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The odd tale of Alphascript Publishing and Betascript Publishing

This is one of the oddest things I’ve ever seen on the internet. A company variously calling itself Alphascript Publishing and Betascript Publishing is taking articles from Wikipedia and publishing them as books. It would appear that the act of doing that is legal, but from the outside, many of the books give the appearance of having been put together by some automated system, because the titles (and presumably contents) seem to be comprised of a Wikipedia page forming the starting point for the book and then a load of other Wikipedia pages which are linked-to from that page. It’s all very strange.

As an example of what I mean, the book shown here is rather oddly called (deep breath) Vreni Schneider: Annemarie Moser-Pröll, FIS Alpine Ski World Cup, Winter Olympic Games, Slalom Skiing, Giant Slalom Skiing, Half Man Half Biscuit. Now, Vreni Schneider is a Swiss skier, and if you visit the Wikipedia page about her you’ll see several other related Wikipedia pages linked-to from there in the main body. These links form the other elements in the book’s title, and presumably content.

So presumably the subjects have some connection. Well… yes. But not always one which forms a particularly logical grouping. Schneider is namechecked in a song by English indie rock band Half Man Half Biscuit called Uffington Wassail, a fact which somebody has deemed worthy of adding to Schneider’s Wikipedia page. So now Half Man Half Biscuit, a cult musical act from Birkenhead, get featured in a book which appears to be mainly about skiing. I’m guessing that their Wikipedia page is also reproduced in the book as one of its chapters.

This processing of WIkipedia articles into books is a massive operation. One thing the books have in common is the rather odd label “High Quality Content by WIKIPEDIA articles”. If you Google that phrase you find thousands upon thousands of these books, many of them with their own websites. These are mainly WordPress blogs which look like they’ve been assembled by some automated program.

I wondered if perhaps it was all a clever ruse, and these books didn’t exist, but their websites made money. However, to my surprise, Amazon turned out to be selling them, listing huge numbers of the things (and that presumably means they have them in the warehouse). They’re not cheap either. The Vreni Schneider book at Amazon UK was priced as high as £50 in May 2011.

What’s going on here? What are these collections of Wikipedia articles which in many cases (like the one above) are not particularly coherent groupings (as far as humans are concerned)? I’m far from the first person to stumble on this operation. There’s even a Wikipedia page about it, which might be ironic if they make that into a book. Alphascript Publishing has a website, and on it they quote from an interview with The Guardian about themselves, although I can’t find that on The Guardian website.

It’s an extraordinary thing. Most bloggers and forum posters writing about this company seem to be up in arms about the fact that it’s republishing articles from Wikipedia for profit. But I think the real story is how they can physically print and make a profit from such obscure titles, even with the content coming for free. How many copies of a book do you have to sell at those prices to make a profit? Presumably not nearly as many as I thought. I wonder if they sell many through their thousands of websites? Or if the key to the whole enterprise is somehow getting stocked by Amazon?

I would love to hear Amazon’s justification for selling this stuff. The forums and comments (update: including those below!) suggest they’ve got a lot of irritated customers.

UPDATE August 2010: The books are apparently being “retired” by Amazon – see comment from Wolfy below.

UPDATE December 2010: An article on Wikipedia covers VDM Publishing, which it says is the publishing group whose imprints include Alphascript and Betascript, as well as Fastbook Publishing and Doyen Verlag. The article says that “these books have been inadvertently purchased by German libraries at the request of their patrons” but as the comments below show, it’s not just an occurrence in Germany.

UPDATE January 2011: Nearly six months after Amazon suggested to a correspondent (below) that the books were being “retired”, there seems to be little evidence of this happening. Other blog posts on the subject can be found here and here.

UPDATE May 2011: I notice that VDM now has its own online store, which includes the “Wikipedia titles”. To be fair to them, it states quite clearly that their content is sourced from Wikipedia (see the page for the Vreni Schneider book above). Equivalent pages on sites like Amazon do not give the same information, however.

UPDATE October 2011: A website called Betascript Publishing Lawsuit — VDM Publishing Lawsuit says that of June 2011, it has unearthed 38 imprints entirely devoted to the reproduction of Wikipedia content. The website discusses a potential class action lawsuit, but does not give any more details except to “contact us” without any contact details.

Please note the views expressed below, which include some from people who appear to be the unwitting subjects of these books, are those of the commenters, and not necessarily this blog’s author.

78 thoughts on “The odd tale of Alphascript Publishing and Betascript Publishing”

  1. You have a few assumptions that I believe are mistaken. Clear those up, and the rest of this comes into focus.

    From what I understand, Amazon does not stock every book in their catalog. I don’t know how many titles they physically stock at any time, but for smaller companies they list the book, and then request them from the publisher (or maybe an intermediary wholesaler). So, Amazon isn’t stocking these books, but is listing them.

    These days, you don’t need to publish a book to publish a book. Print on demand services will take submissions from anyone, and only produce copies specifically asked for/bought. The better services like Lulu compile catalogs of their available titles, and, as I recall, for a modest fee, will include your book in the main-line publisher’s catalog used by much of the book industry… including Amazon.

    So: there’s how they’re published, and there’s how they’re showing up on Amazon. For producing them, it’s pretty obvious you’re on the right track. Some one(s) produced a script that ingested the total contents of Wikipedia, determined ‘clusters’ of data based off of article links (probably just the first six to show up in the ‘core’ article at a guess), and then did some automatic formatting to turn it into a publishable PDF.

    How many books to turn this automated dreck into a profitable venture? Depends on the catalog listing fees, which I recall are pretty minimal (and maybe he got a volume discount?), though that’s the part I’m fuzziest on at the moment. So, sadly, not many at all (discounting the sweat equity of writing the scripting code and such in the first place).

  2. Thanks for that, Rindis. I always assumed that the Amazon label “In Stock. Ships from and sold by” meant they had it in the warehouse, although from what you say, I was obviously being naive.

