The following is an excerpt from "This Is Improbable" [Oneworld, $15.95]:
Philip M. Parker is the world’s fastest book author, and given that he had been at it for only five years or so when I contacted him in 2008, and already had more than 85,000 books to his name, he is likely the
most prolific, as well as the most titled.
Parker is also the most wide-ranging of authors – the phrase ‘shoes and ships and sealing wax, cabbages and kings’ is not half a percent of it. Nor are these particular subjects foreign to him. He has authored some 188 books related to shoes, ten about ships, 219 books about wax, six about sour red cabbage pickles, and six about royal jelly supplements.
To begin somewhere, let’s note that Parker is the author of the book "The 2007–2012 Outlook for Bathroom Toilet Brushes and Holders in the United States," which is 677 pages long, sells for £250/$495, and is described by the publisher as a "study [that] covers the latent demand outlook for bathroom toilet brushes and holders across the states and cities of the United States." (A later edition, covering 2009–2014, retails for £495/$795. Further Parkerian volumes and updated pricing can be expected to appear automatically in the years, decades, and centuries beyond.)
Here’s a minuscule (compared to the entire, ever-growing list) sampling of Philip M. Parker titles:
"The 2007–2012 World Outlook for Rotary Pumps with Designed"
"Pressure of 100 P.s.i. or Less and Designed Capacity of 10 G.p.m. or Less"
"Avocados: A Medical Dictionary, Bibliography, and Annotated Research Guide"
"Webster’s English to Romanian Crossword Puzzles: Level 2"
"The 2007–2012 Outlook for Golf Bags in India"
"The 2007–2012 Outlook for Chinese Prawn Crackers in Japan"
"The 2002 Official Patient’s Sourcebook on Cataract Surgery"
"The 2007 Report on Wood Toilet Seats: World Market Segmentation by City"
"The 2007–2012 Outlook for Frozen Asparagus in India"
Parker is a professor of management science at INSEAD, the international business school based in Fontainebleau, France. Professor Parker is no dilettante. When he turns to a new subject, he seizes and shakes it till several books, or several hundred, emerge. About the outlook for bathroom toilet brushes and holder, Parker has authored at least six books. There is his "The 2007–2012 Outlook for Bathroom Toilet Brushes and Holders in Japan," and also "The 2007–2012 Outlook for Bathroom Toilet Brushes and Holders in Greater China," and also "The 2007–2012 Outlook for Bathroom Toilet Brushes and Holders in India," and also "The 2007 Report on Bathroom Toilet Brushes and Holders: World Market Segmentation by City."
When I first encountered Parker’s output, Amazon.com offered 85,761 books authored by him. Parker himself said the total was well over 200,000. The number was then and is (even as you read these words, whenever you read them, possibly even if Professor Parker has been gone for decades or centuries) probably still on the rise.
How is this all possible? How does one man do so much? And why?
Parker created the secret to his own success. He invented what he calls a "method and apparatus for automated authoring and marketing" – a machine that writes books. He says it takes about twenty minutes to write one.
Turn to page 16 of his patent, and you will see him answer the question, "And why?"
Parker quotes a 1999 complaint, waged by The Economist magazine, that publishing "has continued essentially unchanged since Gutenberg. Letters are still written, books bound, newspapers mostly printed and distributed much as they ever were."
"Therefore," says Parker, "there is a need for a method and apparatus for authoring, marketing, and/or distributing title materials automatically by a computer." He explains that "Further, there is a need for an automated system that eliminates or substantially reduces the costs associated with human labor, such as authors, editors, graphic artists,
data analysts, translators, distributors, and marketing personnel."
The book-writing machine works simply, at least in principle. First, one feeds it a recipe for writing a particular genre of book – a tome about crossword puzzles, say, or a market outlook for products, or maybe a patient’s guide to medical maladies. Then hook the computer up to a big database full of info about crossword puzzles or market information or maladies. The computer uses the recipe to select data from the database and write and format it into book form.
Nothing but the title need actually exist until somebody places an order – typically via an online, automated bookseller. At that point, a computer assembles the book’s content and prints up a single copy. Among Parker’s one hundred best-selling books (as ranked by Amazon) one finds surprises. His fifth-best seller in 2008 was Webster’s Albanian to English Crossword Puzzles: Level 1. Bestseller No. 21: "The 2007 Import and Export Market for Seaweeds and Other Algae in France." No. 66 is the aforementioned "The 2007–2012 Outlook for Chinese Prawn Crackers in Japan." And rounding out the list, at No. 100, is "The 2007–2012 Outlook for Edible Tallow and Stearin Made in Slaughtering Plants in Greater China."
Parker appears also to be enthusiastic about books authored the old-fashioned way. He has already written five of them.