The Automated Publishing House

The New York Times has a great article on a professor of management science who has founded an almost completely automated publishing company. The 200,000 books he’s published sound, well, terrible, and terribly overpriced: “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 Philip M. Parker, the man behind them, is nothing if not ambitious. He’s also programming his machines to generate language-learning crosswords (i.e. clues in one language, answers in another), acrostic poetry, and even scripts for game shows and videogames. All of this reminds me of a novel by Neal Stephenson, The Diamond Age. In it, engineers of the future design a sort of artificially intelligent primer for young girls–the book generates stories and lessons on the fly. Maybe Parker’s read this one before.

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