  3. I could be wrong. Wouldn’t be the first time. 🙂

    I hadn’t looked closely enough to note or think of the ‘In Stock’ tag, which is indeed defined by Amazon as: “In Stock: The item is on hand in at least one fulfillment center, and we expect to be able to prepare this item for shipment within a few hours to a few days (depending on the shipping option you choose).”

    So, maybe they do have copies of all these books to hand. Though from what (very) little I understand of Amazon policy, I wouldn’t expect it. (Would you stock hundreds/thousands of books by a new publishing house with no previous credentials?) So: a) Amazon has ordered (say) 1 each of a bunch of no-name publisher books on the off-chance that someone will buy them; b) their inventory system marked them all as ‘In Stock’ erroneously; c) they have a deal with one of the bigger PoD services to allow them to produce books from them ‘in house’ or ‘on site’, which wouldn’t *technically* be “in stock”, but the difference would be down to semantics (since they’d be able to produce a copy upon demand).

    I like the idea of c, but I’m just guessing. There’s also other possibilities, but those seem the most likely/obvious to me.

    And as a final note, I see that these books *do* have ISBNs, you can get them in bulk (lots of 10 and 100 are what I usually hear about, but there are bigger lots you can buy), so it certainly cost these people (person? – I’m not convinced that we’ve got more than one person in this business) *something*.

  4. Sigh. And looking again, I see that the books all have three people listed as editors (cursory looks says the same three on each book). Which means it’s a three-person company at least. Despite any other failings, I doubt they’re lying about that part. Though ‘editor’ seems a little strong for the amount of review these books seem to have gone through.

  5. And with 10,000 titles (bizarre as they are) to their credit, these three editors are presumably the most widely published “authors” of all time!

    I like the idea of having software that can automatically take a website and prepare it for print publication. There are some web sites with hundreds of pages of invaluable information. I’d be happy to pay a company a reasonable amount to have a print on demand hard copy for my permanent collection. Is that service available anywhere?

  6. There is a project to makebooks available free, and General Books LLC is printing books from this and selling them, although most can be obtained free by PDF download, or by use of other formats. Surprise surprise, Amazon is selling this publisher’s books. I made the mistake of getting one, and I did get a full refund. I asked them to remove the book, but they asked me to provide copyright infringement details. As I’m not the author and the copyright has lapsed in most cases, that route to get it removed was dead in the water.

    I do think there are many so called scammers out there, but like you said above, the costs of production is probably what I paid for. The thing is, they reproduced an OCR copy of a book with Chinese characters, and it came out like garbled mess of random monkey typing practice. What’s more, they omitted all the front matter which indicated that the book was scanned as OCR text and the university’s notice about copyright as well where the book was originally scanned into PDF format. Here is the book in the Internet Archive – look down the left, and you’ll see Full Text.

  7. There are (at least) three imprints – Alphascript, Betascript, and Fastbook – all under the control of VDM Publishing. Fastbook does German versions, I haven’t figured out the difference between Alpha and Beta. Look up “VDM Publishing” on Wikipedia; the Discussion page is particularly interesting. I wrote complaining to Amazon, their lame reply is “As a retailer, our goal is to provide customers with the broadest selection possible so they can find, discover, and buy any item they might be seeking.” No one in their right mind wants to discover a way to spend money to obtain free information.

    A rough estimate is that VDM Publishing is adding about a book every two minutes to Amazon. They’re up to 54,000 books (at least) listed right now for Alphascript + Betascript, and Alphascript alone added 20k volumes from some time in February to April 2. Crazy.

  8. The Amazon “product description” paragraph for at least one of these “books” incoherently reproduces a few sentences from the wikipedia articles. Even the marketing is computer-generated!

  9. I work in publishing. Amazon does not, in fact, stock at least one copy of EVERYTHING it calls “in stock.” Because Amazon has its own massive print on demand operation, it can (with permission of the publisher) list a book as “in stock” and then just make the books whenever an order comes in. They can make books in 24-48 hours.

  10. I had heard about this “scam” months ago, after coming across some of the titles on Amazon. However, imagine my surprise when one of the books turned up in our cataloguing department, in an Australian university library! (We paid $60 for the title after an academic requested it, unaware of its origins).

    I did a quick check, and found it was the first title we had purchased, but noted almost 25 other titles from these “publishers” had found their way into other Australian academic libraries. I note 11 titles on the UK Copac website. I would be interested to know the true extent of the holdings of these “books” around the world, and just how many libraries and other customers have been decieved.

    We spend tens of thousands of dollars with Amazon each year (as does any academic library), so quite why they feel the need to partner with such dubious practices is beyond me. I have now informed my collegues to watch out for any future variations and to be vigilant. Hopefully, if enough people keep spreading the word, and complaining to Amazon, the practice will end.

  11. Well, the books ARE printed by Amazon, so they can’t argue that they did not know what the publisher did. One thing that confuses, me though; amazon does not say ‘in stock’ but that it has a certain number in stock, such as 7 or eight. Does that mean that it is physically in stock, or is that just creative marketing?

  12. I recently sent a complaint to Amazon regarding getting recommended books by Alphascript Publishing. I’ve just received this today:

    Greetings from

    Further to your e-mail on July 20, 2010 with regard to the recommendations of books by Alphascript publishing.

    I would like to inform that, all Alphascript Wikipedia titles were retired and removed from Createspace.

    This item is still available because Amazon has inventory for this particular ASIN. Please note that we are working with the concerned department to determine how much inventory we currently have on hand to determine the scope of the issue.

    Rest assured that, we are aware of this issue and working to prevent it occurring.

  13. I would suggest that the Angry Librarian tracks down the originator of the orders for those 25 Alphascript books.

    It is theoretically possible – and I do not for a moment entertain the unworthy thought that upright citizens like Alphascript would do such a terrible thing – that a script to generate book titles and book-content keywords might exploit a weakness in Internet Explorer’s cookie security to interrogate a regular Amazon user’s search and purchase profile. Amazon’s own ‘readers who bought this book also purchased…’ script would then present the user with a wealth of ‘related’ material and generate a few hundred sales a year.

