Having spent years in the publishing industry, I’ve been following the recent controversy about the young
Harvard author, Kaavya Viswantahan, and the discovery that she had inadvertently
plagiarized internalized content
from author Megan McCafferty, who wrote Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings for her own first novel, How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life.
Viswantahan garnered a huge amount of publicity due to her age and the fact that her publisher, Little, Brown, paid her gobs of money for the book.
We blame the author. We blame the publisher. We blame the book packager, 17th Street Productions. But let’s stop looking at blame, and solve the problem! Here’s an idea – let’s let a big company with an already-existing huge presence online and lots of money scan all the books out there, index the content and make it freely searchable on the Web. Then, when a publishing house has a manuscript, they can pick a sampling of passages and run a search, to see if the verbiage has been previously published. And this whole mess can be avoided.
As an extremely profitable by-product of this effort, the
publishers and owners of the scanned content can add links to purchase the book,
either directly, or from booksellers, both chain stores and independent
bookstores (the few that are left), based on the searcher’s ZIP code. Readers will be exposed to content they otherwise might not have found, and there will be a huge, new revenue stream for publishers!
Oh. Wait. Google has already tried to do that. And the publishers are suing them. Never mind.