On Thursday I noted a website that allows customers to insert their names into The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and other classic (i.e., public-domain) works of literature. As disturbing as that prospect might be, it wasn’t the aspect of the site that worried me most.
Even more alarming, the business offers generic romances, mysteries, and “teen books” ready for customization and delivery. What are the “teen book” choices now?
- Black Lace - Paranormal Romance
- First Bite - Vampire Romance
- Night Wolf - Werewolf Suspense
- Prom & Prejudice - High School Fun
- Sea Spell - Fantasy Romance
As with the classics, the site asks customers to enter certain traits for each character—up to nineteen characteristics. To generate a preview requires only a handful of traits, such as name, gender, and hair color. Of course, this can be the result:
After a pause, Abelone said, "Whats with the third clue?"(Is that last line an editing error or a hint of something more erotic?)
Preservia re-read the clue and looked at the numbers.
"It just looks weird to me," Abelone told Preservia. "The number of words doesn't seem to fit."
The two pondered the list silently, playing absently with her light brown hair.
Even the generic novels aren’t what really bugs me about this site. No, that irksome detail is the site’s name: BooksbyYou.com. It says, “You co-author our personalized novels…” Those titles appear under categories like “Romance By You” and even “Classic Book By You.”
That suggests that the only thing involved in co-authoring a novel is to choose the name and superficial characteristics of the major characters. The characters’ personalities and desires, the plot, the voice, the setting, even the copyediting—those are someone else’s responsibilities.