Updated on 04.24.09

The Simple Dollar Weekly Roundup: Amazon Oddities Edition

Trent Hamm

Several people have asked me about two things that have popped up on Amazon with me as an author, so I thought I’d mention them both here.

One is a “paperback” version of 31 Days to Fix Your Finances. Someone (I do not know who) downloaded the files that I give away for free, packaged them as a paperback through CreateSpace, and is selling them for $10.95 a pop. I don’t earn a penny from this, but I’m not wholeheartedly opposed to it, either, as it’s part of the equation when you write a lot of content and distribute it freely.

The other is more interesting. 1001 Ways to Make Money If You Dare is a fairly humorous book that I contributed a foreword to and helped edit a bit – I didn’t write it, though Amazon lists me as an author, but I’m mentioned on the cover as an editor. It’s intended to be a fun book – there are a lot of good ideas in there, but there are quite a few put in there for humor’s sake, too. It’s a good book for brainstorming ideas if you’re trying to earn a few dollars in your spare time, done with a very light tone. This is not my aforementioned second book – that’s still a work in progress, and I think most of you will find it quite compelling.

That being said, here are some interesting personal finance links.

A Guide to Beating the Fears That Are Holding You Back The biggest reason people are afraid to make real, lasting changes in their life is fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of change, fear of losing something. Quite often, all those fears do is hold you back. (@ zen habits)

I Have No Need or Desire to Be Wealthy I completely, totally agree with this sentiment. I don’t want to be wealthy. If I was suddenly given hundreds of millions of dollars, I’d focus on giving most of it away to charities. (@ my two dollars)

How to Save Money at Baseball Games I was actually about to write an article something like this one, since my family and I are likely to go to a few baseball games this summer. (@ lazy man and money)

33 Ways to Thwart Identity Theft Many of these techniques have other benefits beyond merely protecting you from identity theft. They can reduce your junk mail load, for one. (@ man vs. debt)

Are You an Over-Buyer or an Under-Buyer? What’s strange is that frugality is usually associated with under-buying, but I see elements of over-buying, too. Bulk buying is a great frugal strategy, after all. (@ happiness project)

If you live near a BJ’s Warehouse, here’s a 60 day free membership. This is a great way to find out if your local warehouse club is worthwhile.

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  1. I saw 1001 Ways to Make Money at my local Barnes & Noble last weekend. Definitely entertaining. :)

  2. ADW says:

    when you click on the picture of the 31 days book at amazon and then go to the next page it brings up the copyright info for Leon H Rowntree III with the usual cannot reproduce content etc. So he took your content freely, but now wants to copyright it for himself. next he will be claiming you took his info for your website!!!! I think you should leave a comment on Amazon explaining the content is aavilable free at your site. or if you don’t want to maybe the trent army of readers can……

  3. chris says:

    Trent- did you look at the amazon preview for ’31 Days to Fix Your Finances’?

    On the inside cover:

    “Copyright 2009 by Leon H Roundtree III
    All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission from the author.”

    I don’t know about you– but I’d feel violated.

  4. michael says:

    Even though you distribute stuff for free, you should absolutely put a stop to someone else selling YOUR content…and you should fight for whatever earnings they’ve made off your stuff. Even if you don’t agree that it should be made for profit, donate whatever money it is to charity.


  5. You aren’t totally against someone profiting off of your work? I don’t understand why you wouldn’t be. I am beginning to think you are far too passive. Could you please explain why you aren’t raging on the inside about someone using your hard work, creativity, name and readership in order to put money into their own pocket. They don’t deserve to be making money from your work. You shouldn’t just roll over and let this happen. If it were me, I’d be very angry.

  6. 1001 ways to make money? The title sound interesting enough. Hopefully they are legal means!

  7. I agree with not wanting to be wealthy – what is the point? You just end up trying to find expensive things to spend your money on, or even worse just hoarding it. Very sad! I would like a bit more money than I have now though :)


  8. imelda says:

    I’m with Steven. I am OUTRAGED at the principle of someone plagiarizing your work and profiting from it. You can’t just accept this, Trent. As a writer by profession you should understand the dangers and the *wrongness* of letting a plagiarizer blithely continue with their crimes. What that person has done is theft, plain and simple. You ought to contact Amazon and let them know what has happened. Right now, I am going to amazon myself to leave a review on that product to say effectively the same thing.

