Archive for January 9th, 2008
In the last couple of days, a story has emerged concerning a series of books published by Penguin, authored by Cassie Edwards. Ms. Edwards is a successful romance novelist with sales of over 10,000,000 books featuring Native American romance.It has come to light that many passages in Ms. Edwards’ books have been copied verbatim from a number of old reference books. The evidence is overwhelming and can be found here:
The evidence so far gathered suggests that Ms. Edwards has restricted herself to plagiarising books that are in the public domain and so it seems unlikely that any legal action can be taken.
Nonetheless there are some serious ethical and literary concerns regarding her actions, and the negligence on the part of her editors. You will see from the examples above that the prose quality of the quoted sections is easily distinguished from Ms. Edwards’ own style, yet apparently no editor ever questioned this, nor thought to run the simple Google check that uncovered the plagiarism. Nor should the publishers be content to defraud the public in this manner, passing off books as the work of one author, when in fact large sections of text were written by someone else. This is a serious matter, and that it concerns one of the most well-known and well-regarded publishing houses in the industry makes it even more alarming. How widespread is this practice, and how much are editors expected to condone this intellectual theft?
I have never read one of Ms. Edwards’ books, nor do the cited extracts give me any wish to do so. But this story makes me cross for a number of reasons:
- Because there is no likelihood of legal action, it seems the ethical issues have been ignored. Just because there is no copyright theft does not mean there has been no plagiarism.
- Because Ms. Edwards is writing in a particular genre, it seems that rights of her readers to expect original (and good quality) prose are ignored.
- Even if Ms. Edwards had been unaware that her plagiarism is a problem, her editors should not have been. A 5 minute Google was all it took to uncover the problem. They are without excuse.
Here‘s the letter I’ve sent to the CEO and President of Penguin Putnam.
Here’s the most recent response from Signet (the imprint of Penguin which publishes Ms. Edwards’ books), in which they seem to have recognised that the problem at least demands some investigation.