Riding the long tail


A professor at INSEAD has come up with a system that generates tomes full of stuff on obscure topics, and sells them on Amazon, only printing them when they’re ordered.

Supposedly, he has over 200,000 books available, with such racy titles as “The 2007-2012 Outlook for Tufted Washable Scatter Rugs, Bathmats, and Sets That Measure 6-Feet by 9-Feet or Smaller in India“.

This article includes a video by the author, talking about his book “writing” process, and also about his ambitions for automatically-generated video games, teaching and game shows.

Not everyone is happy about what he’s doing, though.

I wonder if Jeffrey Archer knows about this.


  1. The Amazon reviews are worth reading. Except for the odd po-faced “it’s an algorithm” review, of course. In fact, “The 2007-2012 Outlook for Consumer Non-Riding Dual-Stage Snow Throwers and Snow Blowers Excluding Attachment Type in India” gets a unanimous 5 stars.

    And of course, I couldn’t resist clicking on “I’d like to read this book on Kindle”.

  2. And here are some extracts from the comments:

    I’ve recently said to my wife, “It seems like all people talk about anymore is the latent need for improved snow management in the southern hemisphere. You can’t walk into a coffee shop, a barber shop, a grocery store nowadays without overhearing somebody gabbing about this issue!” more…

    One of the leading figures in the Zambian industrial floor sanding and commercial scrubbing machine industry, Kerith Zoarotu wrote a poem of joy about this book that has become something of a national ode. Here is a portion of it (it is 196 stanzas long) Translated from the native Zambian language of Kweejek: more…

    Yes, this book is very helpful for the budding electric kettle monopolist, but any major player in this market knows this book took the safe route. Any Joe Schmoe can predict the market to 2012, but anyone with real chops in this industry also knows that 2014 is the make-or-break year on the horizon. Without giving the three of us working this niche market that vital information, this book may as well be another in the long line of highly mediocre strategic plans for electric waffle makers. more…

  3. Actually, given that Amazon lists these $500 titles as being “in stock”, I wonder if the business model here is just: “stuff amazon.com’s catalogue with ludicrously expensive books, each of which they’ll buy one copy of for stock (and maybe even sell, eventually).”

    So perhaps it’s just a way of gaming a large-scale book distribution system.

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