Felicity Meakins writes…
Just recently I was on Amazon, when I came across two potentially interesting books:
- Frederic P. Miller, Agnes F. Vandome and John McBrewster (eds) (2009), Mixed Language, Alphascript
- Frederic P. Miller, Agnes F. Vandome and John McBrewster (eds) (2010), Michif Language: Language, Métis people (Canada), First Nations, Fur trade, French Canadian, Mixed language, Alphascript
At first I berated myself for having never noticed these books before, let alone the authors. Surely these were important volumes that I should have referenced! However a little further investigation revealed a scam that grew bigger (and actually more impressive) as I dug deeper.
I first became suspicious when I recognised some of the wording of the abstract of the first book. Sure enough, the entire abstract was a word-for-word copy of the Wikipedia entry on mixed languages. A loud excited outburst from me drew Myf Turpin into the fray. We had a look at the Alphascript publishing website only to find that ALL of their books were edited by Frederic P. Miller, Agnes F. Vandome and John McBrewster, with topics ranging from Japanese mythology and Franco-Belgium comics to cloud seeding and swine flu! And when I say “ALL of their books”, I mean all 1006 books. Who were these prolific authors?!
When we googled their names, we found a number of scam alerts, so we are certainly not the first to notice them. Unfortunately the University of Queensland library was drawn in for five books’ worth on topics including abalone and Mayan civilisations. Indeed, as Alphascript publishing proudly announce on their webpage, most of the major book distributors, including Amazon, list their books.
One can’t help being secretly impressed with the size of the scam. Most of the books are sold for AU$40.00. UQ Library would have spent around AU$200 on their books, and there is a good chance too that many other university libraries did the same before realising it was all a scam. In a single year, Frederic P. Miller, Agnes F. Vandome and John McBrewster probably had enough in the bank to buy an small island and disappear.
Aside from being impressed (or gobsmacked), it is probably worth checking your university library and alerting them to the scam, and letting other prospective buyers know if you come across their books on book seller pages.