  9. Johanna says:

    The copyright page of the 31 days book lists the copyright holder as Leon H. Rountree III, an attorney in Oakland, California, who works in (among other things) bankruptcy law. I’m not sure why he’s interested in helping people fix their finances. Maybe he’s hedging his bets. :)

    @Steven: When you release your work into the public domain (as Trent has) and explicitly state that people are free to redistribute it as they see fit (as Trent also has), I don’t see how you can get mad when people actually take you up on that. It’s not like Mr. Rountree is presenting Trent’s work as his own – he lists Trent as the author and includes the Simple Dollar website address. There are already a couple of reviews that mention that the same information is available for free on the website. If Mr. Rountree can nevertheless get people to pay money for the book, I say good for him.

  10. Amy says:

    Trent, I’m not an expert, but I strongly believe that you should issue a cease and desist letter to the person who packaged your book, and/or to Amazon. If I understand correctly, if you don’t protect your copyright, you lose the right to do so later. That means a huge commercial publisher could say “hey! WE can print and sell that book”! And they could make a lot of money, of which you wouldn’t see a dime.

    You don’t have to go after monetary damages — just assert your right as the copyholder to at least keep anyone else from making money from it.

    Completely up to you, of course! But your post just raised red flags all over the place for me! ;-)

  11. DebtGoal says:

    How to Save Money at Baseball Games is excellent. Much of our readership cares about the frugality tips likes those presented in it.

  12. Mister E says:

    @Amy #4

    If I’m not mistaken I believe Trent has freely renounced his copyrights to all his work posted here. There’s nothing to defend. Scroll all the way down and click the link that says “Read this for more information”.

    If I AM mistaken I’m sure someone will correct me.

  13. Gibson says:

    I’m afraid I have to agree with the posts above. You should be concerned when someone else tries to make money off of your work. If they were giving it away, fine. Redirecting to your site, fine. Even binding it and selling it at cost, fine. But someone is trying to make money off of you. If there is a demand (AND THERE MIGHT BE!!!) for your work in print, I think you should explore that.

    Check out Wil Wheaton’s site: http://wilwheaton.typepad.com/

    He’s written a few books, but has recently reformatted and annotated many of his blog posts into a new format and is selling them to people who want nice, shelf-ready hard copies. Sunken Treasure is his most recent one and I think you would benefit from his insights into making a living as a writer and a self-publisher. You could find a totally new source of income with a high work/reward ratio. Wil is making a living and raising a family this way.

    Follow the links back to learn the whole story, but Trent, it’s obvious there is demand for your work, you should profit from it, not anyone else.

  14. Joseph Tanner says:

    Right, once it’s in the public domain, you can’t reel it back in. You can make changes to the content though, then copyright that new work. So someone taking content from his site that’s in the public domain, and packaging it up all nice and pretty to sell commercially, is just fine. Trent can take this content, make some changes and tidy it up for a book, and the book could be copyrighted. If anyone tries to take the content in that book and pass it off as their own, now they’re in trouble.

  15. Lisa W. says:

    Love the tips on saving money at ballgames. I frequently bring food or snacks in to the games at U.S. Cellular in Chicago.

  16. Kevin says:

    I have a couple of problems with the “I have no need to be wealthy” article on MyTwoDollars. For example, it says:

    “My parents showed me one very important thing through my childhood, and that is that you do not need to be rich in order to have a full and happy life.”

    That’s because in your childhood, they were young and healthy enough to work. So sure, I’ll agree that as long as you’re young and healthy, you don’t need to be rich to have a full and happy life.

    But if you’re old or sick and incapable of earning an income, what then?

