There's a Sucker Born Every Minute – and Charlatan’s to Make Sure They Pay for It

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ben Rothke

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Go to many web pages and you may be bombarded by pop-ups, click-ads, overlays and myriad other types of advertisements.  View any of the nearly 4 million Wikipedia articles and you will not find a single advertisement.  In fact, Business Insider reported that Wikipedia would be worth $5 billion if it tried to make money via advertising.

Since Wikipedia does not have advertising, it is seemingly leaving money on the table.  But the reality is that there is money to be made off Wikipedia and one person who has found a way to do that (albeit deceitfully) is author Kevin Roebuck. 

I recently came across an information security title by Mr. Roebuck that based on its title seemed quite interesting; namely SIEM - Security Information and Event Managers: High-impact Strategies - What You Need to Know: Definitions, Adoptions, Impact, Benefits, Maturity, Vendors.

Using the Amazon Search Inside the Book feature, it was immediately clear the book was a cut and paste from various Wikipedia articles.  Not only that, almost nothing in the book has to do with SIEM, save for the first 2 pages.

A search on Amazon showed that Roebuck has written over 400 titles.  At that pace, Roebuck is giving Jacob Neusner, one of the most published authors of all time, a run for his money.

On Amazon, the book’s publisher is listed as Tebbo.   A Google search led to no contact information for Tebbo.  A representative from Amazon said they had no business contact or address for Tebbo.

At Barnes & Noble, the publisher is listed as Emereo Pty Ltd, an imprint of Emereo Publishing.  My presumption is that since the books are available for the Amazon Kindle and not the Barnes & Noble Nook, Emereo specifically concealed their name and used Tebbo in order to obviate complaints.

As to Emereo Publishing, I first came across them when I found countless certifications guides they published authored by a William Manning.  As I wrote in Is writing certification guides a replacement for psychotherapy?, the publisher at Emereo gave me a number of varied and changing accounts on who author William Manning was. 

Upon pressing the publisher for more information, he told me that there is in truth no such person named William Manning.  He said it is a pseudonym for a retired senior IT Executive who lives in middle-America, and wants his anonymity now that his busy active career is behind him.

The man he would only refer to as Keith ran into family problems and uses the writing of certification books as a way to cope with his troubles.    Once could postulate that according to Emereo Publishing, writing a guide to become a Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) would be equally effective as Prozac.

I sent emails to the publisher at Emereo attempting to find out who Kevin Roebuck is, but not unexpectedly, didn’t receive a reply.  I am quite certain that that Mr. Roebuck is equally fictitious as William Manning.

So what Roebuck/Tebbo/ Emereo have done is take publically available and randomly selected Wikipedia articles and charge for it. 

They are not the first to do something like this.  Some years back, an author collected IETF RFC’s, put them into a book and charged for it. 

So is there anything wrong with what Roebuck/Tebbo is doing?  For the unassuming buyer, they will likely think that books such as 100 Gigabit Ethernet: High-impact Strategies - What You Need to Know: Definitions, Adoptions, Impact, Benefits, Maturity, Vendors, Kerberos: High-impact Strategies - What You Need to Know: Definitions, Adoptions, Impact, Benefits, Maturity, Vendors and equally named titles are original.  Little do they know that they are nothing more than expensive pointers to free Wikipedia articles.

Given that Tebbo is following Wikipedia guidelines, they are seemingly breaking no copyright or intellectual property laws.

Wikipedia content is meant to be shared is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.  According to its terms of use “all users contributing to Wikimedia projects are required to grant broad permissions to the general public to re-distribute and re-use their contributions freely, as long as the use is attributed and the same freedom to re-use and re-distribute applies to any derivative works”.

In other words, as long as someone using the Wikipedia content acknowledges the source, they have complete license to reuse the content. And that is precisely what Roebuck/Tebbo does.  Tebbo is completely compliant with Wikipedia guidelines, but make no effort to let the buyer know they are paying for free content.  Such deceptive practices hurt the unknowing buyer.

So why would anyone in their right mind buy something that is free?  It seems that indeed there's a sucker born every minute and they are buying books by Kevin Roebuck.

As to these books, if buyers would do the slightest bit of analysis, they would see this deception.  Rather than spending $50- for these books, they can simply bookmark with Wikipedia page and get the exact content.  In fact, using the Wikipedia site ensures the reader has the most up to date content.

There are a lot of good books available to educate readers.  Unfortunately, Emereo is polluting the waters with worthless content.  Caveat emptor. 
 

Ben Rothke CISSP, CISA (@benrothke) works in the information security field, writes the Security Reading Room blog and is the author of Computer Security: 20 Things Every Employee Should Know (McGraw-Hill).

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Jamie Adams Amazing. Thanks for your research.
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grace reiz Most scams are really too good to be true and absolutely appealing to the public that's why there are lots who are being convinced that such things are real. Just like what happened with the Cardiff Giant scam. The so-called scared man was uncovered in upstate New York in 1869. Due to its 10-foot-4-inch prominence, the figure became known as the Cardiff Giant. The "Giant" became a media beloved, even after it was revealed to be a scam. An artist in New York has rebuilt the model and promises to recreate the situation and be the mastermind as the Cardiff Giant rises again in Syracuse. Syracuse-based artist Ty Marshal has recreated the Cardiff Giant to exacting specifications out of Hypertufa, a mix of cement and peat moss, for an event entitled “There’s a Sucker Born Every Minute: Re-creating the Cardiff Giant.” And now Marshal and his team continue a proud tradition by drawing yet more crowds to see the Cardiff Giant.
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