Normally your editor tries very hard to keep all postings here focused on the important topics which you will find introduced in our original Mission Statement of 2009, but here exceptionally is a more personal short story which raises some puzzling problems. And I may not be the only one in our extended sustainability family who has run up against this particular weirdness.
On Thursday night I received a call from the United States congratulating me on “my new book”. It was exciting to think that my next book had managed to write itself, but this was the first time I have heard of it. Moreover the title was particularly attractive, namely it was “ERIC BRITTON”. My friend said it had been edited apparently by someone by the name of Germain Adriaan, apparently published by the house Brev Publishing, and there is the identifying ISBN 13: 9786136745176.
Enough for me to go to work on the web to sleuth it out. Hmm. So I looked up my new “book” and found that it was being sold by “publishers” in the United States, Germany, France, Norway, India, etc. etc., and of course Ethiopia. Prices range from USD 40 to EUR 100, shipping and taxes extra. But what are they getting for their money?
The Barnes and Noble website refreshingly offers this:
Name: Eric Britton
Category: Political Science & Government
Price: $46.66 USD from BarnesAndNoble.com
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When I turned to Amazon (Yes they are selling it) I found the following supplemental text:
Please note that the content of this book primarily consists of articles available from Wikipedia or other free sources online. Francis Eric Knight Britton is an American Political Scientist and Sustainability Activist who has lived and worked in Paris, France since 1969. As the main convenor of The Commons: Open Society Sustainability Initiative and its various networks, he is well known for promoting integrated public transport, carsharing and bike sharing. Britton was born in Boston, Massachusetts on 27 June 1938, and trained in the Physical Sciences and Economics at Amherst College, Columbia University (Graduate Faculties), the International Fellows Program, the University of Rome (La Sapienza), and École pratique des hautes études, Paris. A former member of the Faculty of Economics at New York University and Mills College, and occasional lecturer at universities in many parts of the world; his work received early support from the Ford Foundation (“Why large transport projects fail and what we can learn from them: Case studies from Paris, London and Zurich”) and a Fulbright Fellowship for his work on “Development Theories and Myths in the Italian South (Mezzogiorno)”.
Mulling it over
If you check out World Streets and all the other website and blogs that we work with to build much needed knowledge and insight about these important social and economic issues, you will see in each case that the content is placed in the public domain and the Creative Commons. As the primary author I am pleased to think that my work is going to be useful, but it was not my intent that some unknown third arty was going to bundle and sell it as their own intellectual product.
To find out what was gong on I made approximately fifty international calls to the various sellers and publishers whose name appear in these various sites, but found that most of the telephones were not answered or had been disconnected. In the rare cases where there was an answer it was entirely evasive. (He’s not in right now, doesn’t work here any more, the firm is no longer active, unable to answer your question, etc.)
And when I finally did find someone at Amazon, I said please send me a copy of the book so that I can review and then discuss with you what I think might be the best course of action, for them and for me. They instead offered to sell me a copy at their high price, and asked me to fill out a lengthy form for which I sadly have no time.
Moral of the story
We live in weird, not to say menacing, times.
World Streets Reader
PS. As it happens I am in the process of working on a small book of what I am calling a World Streets Reader. It will bring together a baker’s dozen of what have turned out to be my most read contributions over the last several years, and will be available as a small (ca. 100 pages) e-book for handy comfortable reading on a tablet or smart phone ( on the grounds that few people these days read anything of any length on the computer).
If you click to https://worldstreets.wordpress.com/category/ws-reader/ you will see the shortlist of articles I am working with. And if you have any suggestions or other candidates let me know and I will have a close look.
The price: I thought a penny a page might do nicely. Let’s round it off and call it one dollar.
Stay tuned. (But please don’t buy ERIC BRITTON)
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