    “[My grandfather] retired with his pension to a comfortable life with my grandmother. They had a regular house, in a regular neighborhood, and drove late-model American cars. They had no desire to be rich. ”

    If your grandparents had sufficient pension income to allow them to live in a safe (“regular”) neighborhood, in a decent-sized (“regular”) house, and drive relatively new cars all the time, then they WERE RICH. You have to include a pension’s equivalent cash value when evaluating someone’s net worth. And if someone’s receiving a pension sufficient to allow them to live like your grandparents did, then that pension would have a cash value in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, at least. In what world is that NOT considered “rich?”

    “I honestly have no need to be wealthy in my life. Comfortable? Yes, absolutely.”

    But that’s just it – in order to be “comfortable” without being gainfully employed, you need a critical mass of invested assets that would be considered “wealthy” by any sane definition of the word. For example, say you’re happily plugging along your life, earning $40,000/year. Then you decide to retire. How much do you need to have saved up in order to continue to live “comfortably” with the same income of $40,000? The answer is $1 million. Whether that income is coming from investment assets, or a pension, or social security, or a combination of the 3, it doesn’t matter. They’d have an equivalent cash value of $1 million. I’m confident the vast, vast majority of people would consider that “rich.”

    I think either the author doesn’t understand how investment income works, or he has an unusual definition of “rich.”

  17. @ #6 & 7- I guess you are correct about the public domain, but I still feel it is a low-down thing for a person to do. I think that the idea Trent was getting at when releasing his writting into public domain is that it be used to expand his audience through printed papers and other websites/blogs. I’m sure when he was considering the release into public domain he didn’t say to himself “It is perfectly okay with me if someone bundles up my work and uses it to profit off of my good name, audience and readership.”

    Regardless of the public domain situation, if I were Trent, I would be upset. It is my creativity and my work being sold to make someone else a profit. If you have ever done creative work only to see it being used to the benefit of someone else, it stings. At least they are crediting his name and website…at least.

  18. Marsha says:

    Trent, please consult with an attorney who specializes in intellectual property about your position on copyrighting (or not) your work. I’m not trying to tell you what position you should take, but I just want you to make it fully informed of the legal consequences.

    I would hate to see the next Suze Orman emerge by stealing your material. You work very hard and are very earnest. I just don’t want people taking unfair advantage of you and your family.

    If you need help finding an IP lawyer in your area, please email me. I may be able to find someone.

  19. Michele says:

    Legal or not, I’d be quite perturbed if someone packaged my work and was making money on it. Ugh.

  20. Angie says:

    I know this is a SUPER touchy subject around these parts, but I do think it would be nice if Trent responded to some of the comments.

  21. Mister E says:

    @Steven #10

    Actually he does say pretty much that in his article on the release.

    Incidentally I’d be upset too, but in reading his article on the matter it’s pretty clear he’d thought it through and was prepared that a situation exactly like this could come up.

  22. 33 Ways to Thwart Identity Theft is probably one of the best blogsphere articles i’ve read on the subject, glad you picked up on it and posted it here.

  23. Jerry says:

    On the “31 days to fix your finances” web page, Trent explicitly states that while he is giving it away, others may NOT sell his work. That may not be an iron-clad contract, someone turning around and selling his writing is a slimy thing to do.

  24. michael says:

    Leon H. Roundtree III is apparently the creator of the paperback edition.

  25. michael says:

    oh, and he’s a lawyer in Cali. Hmm. Same guy?

  26. Brandon says:

    @Jerry, Steven, et. al.

    I really think Trent knew what he was doing when he released his works to the public domain. If not, tough ****, that is how it works. It is the same thing as me republishing a copy of a Jane Austen novel.

    I think Trent is smart enough to know that he could have used something like the Creative Commons license otherwise. He has no right to control distribution of his work now.

  27. Brandon says:

    @Jerry – It does not matter what the 31 days to fix your finances page says. The release of copyright after that supercedes it.

  28. Jimbo says:

    Angie – don’t you know Trent doesn’t have the time to respond. It’s his blog he can do whatever he likes. It’s not like other big blog writers such as JD and Leo participate in the comments. Oh wait…

  29. Jerry says:

    I understand that Trent’s work is in the public domain. My last comment line should read “That may not be an iron-clad contract, BUT someone turning around and selling his writing is a slimy thing to do.”
    Your comment is correct in the legal sense, but I hope you realize that you are implicitly condoning immoral behavior. ‘Technically legal’ is not the same thing as ethical, not by a long shot. Perhaps this is why lawyers’ reputations are somewhere between those of politicians and used car sales. (BTW, my nephew works at a law firm. I have nothing personal against lawyers.)

