Man "writes" 200,000 books

Philip M. Parker has written some sophisticated software for auto-assembling books about various technical subjects, and has "written" more than 200,000 of them. He claims he's going to do romance novels next:
Among the books published under his name are “The Official Patient’s Sourcebook on Acne Rosacea” ($24.95 and 168 pages long); “Stickler Syndrome: A Bibliography and Dictionary for Physicians, Patients and Genome Researchers” ($28.95 for 126 pages); and “The 2007-2012 Outlook for Tufted Washable Scatter Rugs, Bathmats and Sets That Measure 6-Feet by 9-Feet or Smaller in India” ($495 for 144 pages).

But these are not conventional books, and it is perhaps more accurate to call Mr. Parker a compiler than an author. Mr. Parker, who is also the chaired professor of management science at Insead (a business school with campuses in Fontainebleau, France, and Singapore), has developed computer algorithms that collect publicly available information on a subject – broad or obscure – and, aided by his 60 to 70 computers and six or seven programmers, he turns the results into books in a range of genres, many of them in the range of 150 pages and printed only when a customer buys one. ..

And he is laying the groundwork for romance novels generated by new algorithms. “I’ve already set it up,” he said. “There are only so many body parts.”

Perusing a work like the outlook for bathmat sales in India, a reader would be hard pressed to find an actual sentence that was “written” by the computer. If you were to open a book, you would find a title page, a detailed table of contents, and many, many pages of graphics with introductory boilerplate that is adjusted for the content and genre.

Link (Thanks, Laura!)


  1. Thats what I was going to say…

    It’s funny because in that story the first person to use their name on books written by the grammatizator was a romance novel writer…

  2. Wonder what copyright issues surround this? Are you allowed to make money off content printed from Wikipedia? What about an online medical journal?

    I reckon Ray Kurzweil could do better.

  3. “As he gently inserts his Error: noun349 undefined into her throbbing Error: unable to complete requested action.”

  4. In this kind of situation “writing” is the wrong word to use. Compile or a word with a similar meaning would be much more correct.

  5. Isn’t that what the spam blogs do too? take feeds and churn “articles”… Of course, the sophistication here is much higher, it may seem.

  6. To quote the authors response to a complaint:

    “If you are good at the Internet, this book is useless”, adding that [the customer] simply should not have bought it.

    It reminds me of a second hand bookstore I found in Edinburgh one summer that sold books like groceries — you take what you want to the front desk and they weigh it and price it at £1.50/pound or so.

    I think the RAND corporation is still king of the computer generated book, with their epic treatise,

    “A Million Random Digits with 100,000 Normal Deviates”

    ISBN/EAN: 0-8330-3047-7
    (availabile in paperback for $90.00)

  7. A computer was used to generate a romance novel a decade or so ago. I had to review it, and if it wasn’t entirely terrible, it wasn’t more than your typical amateur drivel, much like when actual humans try to write a bestseller based on the 10-12 elements common to all bestsellers.

  8. I’ve written over 20 technical books, and I can tell you that the hard part isn’t deciding what to put in, but what to leave out. You want information in a book to be concise, digestible, and easy to find. My 400-page books would have been 10,000-page books if I’d included ALL of the information in my source material.

    And what about the issue of combining and distilling related material? What good is a ‘book’ if it covers the same topic in 10 or 20 different places, most of it repetitively?

    At best, this program is only performing the first step in the writing process – research. The result is nothing more than a pile of hopefully-relevant research notes. Like the guy says, if you’re good at searching the Internet, you can do the job yourself.

    On the other hand, I can’t imagine you finding anyone willing to write a book on “The 2007-2012 Outlook for Tufted Washable Scatter Rugs, Bathmats and Sets That Measure 6-Feet by 9-Feet or Smaller in India”. Not and remain sane, anyway.

  9. Actually, between 1927 and 1942, Marquis de Lalande (otherwise known as Hubert Puits) wrote 672 novels (mostly novellas and Romantic types of books) in a publishing factory he fashioned in Meudon. If he had a computer (or Memex) I’m sure he would’ve surpassed this gentleman’s number, so I’m unfortunately not impressed.

  10. There’s a long and noble tradition of, and a strong argument for, compilation as an act of creation. Consider the Abbé Migne, the mid-nineteenth century French scholar, schemer, and pyramid-scheme player who published almost 500 volumes of the writings of the (Catholic) Church Fathers – there’s a delightful book by H. Bloch on Migne.

  11. I had an idea like this once, but it involved a bunch of monkeys and some typewriters. It didn’t work out.

  12. I wonder how much of that stuff is copyrighted, or lifted from inaccurate, unreliable blogs and things?

  13. Yeah, but The 2007-2012 Outlook for Tufted Washable Scatter Rugs, Bathmats and Sets That Measure 6-Feet by 9-Feet or Smaller in India is probably a better read than Jurassic Park.

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