … The editors of this book are no[t] authors. … Nothing found here has necessarily been reviewed by people with the expertise required to provide you with complete, accurate or reliable information.
“Some information in this book may be misleading or wrong.” It sure is.
The book’s publisher is Alphascript Publishing, a trademark of VDM Publishing House, with an address in the Mauritius.
The cover has a color illustration of a bowl of nuts, a container of oranges and a rolled up table cover. Hardly medallic.
At 50 bucks, it costs 62.5 cents a page or about 35.6 cents a word for those 142 words in the only two paragraphs on the company, costly for something that can be obtained off the internet for free.
The book was shipped, not with a paid invoice, but a “Dispatch Note” giving the order number and the title. If you have a query about the book, an email address in the UK is provided. (I’ll bet that is where Miller, Vandome and McBrewster reside.)
The remainder of the form concerns returning the item. I’ll bet they get a lot of returns.
The firm has printing operations in the U.S., England and Germany. But one line was curious. “This book is not produced in the Mauritius.”
This wasn’t my first encounter with this outfit. Here is an article I wrote last year for the April 24th issue of E-Sylum, a weekly internet newsletter for numismatic book lovers:
The strange, lengthy book title hit me right between the eyes. It read “Medal: Sculpture, Molding (process), Casting (metalworking), Machine Press, Stamping (metalworking), Insignia, Portrait, Medallic Art, Devotional Medal, Exonumia, Militaria, Pendant, Commemorative Plaque [Book].” Whew!
Was that a list of chapters or a book title? Published in 2010 by Alphascript Publishing, the internet entry listed it as having 180 pages and appended its ISBN number.
A little pricey at $70, but if all that was in one book, it would be worth it. I was interested. I printed the one-page data sheet off the internet. But before I hit the “add to shopping list” button I got the call to dinner.
After dinner my son, visiting from Cleveland, joined me in the office. He picked up that page and handed it to me. “You know, of course, this is all copied from Wikipedia?” “What!” I exclaimed. “Is that legal?”
This German publisher gathers a group of related items from Wikipedia, designs a colorful cover, prints and binds it all together in one pamphlet. And, yes, it’s legal. In this case, a 180-page pamphlet sells for $70. That’s about 39 cents a page that you could print yourself for free from Wikipedia.
Bit of a scam?
“How can I find out more about this outfit?” I asked my son. “Check out VDM Publishing on Wikipedia,” he said, as he brought it up on the screen.
This is a legitimate self-publishing firm in Germany. They publish under the title Alphascript, Betascript and Fastbook Publishing, all English names, and Doyen Verlag in German among 14 other imprints. They specialize in publishing anything any author sends to them. They do NO editing, no fact checking, no peer review, no proofreading, no additional illustrations — whatever the author sends is what they print and bind. They do add a color cover, but the covers all look alike with only one illustration per cover.
The firm specializes in print-on-demand and publish, so they claim, over 10,000 new titles a year. In 2007 they had 70 employees.
A major part of their in-print list are academic dissertations and research reports. They invite these from every university and print those in English, German, Russian, Spanish and French only. The firm offers one copy free to each author who accepts their proposal to print their work.
For what they copy from Wikipedia, as long as they state these are, indeed, from Wikipedia they are home free. It is legitimate. They can charge whatever they wish by selling free information. Whether to purchase is the buyer’s decision.
The VDM mastermind is Wolfgang Philipp Muller, who founded Verlag Dr Muller — that’s the VDM initials — in Dusseldorf in 2002. He moved to Saarbrucken in August 2007. The book titles are listed on Amazon (in America and UK), Lightning Source, and Books on Demand in Germany.
The Wikipedia VDM entry has a section critical of VDM’s publishing practice. But it also includes a convincing VDM retort for reprinting Wikipedia articles:
Wikipedia is a valuable, quality resource, that the company has no problem asking authors for content, that buyers are informed of where information comes from, that books are a convenient form to collect articles about interesting subjects, and that its customers are satisfied with VDM’s products.
Both the firm and those three editors who are not authors have been busy recently. The new data from the current VDM entry in Wikipedia reveal they now have 78 imprints, not the 14 mentioned before.
Miller, Vandome and McBrewster have conjured up 180,707 titles! All by copying articles in Wikipedia.
Sorry, one of those titles is Medallic Art Company. Not worth the paper it is printed on.
Don’t buy this book. Get the data from Wikipedia yourself.