There's a few issues here, so for us to be happy, let's discuss them separately.
First, before any discussion, we must realize that the work that Mr. George has done - scraping our forum content, then collecting it into an ebook, with proper attribution, and then selling that ebook, is absolutely legal. He can do this, and he has done this. He's following the laws. In this respect, we cannot stop him. I know this sounds bad, but, when we chose to write questions/answers on StackExchange, we also chose to license all our content under "cc by-sa 3.0 with attribution required". And he has followed this license.
That said, there is a second problem, unrelated to copyright infringement, and that is the misleading book description. Let me list this out:
- While the chemistry.stackexchange.com url is clearly mentioned in the Google Books description, the book description is still misleading to a common user. I believe the author must also mention that this content was "freely available on chemistry.stackexchange.com" This would ensure that the average reader is well-aware of their choices before reaching a decision as to whether to buy this book or not.
- The "About the book" does not even once mention a link to our site. I believe that, here also, the author should add the part that the content presented in this book is freely available on chemistry.stackexchange.com
- The "Copyright" has got the name and url of our forum wrong. It is "Chemistry Stack Exchange" and the url
chemistry.stackexchange.com. They both must be mentioned in that Copyright section to make it complete.
The author should fix all these problems listed above, otherwise their product is misleading to an average reader. The author has been very prompt in dealing with criticism. Instead of taking ten different shady ways to make money off our content, he's taken the lawful path, being polite and transparent in his activity. We should appreciate that, and politely request him to to reform the book and make it even less misleading, as per suggestions above. While it is expected that the reply will be prompt, if it isn't, we can always escalate it at a later time.
With all of that said, here are a few things we shouldn't worry about:
- "Who'll buy these books anyway?" - whoever has loads of dollars in their pocket, but that's beyond our discretion.
- The author says "This book has been designed to be very easy to use, with many internal links set up that makes browsing in many different ways possible." - but our forum is just as easy (and probably easier?) to navigate as this book is. Perhaps, someone wished to have that content in a book form instead? Whatever, we needn't worry.
- "What's the deal with that exorbitant pricing?" We should note that the price amount might not be the sole decision of Mr. George. Perhaps, there are rules by Google itself about the pricing of content on their platform. There may be a baseline price, a royalty cut, etc. and other factors that might have inflated the price of the book. Of course, the price is exorbitant, but at the of the day, we can't force him to change that. So, it's better not to worry about it.
Also there are no problems with the book listing itself. Mr. George has "updated all books to indicate that (he's) the Publisher, rather than the Author." which is a great step. I can confirm this update on the Google Books listing, so we're fine in that regard.
With ortho's new answer, requesting the removal of the books, I feel it necessary to further elaborate on why I think we should not request removal of the books.
I agree that the formatting of the ebook is excessively poor, and the content is hardly useful, but then, it's upto the publisher (and not us), to decide how the content gets published. As long as it's legal, we shouldn't worry.
There are probably many other people and bots crawling our site, especially in malicious ways we aren't aware of. The point is, if the publisher has politely given us the power to suggest changes to his book, I think it's best we do it moderately. Someone took their time to scrape our site and curate a book mostly out of the good content we have. Their effort is poor, but it is an effort nonetheless. So, taking the books down appears as an excessive measure in this case.
Though, there's a valid point of the content being wrong (Uncle's answers/weirdly formatted stuff), which could give the readers a false impression of what great content our site has. But, that problem is simply solved by adding a disclaimer in the "About" section of the book: (along the lines of)
The answers have not been manually verified from experts in chemistry universities or from the Chem.SE users. The publisher nor the Chem.SE users are not responsible for any factual inaccuracies. The content in the book is not an accurate representation of the content available on the site.
Hence, as long as the book clearly disclaims, that it is not officially endorsed by us, we should again be happy.
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