Outrigger Hotels and Resorts

Published on Monday, April 14, 2008

Lonely Planet plagiarism scandal

An AAP report says that popular guide book giant Lonely Planet has suffered a severe blow to its credibility, with one of its authors admitting to plagiarising and making up huge slabs of his books.

Thomas Kohnstamm, who worked on more than a dozen guide books for the publisher, has even admitted that he didn't visit one of the countries he wrote about, saying he worked on the book about Colombia from his US home.

"They didn't pay me enough to go (to) Colombia," News Ltd newspapers reported him saying.

"I wrote the book in San Francisco. I got the information from a chick I was dating - an intern in the Colombian Consulate.

"They don't pay enough for what they expect the authors to do."

He also claimed to have accepted free travel, breaking the publisher's policy aimed at maintaining the independence of its authors.

Mr Kohnstamm's confession is a severe blow to Lonely Planet, considered a bible to travellers all over the world.

More than six million of its country guides are sold each year.

Lonely Planet has conducted a review of all Mr Kohnstamm's guide books, but says it has failed to find any inaccuracies in them.

By: The Mole from AAP

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  • plagiarism: who, me?

    With all those guide books out there no plagiarism?  That's like saying with all those women no sex.   Of course, it is THE source for writing a guide book.  Why is this a scandal, the guy was just honest.  LP, what an oxymoron. You will not find me dead with an LP guide.

    By Hans Nix, Tuesday, September 10, 2013

  • It's not the first time

    I worked in an Info centre in the South Island when an LP writer appeared, took 2 hours of my time to check all the details on the South Island in the old guide book, then disappeared saying that was the SI completed and thanks very much. No new info, just were they still there and is the price still correct. Haven't bought an LP guide since.

    By penny, Wednesday, April 23, 2008

  • Regarding this stain

    I appreciate that Lonely Planet is trying to do something which, whether rightly or is, is an attack on their credibility.

    I can tell you the travel writing industry is outraged because this is also seen by many as a smear on our profession.

    Yeah, it seems like a dream job, but a lot of us take it seriously.

    The author may have been commissioned to write a piece that didn't require travel - and didn't he portray that in lovely terms with the references to the chick at the consulate - but that doesn't remove the impression the reader and book buying public has that authors visit places they write about.

    As for pay, LP may be an industry leader, but this year one of the golden names in travel books cut their pay in half.

    So, when others are making such drastic cuts it's not hard to be a leader.

    The fact is that many of the people now accepting contracts to write guidebooks are new and have no idea of the work involved, the time commitment and the actual costs.

    I was offered a contract by a big name publisher to write a guidebook to a city I practically grew up in.

    The pay was equal to what three magazine articles would pay.

    No thanks.

    I still think LP should just do the simple thing, apologize to readers who feel mislead and remove the book from distribution.

    It will be painful, but what is the cost to their reputation - and the reputations of the other contributors to this book - by keeping it out there as a reminder to book buyers.

    As a member of the writing community I, like my colleagues, are extremely concerned about what knee-jerk reactions this is going to bring about from the rest of the publishing industry.

    It is not just LP that have been hurt by this.

    By Allan Lynch, Tuesday, April 15, 2008

  • Answering some questions

    Hello there, I work in the Media team at Lonely Planet and wanted to answer the questions posed in this thread.

    We've posted some information about this here: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/about/thomas_kohnstamm.cfm

    The books that Kohnstamm contributed to (including Colombia) are currently undergoing an urgent and comprehensive review to check whether or not the content has been compromised if it has, we"ll fix it.

    Regarding Colombia, we would like to clarify that Kohnstamm was only contracted to do desk-based research on the History, Food and Drink, Environment and Culture chapters and not undertake in-destination reviews on attractions, accommodation, restaurants etc.

    He has a masters in Latin American studies and studied Colombian history as part of his education.

    Two other authors were commissioned to do on-the-ground research for the review section.

    On the comments about pay, Lonely Planet believes it is an industry leader in the fees and conditions it provides to authors, and our fees are very competitive when compared to other guidebook publishers and we now review fees annually.

    If you have any other questions or concerns I"m happy to help.


    By Aaron Lamb, Tuesday, April 15, 2008

  • Lonely Planet checked the facts?

    Please........ if Lonely Planet can't pay their writer's enough then, what makes Lonely Planet think that we would believe that Lonely Planet could check his facts so quickly?   None of these online services are a substitute for a certified travel agent connected to a good consortium of networked travel agents.

    By Andy Bailey, Monday, April 14, 2008

  • Plagiarism

    Plagiarism?  Isn't this report from The Mole the exact words that were published in the Sunday Telegraph I read yesterday - how about a rewrite to refresh AAP news as all other publications do?  [Bev - The Mole originates many articles, but also aggregates articles from a range of sources, to bring news to those who may not have had the time to read the Sunday Tele yesterday, or are also overseas or elsewhere in Australia  - that is what on line news is all about and, oh, we always credit the source.  Of course, Bev, The Mole could have rewritten it, "refreshed" it as you suggest and as others do, also not crediting AAP or anyone else, but we don't do that.......isn't that what plagiarism is all about! 

    We, I mean The Mole, with help of a few other contributors produce up to 25 news and features, many original but also many aggregated, formerly every day, now every other day.......not every week or every month, like traditional print publications!  That's between 75 and 100 articles or features every week of the year, about 300 a month...and 3,600 a year!!  Now that's pressure and real news journalism!  So sorry we will continue to do what we do!  The Mole

    By Bev Malzard Malzard, Monday, April 14, 2008

  • Withdraw this book

    I am a travel writer and been appalled, but not surprised, by this story. I am sickened by the ethics of this writer.   Sadly his confession seems designed to help sell his new book.  Unfortunately, this will probably enhance his career.  I find it disappointing when people are rewarded for deceptive behaviour.  But I am not surprised that this has happened because of the crap pay guidebook publishers offer.  In addition to rates of pay that work out to somewhere in the range of a dollar an hour, most guidebooks are not that inspiring; most are simply reduced a compendium of tedious details.  Many publishers now want you to write to a template that cuts you off after so many characters.  You don"t need a writer for this type of book, you need a complier. Perhaps what Lonely Planet means when they haven"t found fault with this writer"s work is that he got the street addresses and phone numbers right.  But isn"t the larger issue the covenant with the readers?  Readers expect guidebook writers to know the places they are writing about, that means having been there, not simply surfing websites.  If Lonely Planet wants to restore their reputation, they should withdraw this guidebook and any of this author"s other work.  Then they should start paying professional rates for professional work.  Why should a reader, who is perhaps taking the only holiday of their year, or the trip of their dreams, trust you, when the publisher is only concerned with hiring the cheapest supplier out there?  Not knowing a place and having never visited it, not only wastes the readers" time and money, it can put them in jeopardy by not warning them of local dangers or changes to the area.  It"s a shameful episode, and is going to be a costly wake-up call for the book publishing industry.  One that legitimate writers will welcome.

    By Allan Lynch, Monday, April 14, 2008

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