    On a less sinister note: if (say) 1 in 100,000 clicks on the ‘buy’ button are mistakes – and that’s an absurdly low error rate for a mouse-click operation – then a less targeted approach will still lead to a few hundred sales a year when inattentive users inadvertently purchase a book when they had merely intended to glance at it on Amazon’s website.

    I am certain that it is technically impossible to insert bogus purchases into a high-spending Amazon user’s order stream, and I doubt that anyone would be stupid enough to try: Amazon’s security is excellent, the risk of discovery is very high, and it wouldn’t be economically-viable for an individual user. But a large company or academic library placing thousands of Amazon orders a year on a centralised purchasing account would be an attractive target, and I doubt that these external order systems are built or administered as securely as

  14. I got scammed by this too, bought a book on digital archiving from amazon only to discover it was just a p.o.d collection of wikipedia articles. I did an ISBN web search just in case I was being dim, but nowhere in any catalogue this book is being advertised in was there any mention of wikipedia. Not amused.

  15. I also made the mistake of buying one of their books, published under the Alphascript name.
    At the time, there were no warnings anywhere when you ordered them through Amazon that they were a copy paste job taken from Wikipedia articles.

    My first sign something was wrong was when I started reading it. Arrows everywhere indicating old hyperlinks, making for clunky reading.
    Here I was, hoping for a serious book about Ancient Egypt to add to my library, but all fonts representing hieroglyphs were missing. As for irrelevant articles, there were some, like reading at the top of one page that if I need to know more about the “Kheper robot” or “Yu-Gi-Oh” in the notes…yeah. I’ll leave it at these two examples.
    I wonder if these three editors simply just lent their names, or were the official copy-paster of the articles. I wouldn’t call that editing. Did they even work for the company and under what function? Heck, do these people even exist?

    In any case, sent the book back and got a refund.

  16. More deceptiveness: There’s a “Sin City (Film)” book from these publishers, and it has a “look inside this book” link. The link shows the contents of the graphic novel with a note saying “This view is of the Paperback edition (2010) from Dark Horse. The Paperback edition (2010) from Alphascript Publishing that you originally viewed is the one you’ll receive if you click the Add to Cart button at left.” (link here)

    The same thing happens with a book on Cerebral Palsy (“This view is of the Hardcover edition (2005) from Springer. The Paperback edition (2010) from Alphascript Publishing that you originally viewed is the one you’ll receive if you click the Add to Cart button at left.”)

    Whatever algorithm Amazon is using to map different editions of the same book is failing badly here and contributing to this scam.

  17. They make money not by selling the books to actual readers, but by selling the single copy of each title that some distributors will automatically order when the book is “released” as print on demand. The distributors (such as Amazon) do this to cut down on the time it takes to print a book on demand, and then ship it, which can be up to 30 days. The point isn’t to sell the books to anyone, but to be a parasite off the distrubution model that a company like Amazon has put in place to help its *actual* customers who buy books.

    Basically these “publications” are the equivalent of link-spam in a google search, meaning that if enough companies start doing this to take advantage of Amazon and other online book stores, unless those stores catch on and do something about how they stock, the ability to search those sites will become broken.

    This is a scam that only works until enough people complain about the publisher to the book seller, or the book seller realizes they have thousands of dollars tied up in what are essentially unsellable pulp.

    I’ve seen this before with print on demand, just never on this kind of scale.

  18. I’m not sure if Amazon really has done anything to stop this. I’ve ordered ‘Battle of Verrieres Ridge’ a few weeks ago, paid 40 British Pounds (very expensive they are as well…) and received the book today. Reading the first line on the back side of the book, I immediatly got pissed off: “High Quality Content by Wikipedia Articles!” it said. I feel robbed at the moment and I am surely going to complain about it to Amazon and I will tell EVERYONE I know about this scam. Because that’s what it is, a scam.

  19. I’m glad you blogged about this phenomenon so clearly because I found on the B&N website one of these Alphascript books; the information about the book “Jon Stewart” was so vague, I couldn’t figure out what it was about. I tried the editor’s name and finally Alphascript on Google search and came up with many websites still listing the books for sale but no real information. Your explanation about this scam (I agree – SCAM, SCAM, SCAM) was just the information I needed. The way their website phrases it makes the “articles” sound like primary source material. But, the nature of Wikipedia articles makes them (at best) secondary, if not grist for the rumor mill. I believe that giving Wikipedia articles (however well researched and useful) the stature of print (which it has, rightly or wrongly) is misleading in itself, not to mention scamming the public (and distributors) into paying for information that was always meant to be FREE to public.


  20. This is about the oddest thing that I have seen for a long time. In my area of expertise they list a book about Gypsy Singer Nadezhda Plevitskaya.
    A publication of her wikipedia website will be a) incomplete and b) does not tally with much of my research in three languages. I have never corrected anything. Why would I write a book and then make all my wisdom available for free to commercial enterprise?
    Is it not also a ripp-off to sell a book of 94 pages, whose content is free on the web, for 46 $???? In this case, as it is related to my historical novel LA PLEVITSKAYA, my information is from a time before me but I have taken great care in using only ‘good’ sources and that the information tallies with what I knew from my elders plus the Russian diaspora in whose circles I moved for some years.
    In another case, the webpage is full of, let’s say, press releases. I knew the late singer Ivan Rebroff before he was famous. What he told then is not the same what appeared later for concert promotion. I am convinced that what he told in the early years was closer to the truth than what appears on wikipedia and any book from that man’s wikipedia page would be a good yarn. I never attempted to change anything there, because my own experiences do not qualify for a source. Someone else must write about my own experiences before me.
    46 $ for a book from the Plevitskaya wikipedia page? My book LA PLEVITSKAYA of 518 pages is less than 20 Dollars unless you buy the large print edition, to get some perspective here.

  21. This “books” are still available in Europe, and it is surely a fraud to publish public contents and claim to be the writer or publisher? They are using the research of other people and sell for very high prices and the real writers never see a cent. Lambert M. Surhone, Miriam T. Timpledon, und Susan F. Marseken of Betascript Publishing are simply freeloaders!

  22. I too have bought items published by this publisher in error. I ordered the Ogden tables from TSO believing them to be the actual tables. Not knowing much about actuarial science I did not know this was a nickname. I complained to TSO but they said I could not get my money back as they had ordered them in specially for me. TSO publish the tables and yet their order line operatives did not know these were not the tables or what their proper title is. TSO’s website and Amazon both give very basic information about this product which does not explain it is not the actual tables. I wasted £200 of my work’s money on this product and am very angry. I complained to the publisher who said the product explains what it is on the cover. I think this is a con as the description on the back of the book does not adequately explain what it is.

  23. Fascinating reading about this Alphascript/Betascript ‘system’. I’ve found another one: Bucher Gruppe.

    Looking for information on an old Austin Motors product, the Austin Champ, I found a book listed on Amazon with the stunngly catchy title of (another deep breath) “Austin: Mini Moke. Austin 7. Austin Fx4. Austin 10. Austin Champ. Austin Montego. Austin A40. Austin Motor Company. American Bantam. Austin 16.”

    A snip at £9.93 but unfortunately only available in German! Could this be the world’s longest book title?

  24. Thanks for posting this. A friend forwarded me a link about a book on WH Smith, entitled, “The Battle of Pasir Panjang”, asking if I had read this. I was quite sure I’d encountered everything on the subject so I googled the editors names and found the numerous listings on flipart! Then found this post and comments which explained it all! Fascinating scam! Thanks for writing!

  25. Well I’ve just received one of these dodgy books today and it was sourced from the so it’s not just Amazon supplying them. At least are offering a refund (be it only partial) after complaining. I wish someone could close publisher like VDM down and book sellers would stop stocking them.

  26. I have also come across a book on Chidiock Tichborne, at about £33-40, edited by the same three incredibly busy editors. I was immediately suspicious – Tichborne is certainly of minor academic interest but I had not heard of any book in production. Googling the publishers etc., I found your very helpful account of this. I might well have risked it and ordered the book otherwise!

    Further search found the title listed by suppliers on abebooks (Paperbackshop-US;; Stratford Books;) where it was listed as a new title published Dec 2010; by WHSmith Online and of course Amazon suppliers (gb_books_uk; the_book_depository; aphrohead_books; quartermelon (a used copy!) )

    I have contacted all the suppliers I could, to complain. I suggest everyone takes time to do this whenever they come across this form of parasitism in the hope that good online suppliers will eventually ban them.

    The real worry is that these titles will so flood the search engines of the online booksellers that finding genuine books will be difficult and I for one will be discouraged. This is already starting to happen with the huge growth of photo scanned and OCR ‘print on demand’ reproductions of old books. Searching abebooks for instance is already clogged with these titles and I wish I could somehow choose to filter them out. They ARE sometimes useful and I have come across a few very obscure or expensive Victorian or earlier books that I would not have found otherwise! But these ‘wikiscoop parasites’ are much more dangerous and serve no useful purpose. The infection is spreading fast!

  27. Ebay has now been plauged by their PoD PoS’s. It is deceptive advertising at the least and possibly criminal, regardless of how you look at it. Amazon and Ebay have built empires based on “trust” within their customer community. I can’t believe that these two large scale players in the consumer market have subscribed to this form of selling. They have both gotten so large that they don’t care if they lose a few customers. That is how big business works. The people who actually take action are such a small percent vs. those who sit idle and fester, that these two large players and the PoD “companies” will never stop. It is only going to get worse. So if you want revenge, hope that you can edit enough of the Wiki pages into mumbo jumbo that their products become unsaleable.

  28. Richard – I doubt that anybody who actually looked at the contents of the books before buying them would continue with the purchase, so editing Wikipedia such that the contents were mumbo-jumbo would have no effect. Even if Wikipedia slipped some sort of message into the text, which then appeared in the books, the sale has already been made, and we know that there aren’t enough people willing to return these purchases.

  29. Some of the Wiki pages THAT I’ve been involved with – as works in progress – have been stolen by Betascript. I noticed that far from being retired (as mentioned in the comments above) a number of booksellers – even itself – are selling the damn things – at $45 or £26 approx. – the text of all is of course free from Wiki.

    To some of the books I added this review:

    “This is but one of thousands of books published by Betascript and Alphascript that are fundamentally of text stolen from Wiki articles page for page, word for word. The books sells for $45 or £26 by a large number of booksellers – all of whom are perpetuating this scam. Even itself is selling some of the books. Why are the books selling for high prices when the text itself is available from Wiki for free? These books bring Amazon’s reputation into disrepute, and the scam appears to be condoned by Amazon because hundreds of members have reported this and nothing has been done. In view of Amazon’s continuing support of this scam – amounting to fraud – I am seriously thinking of cancelling my Amazon membership. Obviously I cannot trust Amazon with selling bona-fide books, so how can I trust it with my credit card etc.? Not good.”


  30. I have found that removes my reviews of these scam books almost immediately.

    However seems to display them and keep them – so far.

    Unfortunately Amazon is refusing to reply to my concerns sent to them from various contact pages on their collective websites. As someone opined this is an Amazon ‘Flood.’ And it brings Amazon (and eBay) into great discredit because they are perpetuating the scam.

    Sadly the latest news from Betascript is that it is setting up its own online ordering website. However anyone submitting their credit card details to this scam organisation obviously ignores the important concept of eCommerce – ‘let the buyer beware’!!

    Incidentally if anyone wishes to raise this scam amongst computer professionals they could send an email to Risks Digest or see: comp.risks at Put the string [notspam] into the subject line.

  31. Well, to my amazement I’ve just discovered that Betascript Publishing has published a book (72 pages) in March 2011 with my name as the title and that Amazon is selling it for £25 – it’s also available from 5 other booksellers on the Amazon site. Under ‘Product Description’ it says that the content consists of articles from Wikipedia “or other free sources online”. I haven’t seen the book and am certainly not going to fork out any money for it but I will go after these crooks. And I’m about to write to Amazon too.
    Yes, I am on Wikipedia but I also have a website and a blog (Blaugustine), the entire contents of which are copyright. So if they’ve copied material from my sites, they’re going to hear from me.

