Monday, April 1, 2013

UPDATE: Grant: Savior of the Union or Subject of Plagiarism?

A few months ago, I wrote this review for a book I got for free from Booksneeze. It's published by Thomas Nelson and it's part of the The Generals series edited by Stephen Mansfield. The author is listed as Mitchell Yockelson, who is--according to his website bio--a professor of military history and an archivist who works as a U.S. investigator into stolen documents. There's an irony in that, and here's why.

It has come to my attention that many long passages throughout Yockelson's book have been previously published. By other people. In various articles about Ulysses S. Grant published by history journals and readily available on the internet. Articles that predate this book. And again, that were written by other people.

I first became aware of this when I read this blog post by fellow book blogger Stewatry. She outlines in detail many of the passages that she searched and found verbatim in other articles. Articles that were not credited in Yockelson's book (even I noticed the shoddy footnoting when I originally reviewed it). Stewatry is very careful not to specifically mention which book she's describing, and she doesn't mention Yockelson by name as a plagiarist. She was concerned she would be accused of libel even though she was very careful to back up her claims with a whole heaping pile of research. But I was able to figure it out because I have the same book and I could easily check the passages she was referencing, as well as her claims of copying. It's this book and she's absolutely right.

When book blogger Stewatry discovered how much of this book had been copied verbatim from other sources (or nearly verbatim; in many cases Yockelson had changed some words to make the sentence less complicated, which often resulted in his sentence making less sense), she contacted Booksneeze, the publisher, some of the authors of the original articles, and Amazon. Everyone seemed very eager to address her concerns in ways that amounted to absolutely nothing. 

I feel just sick about this. I'm not even sure what I should do next. Can I even trust any of the books by this publisher? Should I delete or update all of my reviews of this book? I generally copy my reviews on to a number of sites, such as Amazon, Goodreads, LibraryThing, and more. I don't want to recommend a book that may have been (but probably was) plagiarized from uncredited sources?

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