  30. Ethan says:


    Perhaps you should look into releasing your work under the Creative Commons license. I think you’d find it useful and fair.


  31. Kris says:

    @ Jerry,

    Look at 90% of the self help books out there and you will see they are nothing more than public knowledge you can find for free if you search for it. Most of the time, all the author did was re-package that info into a book. But hey, if someone is willing to pay that person for information they could have found freely. Since the author did the research and packaged it into a book so the reader wouldn’t have to, doesn’t he or she deserve to be compensated?

    Trent is not out any money as its info he gives freely and he has no right to it as he clearly expresses it can be re-used with this statement. “If you want to reuse an article from The Simple Dollar in your newspaper, newsletter, or anything else, go right ahead.”

    I don’t see where there is a legal or ethical problem here. I am sure Trent knew something like this would happen before he ever offered up his articles as free public domain.


  32. @ Brandon- I don’t think it would be the same thing as you reprinting and selling a Jane Austin novel because there is a limitation on the length of proprietary rights, and since Jane Austin wrote her work during the early 1800s, that time limit has far expired.

    It is unfortunate that this has taken place, and I still say that if it were me this was happening to, I’d be very upset.

  33. Rick says:

    To all those worrying about the “31 Days to Fix your Finances”, there’s something you missed. Many people don’t place such a huge emphasis on intellectual property. In fact, there are many who believe that intellectual property is not property at all. If you can make the claim that someone “stole” Trent’s work, it would be tough to back up that claim. Trent has suffered no physical loss. Nobody took anything from Trent. Nobody directly cost Trent any amount of money.

    This is the same argument that supporters of file-sharing use. If you have a physical CD, and I take that from your possession, I have stolen something from you. However, if you copy the CD and share it on the Internet, I can download it all I want. I am not taking anything from you. My actions do not cost you anything. In other words, intellectual property can not be compared to physical property in any way.

    I think that Trent understands this.

    A rock band does not make much money at all from selling CDs. The band makes the vast majority of its money doing tours, selling tickets to people who want to see them live.

    In the same way, Trent does not make much money (directly) by writing for the simple dollar (although ad revenue does play a part). I would be willing to guess that Trent makes the vast majority of his money through contract work. People see his writing skills online, and they want to hire him. A publisher has already hired him to write two books. And Trent has alluded many times to other writing projects people have hired him to work on.

    When people begin to understand this concept, the world will be a better place. A free flow of information is very beneficial to society. But when people fight for these imaginary intellectual property rights, this severely restricts the free flow of information, to the detriment of society.

  34. Rachel says:

    Hey Trent,

    Ingram, the big distributor most bookstores use, is listing “1001 Ways To Make Money” as by you, too. Just by the by.

  35. Rob says:

    “I Have No Need or Desire to Be Wealthy”

    Too late. “Wealthy” or “rich” tends to be defined on a sliding scale, usually a scale that’s always looking to the people that make more than you. Which eventually rules out anybody not on a Forbes short list from considering themselves “rich.” I think that’s a very narrow perspective. I prefer a broader perspective.

    I would consider a person to be wealthy when changes in income determine the level of comfort or luxury they can afford rather than what essentials they can afford. This definition classifies nearly all of the western world as wealthy. (This is especially true for bloggers.) Most westerners wonder how they will afford a particular square footage for their home rather than just a roof that won’t collapse. It seems to me that we have a very inflated sense of ‘wealthy’; and ‘comfortable’ for that matter.

    I have no problem with people being wealthy. I just think that most people, including the author of my two dollars, have more to be grateful for than they realize.

  36. IRG says:


    No, I don’t expect you would get angry or POd, although I can see why many would expect you to be.

    But…to take no action and just let someone in essence steal your work AND profit off it? That’s NOT what professionals do. Sorry, Trent. