Caveat Emptor


The image above is a screen shot of an eBay sale for a book about the long gone Aberford Railway. Sadly, and that’s why I say “caveat emptor” in my title to this post, it is not what it seems. Here is a description from the sale:

Please note that the content of this book primarily consists of articles available from Wikipedia or other free sources online. The Aberford Railway was a privately owned light railway built in the 19th century between Garforth and Aberford by the Gascoigne family of Yorkshire to transport coal from their collieries via the Great North Road and a connection with the contemporary Leeds and Selby Railway. The railway was locally known as the Fly line. Mining in the Garforth area of West Yorkshire dates back centuries, and the Gascoignes, being major landholders in the area, had owned pits since at least the 17th century. The introduction of steam-driven pumps in the 18th century allowed deeper mines to be worked, and extended the usefulness of the Gascoignes mines. The area around Garforth and Aberford was at a disadvantage compared to other mining regions because of poor transportation, high turnpike fees, and the fact that accessing the Aire and Calder Navigation was economic because of competing interests owning land on the few miles to the canal so the sale of coal to nearby Leeds was uneconomic.

This is not the first time I have come across people utilising the Internet to produce a useless tome on some supposedly informative topic. Last year one of my readers on the Parlington History site alerted me to a similar sale only this time on Abe Books, it was titled: “Former Buildings and Structures of England, Including: Tricorn Centre, Fonthill Abbey, Pebble Mill Studios, Parlington Hall, Windsor Safari Park, North Corporation Primary School, Blakesley Hall (Northamptonshire), White Horse Tavern, Cambridge” not the most concise title! I elected to buy a copy just to discover what the book was about. It contained as I suspected a single article, exactly as found on Wikipedia, totally worthless! I contacted Abe Books about it, they informed me that they essentially were a market place…

Dear Brian,

Thank you for contacting AbeBooks about your order.

We would like to kindly explain that AbeBooks provides an online marketplace for booksellers and book buyers and the means for them to interact with each other. We therefore ask that you contact the bookseller in the first instance to resolve this issue.

The bookseller can best resolve the issue for you by offering an individual solution to this particular situation.

We strongly recommend that you contact the bookseller through your AbeBooks account as we will then have a copy of your enquiry.

To contact the bookseller once you are signed onto your account:
1. Click [View My Orders] under My Orders on your Members Menu.
2. Find the book in question and then click [Item Details].
3. Click [Ask the Bookseller a Question] to enquire.

Should a response from the bookseller not be forthcoming you may wish to initiate a refund/return. We offer detailed instructions regarding refunds and returns through the following link:

If you have any problems once you have contacted the bookseller please let us know and we will be happy to assist you further.

With Kindest Regards,

K#### K#######d
AbeBooks Customer Service UK ? Passion for books.

I duly took my complaint to the Paperback Shop…

Dear Sirs,

I am letting you know that the purchase referenced above, titled “Former Buildings and Structures of England, including… ” by Hephaestus Books, is frankly a disgrace to the publishing industry, as it is no more than a lift of data from Wikipedia. I shall forthwith publish an article to this effect on my web site which is included in the title of the book; namely Parlington Hall. I shall also give details of who supplied the publication, yourselves, the article will not be published for seven days giving you time to respond to my concern. I am less than impressed by you selling these publications, as I had believed you to be a serious bookseller.

Yours faithfully

Brian Hull
author & publisher of a history of Parlington Hall

Initially the bookseller simply responded suggesting I return the book, clearly not having read my email thoroughly, so I “penned” another.

Dear Sirs,

Thank you for getting back to me, I am not bothered about returning the book, I bought it half suspecting it contained very shallow data, albeit seemingly lifted from Wikipedia. The purchase confirmed this, I was also concerned for my copyright, regarding the web site I mentioned in my earlier message:

I am more interested in seeing that readers are not ripped off by this type of publication, my attention to it was drawn by a visitor to my web site, who was thinking of purchasing the book and asked if I new of it. I suggest you drop this kind of publisher, as it is not a good advert for your company.

The book and I understand many others, are basically a scam, it may not be illegal but it is somewhat unethical, and will catch the unwary purchaser, especially where the topics are a niche subject. To conclude I shall be adding an article to my web sites concerning this inappropriate publishing company, you may like to comment before I do so, as I noted in my earlier message. I really do think from a customer relations standpoint it is better to read and understand the nature of a complaint, and not simply assume I wanted a refund.

Yours faithfully

Brian Hull

After this the matter was taken more seriously and I understand the book was scrutinized, I think it has now been removed.

Returning to this new rogue book, which is quite outrageously priced at $82 or £52, may be a more serious matter. To fill out the 136 pages claimed in the sale particulars suggests that more than the Wikipedia entry has been plagiarised, so I contacted the owner, who I have known for some years, of the LNER web site as this contains more information about the Aberford Railway than I carry on the Parlington History site. He was aware of this type of publication, and like me feels it is a very bad deception. I do not intend to allow the seller to profit from me so I will not be buying it to determine the extent of plagiarism, and I strongly recommend any readers to avoid it and its ilk.