    Thanks for all the information here, I’ve just chanced upon it via Google.

  32. Hi Chris. Just to update my previous comment:
    I wrote complaining about this scam to both Amazon UK and Betascript.
    Amazon thanked me for reporting it and told me to fill out the form which is shown on their website for reporting copyright infringement. I did this and sent the form back but so far, nothing’s been done as the book is still listed on Amazon and some other booksellers.
    I also got a reply from the legal dept. of Betapublishing (based in Mauritius) saying that all the content of their book with my name as the title is taken from Wikipedia and that they are complying with the GNU licence terms which allows them to do this. They offered to send me a free copy of “my” book.
    When I’ve received it I’ll decide what to do next. I don’t believe that their operation is legal and it most certainly is dishonest. Charging unsuspecting people huge sums for so-called ‘books’ which are copies from Wikipedia is nothing other than a confidence trick. Whoever is in charge of Wikipedia should look into this and warn people about it. I hope nobody is fool enough to send any money to the fraudsters of Betascript and whatever other names they go by.

  33. The publishing Industry has a long history of publishing bad books. Why are we suddenly holding the retailer to blame? Or the publisher? It has always been up to the consumer to use a modicum of common sense in book buying. Just as the Internet makes it possible to buy one of these books, so too it makes researching them possible,

    Wikipedia is full of valuable information, and as such is one of my primary online reference resources. Because this information is available free online does not negate its value. If a reputable publisher were to re-publish Wikipedia material in book form, that too would be worthwhile. It could very likely make the prices quoted worth paying.

    The thing about Wikipedia is that it is a work in progress, created by volunteers. When errors are made, and they are, other volunteers correct them, or flag them for a variety of reasons. Because of this, the automated aggregation described is clearly a bad idea. Without any editorial guidance, this type of publication borders on fraud.

    I suspect, however, that they are very carefully operating within the letter of the law. If they aren’t, it may be possible to bring a case for fraud in their jurisdiction.

    Amazon is a very large company, whose business is to make possible for anyone to buy and anyone to sell. Additionally, Amazon does own CreateSpace, which is a fine Print on Demand publisher (I know, as I am about to self publish my debt novel with them).

    But I am frankly horrified at the thought of either Amazon or CreateSpace assuming the mantle of censorship.

    Wikipedia text is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License, which allows publication by anyone who wants to, so long as they fulfill the terms of the license. This license allows anyone to republish the content, as long as they provide attribution and a Sharealike license,. They are not stealing anything, the license allows commercial publication.

  34. Hi again. Well, Amazon has left the title of the book in place, but added a statement that it’s no longer available. I’m glad about that. But I’ve just received from BETASCRIPT an e-copy of the ‘book’ with my name as the title and I’m even more baffled and outraged that anyone could possibly take such ‘publishers’ seriously or even consider giving them money. The whole thing is a complete fraud.

    Laurel, of course many publishers publish rubbish books but that’s not what the criticisms of Betascript/Alphascript are about. These people are simply confidence-tricksters trying to extract large sums of money from unsuspecting people who don’t realise that these products are not what they seem at all.

    The publication that they have issued with my name on the cover (below a totally irrelevant picture of an auditorium) has one page with a copy of the Wikipedia entry about me while the rest of the book consists of copies of other Wikipedia pages about the Library of Congress and other subjects and people. The ‘editors’ who assembled this hodge-podge obviously have no idea what they’re doing or any interest in the subject. Perhaps they are only robots.

    If you buy a bottle that says “WINE” on the label and then discover that it’s not wine at all but shampoo or some other substance you have been deceived and have a right to complain to the Consumers Association for misleading advertising.

  35. To conclude my personal saga about Betascript (now calling themselves International Book Market Service Ltd.):

    After several letters to their legal department strongly objecting to their use of my name on a misleading, ignorant, incompetent and fraudulent so-called “book”, they have replied that although they’re convinced that what they do is legal, they’ve decided to withdraw this title from their catalogue. They said it will take a while for the withdrawal to become effective.

    At least I’ve done my bit to stop this fraud where I was concerned, even if it hasn’t stopped them from carrying on with their scam in loads of other instances. I hope that everyone who finds out that their name is being used on “books” published by these people will take energetic action to oblige them to withdraw those titles from circulation. Only by taking action in every case is there any chance that this confidence trick will be stopped entirely.

  36. What this is is a violation of the author’s copyright. They took one of my books, copied it, translated it into French and now sell it online. It’s also available on and where I saw it in the first place. This is no different than what the online sites do when they ILLEGALLY scan entire books and then download them so you can download them free. Of course the LEGAL author of those books gets paid nothing and has not given his/her permission to do so. As an author, I am frustrated and angry that even in the face of testimony by the President of Authors Guild about this before a Congressional committee, it is impossible to stop it. I’ve tried. They take one site down and 10 more pop up. And by the way, it makes no difference if the book is out of print……only if it is out of copyright which extends for decades. And libraries who do this and claim they OWN the books, what they own is the physical one in their library…. the AUTHOR who owns the copyright owns the rights to reprint, etc.For more info on copyright go to the Library of Congress website: where the copyright office is.

  37. My problem at the moment lies with Amazon Uk, who removed my reviews of the offending publisher’s books and have threatened me with a ban on reviewing. The comments you get back via their help page are formulaic and inconsistent – one said we are looking into the issue (although the comments above suggest they have been doing this for a couple of years following other complaints, so this is stretching the truth), another said you are free to review these books but we aren’t removing them, the next reply said we are removing your reviews. It looks like the help desk won’t say anything controversial or decisive.

    I have a lot of material ripped off by these publishers. Unsure what to do, but surely someone is close enough to the decisionmakers at Amazon and other companies to work out WHY they are continuing to stock such crap. I cannot see that it is a big earner, especially if people return them all the time and write negative reviews.

  38. Michael S. Hamilton

    The Acid Rain Retirement Fund is a Section 501 (c)(3) nonprofit environmental education organization recognized by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service since 1995, and use of its name is protected by the copyright laws of the United States. A book entitled Acid Rain Retirement Fund which is currently for sale on Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites does not really exist, at least not until you send money for it.

