Wikipedia Ridiculous Apples to Oranges Comparison to Publishers on Systemic Bias

Wikipedia pats itself on the back for being better on addressing systematic bias than book publisher Taschen in a ridiculous comparison.

In Wikipedia is better equipped to deal with systemic bias than traditional publishers, Robert Fernandez accuses book publisher Taschen of systematic bias and exclaims Wikipedia is the better for being able to address it.

  • Wikipedia is a digital, online encyclopedia. It is easily and cheaply updated by unpaid volunteers.
  • Taschen publishes and sells physical books as a business. Those books are physical objects that cannot be updated except in a follow up reprint. Its editors know that an unprofitable book won’t ever see a reprint.

Before Taschen publishes a book, they determine if after costs of development and distribution that they will generate a profit of some kind. The end result also has a standard for high physical quality of each book, and they have to be popular with a large enough target audience to merit a printing. Those business reasons gatekeep all other decisions in the real world of publishing.

When Taschen was asked why so few women artists were represented in the series, their response was that of any company – ask the customer what they want to improve the series.  Sorry, that’s not ignorance. It is good customer service, especially since it is likely Taschen was treating the questions as coming from actual customers.

There could be systematic bias happening at Taschen after all business qualifications are taken into account. No actual evidence is given that this is actually happening at Taschen – just shallow and flawed logic and unmerited back patting.

One footnote to this comparison is that someone who wants a physical book buys a physical book. They buy the physical book for specific reasons. That could be to have beautiful printed images that don’t have to be viewed on a computer screen. It could also be because, from the customer’s viewpoint, the fixed media, plus unchanging and pre-qualified authorship of the work are preferable to an online, always updated community authored encyclopedia. Or just simply want to have both.


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