I recently bought a book, Pinging from Bangalore by K.R. Chandrashekar. It's a "blog novel" (whatever that means) about "Basu" - a delivery manager at a software company; his overly stressed work life; his thoughts and ideas on arbitrary, yet important things such as language translation, Americans, the Iraq war, vultures, rocks and such; and Basu's diatribe on the software industry in general.
I didn't like it. Partly because it is the story of a manager whose only problems are a) intra company politics and b) inability to find people ("resources") for his customers' projects. I'll harp upon this in a different post.
Another thing I dislike: The book has appalling English, perhaps the worst I have read in print. I'm not saying mine is any better, but check this:
I went to the bathroom. Drank some water and was looking outside the window. Sun was rising slowly, triggering activities. People distributing milk and newspaper were seen going in their bicycles.
("Going in their bicycles"? I hope they didn't go on the newspapers..and milk!)
The book is littered with grammatical errors - it soon begins to get to you. Phrases like people at offsite are a put off - it means people in Bangalore, off-site from his customer in the U.S. But "at offsite" is just wrong. There is such a miserly approach to using "the" that Sun was rising slowly and Otherwise the moment US turns the tap of outsourcing... and so on.
But what's really disgusting is this: He has copied content shamelessly without giving proper credit. Throughout the book, Chandrashekar COPIES and PASTES text, largely unaltered, into the book. Sometimes he prefixes this with "A web page said", or "A survey reported" but follows that with the text of the web page verbatim.
This is wrong. This is blatant violation of copyright, and in a google-able time and age, very stupid. He does start the book with:
I acknowledge the material I have borrowed from the Internet news items, pieces of columns and articles.
Most of the material is from the following web sites: timesofindia.com, rediff.com, newindpress.com, sulekha.com, news.bbc.co.uk, nytimes.com, amazon.com...
Many thanks to:
- The web sites
Note here: Quoting people means taking a small paragraph from their text, and giving them proper credit. If you take a whole page, you get the author's permission. If you make money from such copying, like Mr. Chandrashekar does by asking us to pay Rs. 200 for his gramatically flawed book, it is only fair that you share the profits with the authors.
What did he copy?
A helluva lot, but here's my initial set of findings:
[Note: He has, for some reason, changed some words, in some cases altering the meaning of the entire sentence.]
page 182 : a web page said: (etc.)
Copied from: http://www.nytimes.com/...
Author: Bob Herbert
"For all the talk of supporting the troops, they are a low priority for most Americans. If the nation really cared, the president would not be frolicking at his ranch for the entire month of August . He'd be back in Washington burning the midnight oil, trying to figure out how to get the troops out of the terrible fix he put them in."
Note: Text is slightly modified.
page 157-158 A web page said:
Author: Kenneth Chang
"The proponents of intelligent design, a school of thought that some have argued should be taught alongside evolution in the nation's schools, say that the complexity and diversity of life go beyond what evolution can explain....
Note: A lot of text is copied verbatim.
Subnote: Kenneth Chang's article says:
"One of the rules of science is, no miracles allowed," said Douglas H. Erwin, a paleobiologist at the Smithsonian Institution. "That's a fundamental presumption of what we do."
Erwin's statement is uncredited and changed to:
A scientist said, One of the rules of science and a fundamental presumption is, no miracles allowed.
Note: When you quote someone, credit them! Why he doesn't like Chang or Erwin is beyond me.
page 160: A scientist declared:
Author: Cornelia Dean
"Belief in the supernatural, especially belief in God, is not only incompatible with good science, Dr. Hauptman declared, "this kind of belief is damaging to the well-being of the human race."
This statement declared by Herbert A. Hauptman, who shared the chemistry prize in 1985 for his work on the structure of crystals. "A scientist" indeed, but why not name him, Mr. Chandrashekar?
Further in that page:
"Most scientists, who do believe in god, believe in "a God who is behind the laws of nature but who is not intervening. "
"Most scientists he knows who do believe in God, he added, believe in "a God who is behind the laws of nature but who is not intervening."
"He" is "Steven Weinberg, a physicist at the University of Texas, a member of the academy and a winner of the Nobel Prize in 1979 for his work in particle physics." (from Cornelia Dean's Article)
I do not understand how Dr. Weinberg's statement can be twisted to mean "Most scientists, who do believe in God". It ticks me off - it is a completely different meaning. Dr. Weinberg talked about most god believing scientists he knew and Chandrashekar twisted it to mean most scientists believe in god. This book should be taken out and shot.
"nagasaki news item"
Author: Unknown, but referred in tons of pages online.
Chandrashekar offers no credit, but copies text shamelessly.
"By elementary moral standards, in both Iraq and Afghanistan the US and its "spear carrier", the UK should be paying enormous reparations for the atrocities they supported or carried out.They have the company of many other countries: the skewed moral standards of the self-designated “enlightened states”."
"By elementary moral standards, in both Iraq and Afghanistan the US and the UK should be paying enormous reparations for the atrocities they supported or carried out directly, particularly since the 1980s — joined by others as well, notably Russia, but also France, Germany, and others: the list of criminals extends well beyond. That would be one simple way to increase the likelihood that the outcome will be more or less favorable. It is, of course, unthinkable, by the moral standards of the self-designated “enlightened states”."