    Nobody affiliated with the Acid Rain Retirement Fund made any contribution to this book. None of the “authors” affiliated with the book have in any way ever been affiliated with the Acid Rain Retirement Fund. Offering the book for sale constitutes misappropriation of the name “Acid Rain Retirement Fund” (e.g., identity theft) by the publisher and resellers, regardless of any terms for posting material on Wikipedia. Barnes & Noble and would do well to recognize this fact immediately, perhaps before they are served with legal papers?

    Most of the information in this purported “book” is avaialable for free at

  39. Nice to see I’m not the only one thinking this is a bit odd. Warning to anyone in Australia and New Zealand who shops Fishpond – these “publications” have been listed there too for some time.

    Has anyone heard whether Jimmy Wales has been contacted for comment about these overpriced jokes of publications? I can’t imagine he’d be too thrilled that someone is profiting off his brainchild like this.

  40. Amazon does mention for some of the books that they are cut & paste jobs from Wikipedia.

    Waterstones don’t even bother!

  41. I have just discovered that they have ripped off one of my books from part of the Wiki entry, my website and the actual printed book. I sell my book ‘Arthur has left the buildings’ for £4.99, the proceeds go towards the grave restoration fund of the architect, Arthur Beresford Pite, whom it is about. They are trying to sell it for £34 – robbing the dead, classy!

  42. I appear to be the subject of one of the bogus books. If the information is taken from Wikipedia, then it is somewhat ironic in that I had a hand in writing what that entry. But that isn’t what bothers me. I can find almost no information out about this book or what’s in it — but one brief desciption says 58 or 68 pages of black and white illustrations. That’s an entirely different matter in that if it’s my artwork, it is copyrighted material, published without my permission, and I would happily sue the tattoos off their buttocks, never mind their pants!

  43. I have just received one of these books which I had to wait about 21 days for it to arrive .I was really getting quite excited that it may be waiting for me on my arrive home from work .well today it turn up and I have just thrown it the corner in disgust after scanning through the contents .As you stated these books are not cheap and out of 90 or so pages 20% seemed to be legal reference to use of the useless articles in it ,of the remaining 70 pages I would say that 25 have any direct reference to the books title then it just meanders of into slightly relevant general description of items .The title of this book is not important as I am sure that anything published by these companies will be along the same lines ; Leonardo lived along time ago before TV;Teenage mutant ninja turtles ;Helicopters ;Crayons ;index;Further reading . Crap these books are wrong. Avoid them this practice is wrong and I think Amazon should outlaw them ,may be they own them????. I have never been compelled to comment online before even though I am irritated by a whole shed of modern day values, but when you by a book you are trying to further your knowledge on that subject how ever trivial (that is your choice ) . Total rubbish bordering on illegal if not immoral .

  44. I am positively disgusted that that articles that I have largely written such as Malvern, Worcestershire and other collaborative efforts to produce fine Wikipedia articles of Good Article’ status, are being used for profit, and possibly being attributed to other authors. These articles are the product of hundreds of hours of dedicated research and work by competent volunteers. That said, many other Wikipedia articles that have not yet received and passed the scrutiny of the Wikipedia team of new-article patrollers are unreliable and totally worthless.

  45. Dear friends,
    I am author from Moscow, former MP and advisor to Russian President, Alternative Nobel Prize (1992).
    I found that some crooks from BetaScript Publishing published illegally my book in English and in German and sell them via Amazon.
    This is real shame for people who used intellectual work of many people to make money for themselves and it is shame Amazon knowing on thst still sell such kind of “books”.
    This is also questions for Wikipedia. Why they do nothing against such situation? Maybe they also work together with these crooks?
    One more question: why nobody in West countries do nothing against such illegal work this group of people?
    I am going to write about all this shame an article to Russian mass media and also I ask your advice what we might to do together against this crazy situation. Or we only may to “cry” here to each other?
    Please write me your opinion to my email.
    Thnak you in advance.

  46. To anyone who has been ripped off by Alpha or Betascript:
    they are now calling themselves International Book Market Service Ltd. It isn’t enough to complain about it here in this forum (though that too is useful), you must take energetic action: write to the company itself, describe in detail what they’ve done and say that you are taking legal action against them. Demand that they immediately remove the material they’ve stolen (Wikipedi entry about you or or whatever) and also demand that they send you a PDF copy of the fraudulent ‘book’ that they’re advertising on Amazon and anywhere else. Do not pay a penny, ever, to these scammers! Also contact Amazon and the other online booksellers about your specific case and insist that they remove the particular title you’re concerned with from their listings.
    I did all of this and managed to get them to delete the ‘book’ they published with my name on the cover. (please see my several comments in the above discussion – last one was on 29 May, 2011). It does take some effort but is worth it. They count on people being unwilling or unable to do anything about their huge scam operation.

  47. And for anyone who wants to contact that company directly, here’s the address I had written to. The replies I received were from Katharina Bergmann:

    Dr. Katharina Bergmann
    Legal Department

    International Book Market Service Ltd.
    17, Meldrum Str. | Beau-Bassin | Mauritius
    Tel / Fax: +230 467-5601
    Business Registration No.: C07072290
    Board of Director: Benoit Novel
    VDM Publishing House Ltd. has been renamed and is now International Book Market Service Ltd.

  48. Natalie, many thanks for your great support. Yesterday I begun from Amazon – I wrote them all I think about Beta and about Amazon selling these “books”. I demanded to remove 2 my books with my name. I am going to continue to fight with these crooks using the law. What do you think – why Wiki knowing about that business keeps silence?

  49. Hello Alia –
    I understand very well your anger and frustration but it’s necessary to understand the facts:

    Wikipedia content is free and it is not illegal for anyone to download anything from Wikipedia. This is why people like Betascript (and whatever other name this company uses) can justify what they are doing and why it is difficult to legally prosecute them. We consider what they are doing immoral but proving that it is also illegal, one needs to show specific proof in individual cases. I am sure that Wikipedia is not “working together with these crooks” as you suggest. It’s simply that the free Wikipedia platform can be abused by unscrupulous and greedy profiteers such as the Betascript people.

