Not the normal knock-off

02 Aug, 2019

Usually on Amazon, we see Python for Kids knock-offs which are an exact copy of the book, with cruddy printing and/or binding. No Starch have a clever binding which allows books to open flat, without falling apart after reading a couple of chapters (clever enough that a few people thought it was actually a failure in the glue) - so these were pretty obviously cheap copies, even without the often misprinted and missing pages.

However, an eagle-eyed reader recently notified No Starch of a new type of knock-off -- where they have slightly rewritten the text (I assume just enough to fool a copyright-checking algorithm), and included content from (I think) other sources, to make it even less likely that any automation would flag the book.

For example, here's an excerpt from Python for Kids...

pfk excerpt 1

And here's the dodgy knock off...

knockoff excerpt 1

Erm... what the heck is a "Trump String"?

Here's another one from PfK:

pfk excerpt 2

And here's the knock off again...

knockoff excerpt 2

Yeah... way to rewrite it to be more boooooooring, Book Pirates!

The code examples are pretty much exactly the same in the knock-off (at least the examples I checked) - if badly formatted (including misprinted wingdings characters and other artifacts).

So, the first part of the book is basically a slightly (and extremely poorly) rewritten knock-off of mine. The second part of the book has things like bubble sort, insertion sort and...

knockoff pagerank

...because every self-respecting kid needs to how to write a sorting algorithm (by just looking at the code) and how to use numpy and pandas for page-rank???

And from there, on to games like Hangman, but written with Python2 and incorrectly formatted as well...

knockoff hangman

A garbage knock-off, and 29 five-star reviews in a couple of weeks, no less (I assume paid for). Interestingly, I clicked through a few of the other reviews by those same reviewers and found more poorly written texts. It's an Amazonian (sic) nest of crappy Python books!

Tick tick tick. I wonder how long it'll take Amazon to catch on...