Author: Anuj Chopra
Oh and he's not altogether bad. He gives credit to Amartya Sen, page 186. He also credits V.S. Naipaul (of whose book a page is lifted). What did the rest of the journalists do to you that they deserve no mention, Mr. Chandrashekar?
I said "the strength of the U.S. has been its extraordinary focus on productivity. And, ultimately, productivity is doing more things with less people. Here, you have an economy that makes and destroys millions of jobs a year. Outsourcing is simply more visible. A guy in the bay area loses his job, and somebody in Bangalore gets it. When you put a face to it, it's more emotional.
"But the strength of the U.S. has been its extraordinary focus on productivity. And, ultimately, productivity is doing more things with less people. Here, you have an economy that makes and destroys millions of jobs a year.Outsourcing is more visible. A guy in Detroit loses his job, and somebody in India gets it. When you put a face to it, it's more emotional. "
This statement was made by Nandan Nilekani when interviewed by Steve Hamm.
One editorial said"Hurricanes come in two waves. First comes the rainstorm, and then comes what the historian John Barry calls the "human storm" - the recriminations, the political conflict and the battle over compensation"
Author: David Brooks
"The fact of the matter is that terrorists, those who are intent on taking the lives of innocents (as in the dictionary, not an Islamist definition that ipso facto says a non-Muslim cannot be an innocent), should be treated as beyond the pale: they have forfeited all rights and all expectation of leniency."
(rest of the page also)
Author: Rajeev Srinivasan
"Key to the vulture mortalities is a condition known as visceral gout."
And so on..
Asian Vulture Crisis-2002 Report - (28 Jul 03)
" Unfortunately, many senior executives busy travelling the world, signing new deals and developing a vision for the company, have little idea of what may be going on at home. That deep within an organisation that otherwise does all the right things, one man could be driving its best people away"
Author: Simran Bhargava
This further quotes from "First break all the rules" - Marcus Buckingham,Curt Coffman.
That's just the first set. I'm willing to bet that I'm going to find twice this on a more detailed search. It's terribly disgusting that his web page contains no credits either.
"One serious misunderstanding amongst the elitist Indians has been their confused interpretation of secularism. The USA is a good nation with which to compare India in matters of secularism. USA does not define secularism as alienation from its traditions. Even though tracing back AMerican civilization to the Greeks is a big stretch, this link and continuity is emphasized. Certainly, the Judeo-Christian foundation of Americanism is made loud and clear."
"One serious misunderstanding amongst this milieu of elitist Indians has been their confused interpretation of secularism. The USA is a good nation with which to compare India in matters of secularism. It does not define secularism as alienation from its traditions. Even though tracing back American civilization to the Greeks is a big stretch, this link and continuity is emphasized. Certainly, the Judeo-Christian foundation of Americanism is made loud and clear. "
Author: Rajiv Malhotra
Note: Nearly all of Rajiv's article is cut up and sentences juxtaposed in random order in pages 72 to 74. But the sentences are clearly lifted from Rajiv's article.
An anonymous commenter has said that perhaps I was being a bit too harsh. Perhaps I was. Perhaps I should have just said "I wish the author had acknowledged the authors", and left it at that.
But this is not just about acknowledgement, you must understand. This is about theft - he doesn't just QUOTE the authors, he copies ENTIRE ARTICLES. There's a difference.
Quoting is like taking a small part of a cake I made with a lot effort. I don't mind, because if you like it, you'll spread the word, and more people will come to eat my cakes and I'll get recognition and fame and money and whatever.
What Chandrashekar did is like taking the entire cake and pretending it is his own. (And saying "I got a cake from someone in Bangalore. Thanks, Bangalore")
If an author takes the time to research and write an article, re-reading and editing till she has done it right, that time is paid for partly by the money she earns, and partly by the recognition of her writing. The former provides a living, the latter ensures that living will be easier tomorrow.
When someone shamelessly copies this author verbatim, with minor text modifications, he is essentially taking away from both the money and recognition the original author worked hard to earn.
Chandrashekar has denied all the individual authors the recognition they deserve.
And in selling his book, Chandrashekar has earned money from this exercise. I'm willing to bet the authors don't get a naya paisa. That is cheating them out of what should rightfully be theirs, is it not?
Note: Some authors may not mind a complete lift, if they are duly credited. But then some may not. And you simply cannot lift verbatim and not provide credit.
On another note, Kaavya Viswanathan was exposed by Harvard Crimson recently for copying content from Megan F. McCafferty's novels. The copied text may seem inconsequential - it does, at first sight - but it is blatant copying. She is being called a cheat, an embarrassment to Harvard and a frauster. The literary scandal d'jour?
Like Oliver says:
On that note, what is even more astounding is that Viswanathan - or anyone - would want to plagiarize prose so banal to begin with. No offense to McCafferty but I'm pretty sure her two novels were not in the running for the Pulitzer. Viswanathan couldn't come up with anything better than this on her own: " “Sabrina was the brainy Angel. Yet another example of how every girl had to be one or the other: Pretty or smart."
Update 2 May 2006:
The author has now acknowledged sources on his web site. This is commendable, as a first step. I still feel that copying stuff verbatim is wrong - the author should either quote or rephrase.
Note: Still not credited: Anuj Chopra.
Voice your opinion
You can Write to K.R.Chandrashekar. This is worse than blopycats. This is theft.