    However, it seems that you have a strong case if they have taken a book of yours and published translations of it without your permission. This is definitely copyright infringement and what you should do is write a formal letter to the company (I’ve given the address in my last comment above), or ask a lawyer friend to write it for you, stating all the details. After they reply, you can decide what you want to do.
    Good luck!

  50. Hello Alla,
    About Wikipedia: why they haven’t mentioned the BetaScript issue? I don’t know, but it might be because it’s really up to any individual to pursue a case where they feel their own rights have been infringed. Wikipedia is free content, which can be edited by anyone, so what Betascript is doing is not strictly speaking illegal since everything that goes up on Wikipedia is not copyright.

    The main information section gives details of what Wikipedia is and how it works.

    I send you my very good wishes and good luck.

  51. There is a book (actually at least 2 because in there is a different publisher and authors listed) with my name as title, taken from my Wikipedia entry and links. They are listed as currently unavailable, unfortunately. Personally I don’t mind at all, I think its a good joke. I only regret that up to now I’ve had such an uneventful life that it I could not even compete with the ‘Diary of a Mr. Nobody’.

  52. if you want to be safe, do not publish with them. I bought a book from them lately, thinking it was a good one. It turned out it was not professional at all. i get the feeling I have been robbed. And there is nothing I can do to get my bucks back.

  53. I’m the author of the following title, plagiarized by Betascript Publishing:
    Xiuzhen Tu, 2010, 124 pages, 39 Euro

    It’s trs of a Taoist diagram, about Chinese internal alchemy (neidan), and is 117 pages long.

    These so-called publishers steal Wikipedia contributors’ efforts. The legal term for this is “theft of effort” or “intellectual property theft”.

    The info on the above Web page says:
    “Please note that the content of this book primarily consists of articles available from Wikipedia or OTHER FREE SOURCES ONLINE.”

    In this case, that free source online is my book. So the thing is, THEY DON’T ONLY STEAL WIKI EFFORTS, they also plagiarize stuff NOT PUBLISHED ON Wikipedia, like my book.

    In my PDF file, the “Copy” and “Print” commands are disabled, but it’s not too difficult to find a way of copying the contents, or having them printed on paper and then OCRing.

    My book is totally free and is linked at
    “External links” section
    “Bilingual (Chinese-English) text of Xiuzhen tu (11 MB PDF file)”

    Unfortunately the world is full of such opportunists and thieves. And they’re on the increase.


    Dear all,
    I’m planning to open a lawsuit to these THIEVES for plagiarising my e-book.

    I’ve written to them and this is the responsible manager’s MAIL ADDRESS:

    Reezwan Ghanty
    Managing Director

    International Book Market Service Ltd. is in cooperation with:
    AV Akademikerverlag GmbH & Co. KG (
    VDM Verlagsservicegesellschaft mbH (

    His reply (where of course they denied plagiarism) was this:

    Dear Sir/Madam,

    Thank you for your message dated 22nd of March 2013 which has been forwarded to me.

    Please note that in the book specified by you there are texts exclusively from Wikipedia. Therefore in this case we are definitely not talking about copyrighted texts.

    Kindly refer to the GNU License for more information about the use of Wikipedia content.

    Best Regards,

    Reezwan Ghanty
    Managing Director

    International Book Market Service Ltd. is in cooperation with:
    AV Akademikerverlag GmbH & Co. KG (
    VDM Verlagsservicegesellschaft mbH (
    International Book Market Service Ltd.
    17, Meldrum Str. | Beau-Bassin | Mauritius
    Tel / Fax: +230 467-5541 |

    Business Registration No.: C07072290 | Board of Directors: Laurent Ribet, Reezwan Ghanty

  55. Dear all,
    After only 2 e-mails telling that I’ll open a lawsuit, the Beta Publishing wrote that they will withdraw the title from the market. I used an aggressive tone in my e-mails, didn’t even bother to write stuff like “Dear ….” or “Sincerely Yours”. I’m pasting here 4 e-mails (my 2 mails and 2 replies). I hope this may help other people who have similar problems.

    MAIL 1:
    Attn: Beta Publishing Legal Department

    I am the author of the following title published by Betascript Publishing:

    Title: ….
    ISBN ….
    Publishing house: Betascript Publishing
    Edited by: ….

    It is clear that my book is plagiarized by Betascript Publishing. This is a case of copyright infringement.

    “Please note that the content of this book primarily consists of articles available from Wikipedia or OTHER FREE SOURCES ONLINE.”

    1. A free source by no means mean that it is not copyrighted.

    2. The fact that I have chosen not to display copyright information in the file does not mean it is not copyrighted. My e-book contains detailed copyright information in embedded form. This is done to protect it from frauds like you. In the lawsuit, this will be used to prove that I am the sole owner of rights to the book and the book is protected under common copyright laws.

    I give you 2 (two) weeks to withdraw ALL copies of this title, in all formats (paper or e-book).

    If after 2 weeks, I find only one online bookstore where the book is being sold, I will open a lawsuit. And you will see how ambitious the ultra-aggressive NY lawyers can get, and how they can make you regret it.


    REPLY 1:

    Dear Sir/Madam,

    Thank you for your message dated 22nd of March 2013 which has been forwarded to me.

    Please note that in the book specified by you there are texts exclusively from Wikipedia. Therefore in this case we are definitely not talking about copyrighted texts.

    Kindly refer to the GNU License for more information about the use of Wikipedia content.

    Best Regards,

    Reezwan Ghanty
    Managing Director

    International Book Market Service Ltd. is in cooperation with:
    AV Akademikerverlag GmbH & Co. KG (
    VDM Verlagsservicegesellschaft mbH (
    International Book Market Service Ltd.
    17, Meldrum Str. | Beau-Bassin | Mauritius
    Tel / Fax: +230 467-5541 |

    Business Registration No.: C07072290 | Board of Directors: Laurent Ribet, Reezwan Ghanty

    MAIL 2:

    I am the author of the following e-book that is linked in this Wikipedia page:….
    “External links” section

    My book is copyrighted and its contents are plagiarized by Betascript Publishing in the following title:

    Title: ….
    ISBN ….

