Category Archives: Media on demand

Man writes 200,000 books without a single librarian

The New York Times wrote a piece the other day on a professor of management science at Insead who has written over 200,000 books.

An Author search over at Amazon.com reveals many esoteric and very narrowly focused titles such as “The 2007 Import and Export Market for Electrical Relays Used with Circuits of Up to 1,000 Volts in Ireland (Paperback)” which evidently sells for $66 for 34 pages.

The Times article explains how he writes these books: he uses an algorithm to search publicly available data, dump it into a Word document, organize it, create graphs, title pages, summaries, and on and on. His idea is to literally automate content creation.

Automated content creation.

If the idea of that doesn’t scare you already then watch this YouTube video.

Scared yet?

There’s no Librarian, there’s no author, and with book printing on demand, there’s no publisher either. Just a computer program, a set of databases and a person with a question.

Most of us in academia see the problem with this right away: he’s not really writing a book, he’s just compiling data and presenting it in book format. This isn’t original research; nothing is created, no new knowledge gained. But it is the type of research that many people currently come to the library to do; information seeking and compiling.

He may call it “content creation” but it’s really not, no more than blowing my nose into a tissue is creating a new issue called “The Annals of Tim’s Nostril Emissions 2008.” That is to say, the creation takes place before and this is simply a compilation of other people’s works.  This is a glorified literature review, at best.

In the video, he goes on to posit that he could create virtual faculty and virtual facilities that could teach students with friendly virtual professors that look like Geckos and whatnot. But again, as he does with research and writing he gives short shrift to actual teaching, real learning, and knowledge creation.

Still, it is worrying how many of his books receive acclaim from their readers.  The Times article attributes this to people who really don’t understand how to do basic search.

I guess someone is profiting off people who can’t do basic research.

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Movies on your cellphone

AT&T has announced today that they are going to offer a new service to some of their cell phone subscribers: movies on their cell phones.

This is obviously a pilot project, designed to get the early adopters to test out the feasibility and demand for this new service, but it intrigues me none-the-less.  Before you run out and try to get on board, this program will only be available to a handful of people who have AT&T contracts, who have either a Vu phone or Samsung Access phone, and who are willing to pay extra for the service.

And what’s the service?  Uhh, only a handful of movies that have been run on TV and that are run on a schedule and that have commercials.

What is this 1986?

So, I can pay probably $20 a month to see Ghostbusters with commercial breaks?  Have they not heard of iTunes?  I can go right now to the iTunes store, RENT a movie for $2.99 and watch it on my iPod touch or my iPhone.  In the time it took to write this blog, I downloaded Drugstore Cowboy and it’s in pretty decent quality.  Good enough to watch on my regular TV, without commercials, whenever I want.  And there’s hundreds more movies like that.

Obviously, they just want to test this out.

Sorry, I’m not buying.

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Filed under Media on demand