A Find From the Future: Robotext

This is part funny, part disturbing: One writers experience when trying to sell a book. Short version: The bots take care of that.

It is now possible to send out a computer program, scour Wikipedia and other sources, compile tons of information and turn them into a book. Package, sell, walk away.

Robotlight, picture Flickr

"I will never read anything like that", you say. Maybe. But if a few thousand people do, someone in the world will chuckle - potentially after ordering a drink on a private island in the sun. 

The trick here is that such robo books can pretend to be high-level science work and such merchandise is sold for prices well above what is paid for the latest paperback bestseller. Pricing from 30 Euros to 50 Euros is not uncommon. 

So, the next step is to sent out another computer program, which pretends to have read the book, gives 4 1/2 stars and produces a seemingly human review.

If then 500 people ouf of the billions of internet users actually order this book, you do the math: 500 * 30 is 15.000. So, this 15.000 Dollars or Euros for sending out a computer program, that can potentially write a book a day. Maybe actual sales figures are much lower. But the robo publisher does not mind as production is just limited by trying to keep the whole thing under radar, not by other constraints.

There is a clever, sardonic even psychology element here: Often, with very complex books we just hope that we can advance our knowledge, but given the complexity of the topic we never really open the book. There are statistics about how many science and non-fiction books are actually read.

So, the book just sits there on the shelf for a year. Or a decade. A scam, full circle, with some impressive intellectual elements. A master robbery of the mind.

I found this, partially fascinating, bigger part disturbing perspective while searching. There is a funny/sad article about the experiences of one writer/developer named Carlos Bueno. He wrote a book (himself) and then saw price bots peddling his book back and forth.

His conclusion is a sign of things to come: "A de­light­ful futuris­tic ab­surd­ity: a com­put­er pro­gram, pre­tend­ing to be human, hawk­ing a book about com­put­ers pre­tend­ing to be human, while other com­put­er pro­grams pre­tend to have used co­p­ies of it", Source: Carlos Bueno, How Bots Seized Control of My Pricing Strategy, 2012

While it is basically positive that we use computers to structure information, this is the very low end of what is possible. 

- Mirko Lorenz, February 25, 2012

P.S.: I will spent the rest of the weekend pondering, whether I should become a robo publisher, too. All I need is a name. How about Terminator Books. I'll ask the bots whether that is a good plan. 

P.P.S.: Only found out later, that others noticed the post of Carlos Bueno too. Good Magazin has this story: "Who Can Profit from Selling 1-Cent Books on Amazon? Robots." (Feb, 22, 2012)

Picture credits: Via Flickr, by joemonges