    In my first e-mail I clearly stated that unless all copies of this title, in all formats (paper or e-book), are withdrawn within 2 (two) weeks, I will open a lawsuit.

    On 26.3.2013 I received this reply from Reezwan Ghanty:
    “Please note that in the book specified by you there are texts EXCLUSIVELY from Wikipedia. Therefore in this case we are definitely not talking about copyrighted texts.”

    I have seen a copy of “…..[book title]” by Betascript Publishing and a big part of it is plagiarized from my book, which is only linked in a Wikipedia page, but is NOT a part of Wikipedia. (If you prove me that your title does not contain material stolen from my book, then I will not open a lawsuit.) Therefore, your title contains material that is NOT “exclusively from Wikipedia” as you have stated in your reply.

    For this reason, I repeat my statement for the last time:

    I give you 2 (two) weeks to withdraw ALL copies of this title, in all formats (paper or e-book). If after 2 weeks, I find only one online bookstore where the book is being sold, I will open a lawsuit. And you will see how ambitious the ultra-aggressive NY lawyers can get, and how they can make you regret it.

    I will also write e-mails to potential customers (book clubs, libraries, etc.) as well as major book vendors like Amazon and B&N and warn them about the books published by VDM Publishing House Ltd. I will post details of this case of copyright infringement in many Internet forums.


    REPLY 2:

    Dear Mr …,

    Thank you for your message dated 4th of April 2013.

    I would like to reiterate our position with regards to Wikipedia content which is copyleft-ed and therefore not related to copyrighted texts in any way. Wikipedia contents are solely governed by the GNU License and I invite you to go through these conditions.

    We are convinced that we did not violate any rights of third parties, however, as an act of good faith we have decided to take the title off the market.

    We have sent the request to all of our partners, but please note that the update of all of our catalogs may take up to several weeks.

    Best Regards,

    Reezwan Ghanty


    I have read your decision to take the title off the market. Under these circumstances, no lawsuit will take place.

    However, I will PERIODICALLY check your catalogs as well as the Internet sites of ALL of your partners, to make sure you do not recirculate the said title in future. If I find out the title is back in the market, this time I will open a lawsuit immediately, WITHOUT further notice to Betascript Publishing.


  56. I would summarize the problem as too much automatization coupled with deliberate dishonesty. Where the latter is prevalent, it is not picked up by knowledgeable human beings.

    I had a deal with VDM Publishing, the main publisher. I know the authors, respectable academics, who resorted to publishing with VDM because the specialized content had an insufficient market to make conventional publishing viable. The manuscript was not rejected on the base of poor quality. As librarian I ordered the book via an agent. It turned up with about 80% of the pages, it just stopped abruptly at a certain page. I returned the book and asked for a replacement which arrived just the same! The investigation was my first introduction to the concept of print-on demand. When my agent could not solve the problem I resorted to e-mailing the publisher, which responded with a free PDF within half an hour and an undertaking to get a hard copy out to me by airmail, which they honoured. The price was comparable with that of similar softcovers, though I have my doubts if the binding will survive heavy use. Problem: no quality control in the book production phase, though it was the only copy manufactured! Once a human being got involved, the customer service was, actually better than I am used to. Too bad if they now are up alleged shady practices.

    I know little about the economics of print-on-demand. I know some libraries in my country have installed “Expresso” machines where the copyright apparently is being taken care of. We are too small. Basically with our digital copier and ringbinder we render the same service. The technician refers all printing requests (from flash drives) to me or my deputy and we really want to know if they own the copyright, or whom if not the requestor themselves. We google the title etc to establish who owns the copyright. We have no means, time and expert-wise, however, to screen the contents for its origins. Maybe we should start using plagiarism software, but I yet have to investigate the cost of that. That is not really the library’s problem I think, but that of the reviewer or thesis promotor. My job is basically copyright protection. We do not print books obtained by “torrent” illegal downloads.

    The poor client who pays large sums for pirated Wikipedia articles as I have severe doubts about its quality. Apart from occasional very shoddy texts, and frequent “citation needed” statements that never comes forth, some information is simply untrue, where I am familiar with the circumstances, person or institution described.

    As for Amazon, I think they suffer the same problem where computers decide and do everything, like the case with the e-book on grooming children for sex. There is a short excerpt from it on an anti-pedophilia site and it is clear that the author’s intent was nothing but heinous criminal activity. Yet Amazon had to be notified about it and the human process of decision to retract was slow.

    So I am somewhat at a loss. Like any librarian I want to promote free dissemination of information. Editorial interference and censorship do not go well with my hippie style liberalism. Yet everything has limits, and the buck stops at crime. One problem which may be bigger than the mentioned two limiting factors, is the lack of a lucrative market which may prevent useful information to get on the street. Therefore I will give even vanity publishing a chance – as long as they publish their own original work. Quality is of course also important, but if that is the only criterion then Wikipedia and millions of websites must also be taken off the air. Every reader must evaluate, check and ask questions.

    What brought me to this site is an investigation on the related growing phenomenon of predatory open access journal publishing. If any reader wants to familiarize, start with the following link:

  57. Your correspondents miss the main point. Universities do not approve of students citing Wikipedia in essays and dissertations. Unless the academics know about Alphascript and associated entities a student can cite from their material and will most likely get away with it. An article in a Tasmanian newspaper about the Alphascript scam was canned. It appears a student at the University of Tasmania marked down in an essay after the scam received publicity and his tutor read about it. The student was the son of a prominent journalist at the newspaper. Legal reasons were given for the removal of the article, but that was not the real reason. Students at UTAS are now free to cite from Alpascript books and they will most likely get away with it. And Alphascript will sell a mighty lot of copies as a result.

  58. Good thing I read what Betascript does. I almost just paid 39 Euros for a “book” I can read for free on Wikipedia. Surhone, Tennoe, and Hennsonow, how much do you make with your Mauritius company?

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