May we please have our description back?

Did anyone spot Jim Hinck’s article on his ViaLibrian blog in June? I am afraid I only came across it a month or so later but it’s well worth reading, about the plagiarism of book catalogue descriptions. I rather like the idea of sellers publishing their book descriptions to establish the precedent for each description. As the original article was several weeks ago I’m adding my six pennyworth here to try to refresh interest in the topic (please read Jim’s blog first).

Dealing mainly in non-fiction I try to summarise the content of each of our books as part of the book description so that potential buyers, who might not even know of the author or title, might realise from that that the book was just what they were seeking.

Plagiarism is certainly an irritation but I have come to accept that on internet there has been little that I could do. I have tried on Wikipedia where I spotted extracts from a piece I wrote about Dornford Yates about twelve years ago but I have not even been able to get an acknowledgement. There is a link there to an article I subsequently wrote in 2005 for the ibooknet newsletter but that’s all.

Amongst other places I list books for sale on ABE and a classic piece of description copying occurred there some years ago when I spotted my name in another dealer’s book description. It was for a title for which we have a ready market and I was looking on ABE to see if there were any underpriced copies for sale (as one does). In those days the seller’s contact details occurred at the end of a book listing. This seller had copied my description and had not stopped when he came to the end but included my name and contact details as part of his description. A copy and paste somewhat too far.

I have had several biographical and bibliographical notes online for some years and was recently contacted by a US university which, as part of their self-policing policy, had discovered that one of their professors had plagiarised extracts from one of my articles in a presentation he had made to a university in one of the nordic countries. I must admit that I was flattered, rather than being upset, that someone in that position had thought my effort literary enough to be copied (but then perhaps they didn’t, which is why it was only extracts!)

Some months ago I made a start in publishing reading lists of titles which covered particular small interest areas of the naval aspects of WW2. There are only just over one hundred titles involved but in our current and sold databases we have probably another ten thousand titles with decent descriptions. It would take some time (a scarce commodity as one ages!) but it’s certainly worth considering publishing those descriptions. Does anyone else feel the same?

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One Response to May we please have our description back?

  1. Juxtabook says:

    I think as most of what we do in our cataloguing counts are the creation of a massive and meandering annotated bibliography that we need to think of some way to protect our intellectual property. As all our work is all highly copyable online I am really not sure what the answer is. Maybe making use of some of the ebook/POD publishers to at least establish a precedent (I am not suggesting that we’d sell many!). But that opens a whole new kettle or worms. Do booksellers ebooks and POD mix that well??

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