Great Moments in Literary Criticism [Citation Needed]

Citation Needed from Annotated Persuasion ebook

Though I’ve always appreciated Jane Austen’s wit, I was surprised to hear Mr. A.M.B. chuckle only moments after he’d opened an e-book version of Persuasion. This is my husband’s third Austen, after Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, both of which he thought were funny and insightful (and who says Jane Austen is only for girls who want a boyfriend?!).* As it turns out, though, his laughter had nothing to do with the text: it stemmed from an amusing citation in the introduction (see the image above). “Another great moment in literary criticism. I suppose I prefer candor to citogenesis,” he explained, knowing that he can’t really expect perfection from a 99 cent e-book.

However, the leftover “citation needed” wasn’t as odd as the fact that the e-book was attributed to only Jane Austen. She definitely didn’t write that intro! To find out who did, we turned to Google.

What we learned is that this exact line (see image above) actually appears on the Internet in a few places, including on Wikipedia (see image below). My guess is that the people behind e-book lifted the entire introduction section from Wikipedia, right down to the amusing “citation needed.” It seems to be just another example of Internet-fueled plagiarism and copyright violations (here’s Wikipedia’s page on whether you can lift their content).**

Copied from Wikipedia Persuasion Entry

Amusingly, this e-book version is even described on Amazon as being “unique” because it has an “exclusive Introduction.”

amusing descriptionSo, Mr. A.M.B. paid 99 cents on Amazon for the Wikipedia page added onto Jane Austen’s out-of-copyright work (which he could’ve otherwise downloaded for free). Inexpensive e-books are great, but consumers have to be careful. It was suspicious that e-book was marketed as “annotated” without clearly listing who annotated it.

It’s easy to get sucked into a scam when it only costs 99 cents.

Have a great weekend!

*For Mr. A.M.B’s thoughts on these two novels, see (1)  Jane Austen Isn’t Just for Mothers and Daughters (So Says My Husband); and (2) More Reasons Why Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice Isn’t Just For Girls Who Want a Boyfriend.

**Even Jane Goodall has been accused of lifting content from Wikipedia.



  1. Seriously?!?! They charged you 99 cents for a bunk annotated version? That sucks, but it DID lead to some hilarity, and I think the whole “citation needed” debacle was probably worth the cost.

  2. It would be much funnier if they weren’t charging for it. If he does want to try again, I’ve heard really good things about the Morrison annotated edition!

    1. Yeah, they really shouldn’t have been charging for it and advertising it as “exclusive.” He ended up finishing Persuasion–the rest of the book seemed okay (I spot checked the text against other editions)–but thanks for the recommendation!

    1. It’s a little of both! It would’ve been really funny if they had completed citogenesis by citing Wikipedia at the end of that sentence.

  3. How funny (or not so funny when you really think about it)! I admit to wondering about book sales like that, and why anyone would pay when you can get the book for free legally. I guess the “annotated” version might be a major factor–but definitely something to watch for.

    1. Yeah, it was the “exclusive” intro that got him. We just have to be careful with inexpensive e-books. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Strangely I’m not a Jane Austin fan, although she lived in my home city for a couple of years. I never have managed to get into historical fiction either, even though I love history. Odd eh?

    1. That’s interesting. Jane Austen definitely isn’t for everyone, but I wonder if your view of her work has been affected by your surroundings. For example, my husband has always had an aversion to Faulkner because everyone else in his home state was just too crazy about him. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. I always use OpenLibrary for classic ebooks — many choices and all free. Haven’t seen any examples of citogenesis there! (although I have seen some… interesting… scan quality)

    1. Yeah, it’s pretty funny. It would’ve been even funnier if the intro had completed citogenesis by citing the Wikipedia article that also needed a cite! I’ve generally had pretty good luck with e-book classics, but it can be risky. The paper copy is probably less likely to have these kinds of issues, though traditional publishing isn’t immune to citogenesis, plagiarism, and copyright infringement (as the Jane Goodall example shows us). Thanks for stopping by!

  6. If there’s a useful Wikipedia page about a book, I actually think that’s a great idea to link an e-book up to it! Doing it by stealing the text without permission or attribution though? Not so great.

    1. To me, it’s even worse that they marketed the introduction as being “exclusive” while charging consumers 99 cents for content available for free online. If they had cited Wikipedia for the content (which needed a citation in both places), then they would’ve completed “citogenesis”! That would’ve been kind of funny.

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