Generic books?

So I needed a book to research my book and I found it on ALibris. It's an obscure volume from the year 1900, and the listing said this was a reprint from 2002 or so. $10. Fine. A few days later, this arrived:

Generic book cover

It's a generic book! Just the title, author, and bar code on the cover. The copyright page offered precious few other clues about this particular edition:

Generic title page

Just the title, ISBN, and the information: "Published in the United States by IndyPublish.com, McLean, Virgina." I went to that Web site. It's a vanity press. You provide the text, they print and bind however many copies you want. This text is old enough to be public domain, so somebody, somewhere, either typed out the text (exactly?) from an old edition or otherwise got hold of the text, printed off copies at IndyPubish.com, and began selling them on ALibris.

I feel swindled, but I'm not sure exactly why. Do I really care about the marketing material on a book cover? The art? I mean, those are nice, but I don't really need them. The publication history, Library of Congress number? I don't really care. My only complaint about the interior is that they type is rather small, and instead of indented paragraphs there are text blocks separated by white space leading, as you see on Web sites -- like this one. And there are a few typos, missing periods especially. Also, how do I know the text is genuine? Without an original edition to compare it to, how do I know this person (who are they?) didn't embellish, edit, insert stuff, whatever? I just think it's weird. I don't think it should have cost $10 either.

Has this ever happened to anyone else?

No comments: