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Phantom Book

A few years ago, under commission from the Sophron Foundation, headed by Tom Rogers, who was (and I hope still is, given his time on this earth) a noted proponent of space tourism, I wrote a long essay on the near-term prospects for space tourism. It was printed, but just a few copies only for the use of the foundation as a printout of a Microsoft Word file. To the degree it was published at all, it was on the web, at one of my own websites, and at Space Future.

Subsequently, somehow, Amazon has decided that it's actually a book, out of print.

I've already received notification from an emailer that they've backordered a copy, whenever Amazon gets some in st0ck.

How did this happen? Does anyone have enough insight into the workings of Amazon to know?

Posted by Rand Simberg at January 02, 2005 07:56 PM
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Yeah, I've run into this with some of my stuff, too. I can assure you this was not in any sense a book:

Both your "book" and mine have ASIN numbers, which could be how they got caught in the net. But I can impress my friends with how many entries I have at amazon...

-Chuck B.

Posted by C. Brackney at January 2, 2005 08:51 PM

Is it possible that the Sophron Foundation decided to sell it through Amazon? Several years ago, I wrote an article for the site, which was then owned by Wrox Publishing. Sometime after that, I discovered the article was available for purchase on Amazon's website, too. It isn't available anymore on Amazon, but I always assumed that Wrox had made some deal with Amazon to resell some of their content. In the end, Wrox went belly-up, and their assets were sold. Now ASP Today is run by a different company, which is probably why it is no longer available.

Posted by Avonelle Lovhaug at January 2, 2005 08:56 PM

ASIN stands for Amazon Standard Identification Number.

So here's an idea: what if someone simply listed a copy of your printout as a used bookseller? I would imagine that anything listed which could not be matched to an ISBN would be assigned an ASIN.

Posted by Dennis at January 2, 2005 09:08 PM

Dennis is absolutely right. You can put a copy of anything in as a "Zshop" item, without ISBNs or any such. Presumably some small seller did this, and once an item is in the system... it's in the system.

Posted by David Moynihan at January 2, 2005 09:14 PM

Somebody wants a copy.

Why not get one printed and bound for them, even signed by the author in a limited edition of 1.

Posted by Alan E Brain at January 2, 2005 10:33 PM

Strangely enough my husband's dissertation (never published) is showing up on amazon. Mine isn't - so I'm not sure if someone requested his from Minnesota or that is because he's published a dozen or so books that of course are, off and on, on Amazon or. . . I thought that was odd but your experience seems similar.

Posted by ginny at January 2, 2005 11:57 PM

I agree with Alan.

Look in the upper right hand of the listing on amazon where it says, "1 buyer waiting!"

Prospective buyers can create these sort of listing on Amazon by entering their want on the amazon wanted item page.

I can remember back in '97 a friend telling me that a co-worker had used a feature like this on amazon to track down a product brochure for a 30+ year old piece of equipment, so the capability is nothing new.

Posted by The Comedian at January 3, 2005 05:23 AM


The new gift for married couples. One spouse purchases a "book" written by the other spouse. Now that one gets to claim the mantle of book author with sales on Amazon.


Posted by ed at January 3, 2005 08:46 AM

Nice essay. Let me know where to send the check.

Posted by Sam Dinkin at January 5, 2005 09:19 AM

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