This Sydney Morning Herald article on Philip Parker’s prolific publication record popped up on a couple of mailing lists this morning and is certainly worth a read (it’s also worth noting that, since the article was written, Amazon have added a further 127 titles under Parker’s name, taking his current total to an eye-watering 85,864).
Using patented technology to source, compile and distribute works on some phenomenally obscure subjects, Parker is able to make it economically viable to produce titles which may sell to just a handful of readers. These are strange, Frankenstein books, not worth anyone writing but worth someone reading – a genuine ‘birth of the reader‘, perhaps. There does seem to be something empowering about such bespoke reference works, and even a vague post-structuralist appeal to Parker’s forays into poetry and romantic fiction, although there’s still an unshakeably forlorn aspect to these parentless little books.
This technology is also of interest given the increasing emphasis on personalisation in education and lifelong learning. The ability to automatically collate, summarise and deliver content that is directly relevant to very specialised interests has definite applicability, particularly for assessment in vocational training courses where general principles taught in a course can be supplemented with assessments that are narrowly focused on learners’ particular requirements in a way that would otherwise be impractical and prohibitively expensive.