Review of a paperback, purchased from Amazon.com

May 25, 2011

Some while ago, Dr. William Tighe recommended to me the book The Church in Rome in the First Century by George Edmundson, published in 1913. I found the book on-line on Google Books, and began reading it; it is, indeed, a very persuasive study. I finally decided that I would like to own a physical copy of the book, and, last week, ordered such a copy from Amazon.com. My copy arrived yesterday; today, I plan to send it back. Below I give my reasons why, in a review of the book which is still pending publication on Amazon.com’s website. (Note: I gave the book one star, mainly because I thought that, if I gave it no stars at all, someone might think I had simply overlooked that section of the evaluation; also, because there was no procedure for registering negative stars.)


I received this book yesterday, delivered by UPS. When I opened the box and began reading the enclosed reprint of Edmundson’s book, I was shocked at what I found. Edmundson’s book is, itself, an intelligent, persuasive study, and very worth reading; but this printed edition of it is not what he wrote. It is essentially an OCR of a scan of the original text that has been hastily printed out, put between covers, and sold, without even a minimal attempt at proofreading. The first thing I noticed was that the Greek, in the original book, appeared as gibberish; here is a random example, from p. 18:

“5 Compare Rom. ix. 3: Tfox MI “f p andflf/ta eleai ainbs iyu air!/ rov virep ruv asf ipiav ov, Tuv ffvyytvuv fiov Kata ffdpka, otrivfs fiffiv Iffpa At 3 liffiraffaffsf vspdvatov Kai Iovviov Tovs irtryytifls ov Kal ffvvaixfia otriwl flfftv iiriffrifiol Iv To?! iiroo-rijAoir, ot /to! irpb ifiov ytyovav iv Xpiffrif. It is possible that lovviav might be feminine = Junia, but it is generally taken as masculine, Junias being an abbreviation for Junianus.”

The second thing I noticed is that all the original footnotes in the book appear within the body of the text; that is true of the above citation; here is another example, from p. 32:

“The language of Clement of Rome2 in his Epistle to the Corinthians leaves no doubt-for it is the witness of a contemporary-that Peter was martyred at Rome. But leaving ancient examples let us come to the athletes who were very near to our own times, let us take the illustrious examples of our own generation. Peter who through unjust jealousy endured not one or two but many sufferings and so having borne witness-/j ptvp a-ai-departed to the place of glory that was his due. The 48 ASCENSION OF ISAIAH 1 Lanciani, Pagan and Christian Rome, p. 125.
2 In that portion of the fifth book of the Sibylline Oracles which was probably written 71-74 A. d. the flight of Nero from Rome is thus described; V. 143 4ifv etai Ik Ba0v uvos andva tpofifpbs icol
Clement Rom. 1 Cor, v.
statement in the apocalyptic Ascension of IsaiahiI-also the work of a contemporary-that a lawless king, the slayer of his mother, will persecute the plant which the Twelve Apostles of the Beloved have planted.”

And so on. The whole book reads in this vein; it is, quite literally, a piece of junk, and a scam.

The book was printed in the year 2010 by an outfit named “General Books,” Memphis, Tennessee, USA (website: www.General-Books.net). On the page behind the title page, one finds, along with the legally required information about the publication, explanatory comments. Under the section titled “How We Made This Book for You,” one reads that the book was made “exclusively for you” using patented Print on Demand technology, and then learns that a robot flipped and scanned each page of the original, rare book, and that the “typing, proof reading and design” of the book were automated using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software.

Further down on the page, there is a section titled “Frequently Asked Questions.” The first “Frequently Asked Question” is the following: “Why are there so many typos in my paperback?” The answer provided is the following:

“We created your book using OCR software that includes an automatic spell check. Our OCR software is 99 percent accurate if the book is in good condition. Therefore, we try to get several copies of a book to get the best possible accuracy (which is very difficult for rare books more than a hundred years old). However, with up to 3,500 characters per page, even one percent is an annoying number of typos. We would really like to manually proof read and correct the typos. But since many of our books only sell a couple of copies that could add hundreds of dollars to the cover price. And nobody wants to pay that. If you need to see the original text, check our website for a downloadable copy.”

Thank you, but I have a downloadable copy already, from Google Books. I ordered this paperback copy of the book because I wished to be able to read the book when I am not at the computer. The copy you have so lovingly and carefully prepared for me does not allow me to do that; as mentioned above, it is a piece of junk. I will send it back to Amazon.com, and ask for my $19.42 to be refunded.

That Amazon is willing to be the go-between for such publishing scams lessens my trust in it. It needs to clean up its act.

About these ads

9 Responses to “Review of a paperback, purchased from Amazon.com”

  1. Karl Says:

    I got myself a Fellowes bookbinder and a good papercutter. I print out books I want from Google Books or Archive.org using the Adobe booklet setting, and then I make a cover out of art paper and glue it all together. I’ve done Pharr’s Homeric Greek, AHN’s Greek Method, some Cicero treatises, and a few others, all for the cost of paper and glue.

  2. bekkos Says:

    You were always very resourceful, Karl.

    Maybe when my economic/residential situation is more settled, I’ll look into purchasing such a bookbinder. For now, I must rely on publishers to do the job for me, and usually I trust them to deliver the book they claim to be publishing. In the present instance, they did not do that; I want Amazon to know that they have an unhappy customer.

  3. bekkos Says:

    Bedwere,

    Thanks for the information, and the link. I’m off to send the defective copy back to Amazon; once I get my refund, I will probably take up your suggestion. It is, in fact, a book worth reading.

    Peter

  4. William Tighe Says:

    What a bummer. Actually, the only decent paperback reprint I have seen is that produced by Wipf and Stock of Portland, Oregon:

    The Church in Rome in the First Century
    An Examination of Various Controverted Questions Relating to its History, Chronology, Literature and Traditions
    By George Edmundson
    Retail Price: $25.00
    Web Price: $20.00
    ISBN 10: 1-55635-846-6; ISBN 13: 978-1-55635-846-3
    Paperback; Published 03/01/2008

    and which is currently on sale for $20.00 plus postage.

  5. bekkos Says:

    In fairness to Amazon.com, I should acknowledge that they have fairly promptly refunded me the full cost of the defective book, including postage.

  6. William Tighe Says:

    Another book which has, in its recent “on demand” reprintings, much the same problems, is *Salve Mater* by Frederick Joseph Kinsman. Kinsman (1868-1944) was an Episcopalian clergyman and Church Historian who was Bishop of Delaware from 1908 to 1919, when he resigned and became a Catholic. What may be of interest to you in the book, Peter, is the glimpses it provides from a century ago of relations between Anglicans (especially Episcopalians) and Orthodox Christians, and the mixture of interest and embarrassment (on the Anglican side) and interest and puzzlement (on the Orthodox side) that almost invariably resulted from their meetings with one another. The book can be read online here:

    http://books.google.com/books

    or here:

    http://www.archive.org/details/salvemater00kinsuoft

  7. Anthony Says:

    I have noticed more and more that Amazon seems willing to sell shady products like this, not just books but electronics and other things as well. It has gotten to the point that, if I am skeptical of a product’s provenance, and there are no reviews, I simply don’t order it.

  8. bekkos Says:

    As a footnote, I should mention that, last week, I followed Karl’s advice, and printed out a copy of Book One of St. Albert the Great’s De Vegetabilibus (the text of which I found on-line at http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/); I purchased a paper cutter at Staples for $32, printed out the pages in the proper order using Adobe Reader, cut them in half with the aforesaid paper cutter, and bound them together in the form of a book, using Elmer’s Glue and a cover made of black construction paper. So far the book seems to be holding up quite well, and it allows me to examine St. Albert’s arguments about the souls of plants at my leisure and without having to sit in front of a computer screen.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 47 other followers

%d bloggers like this: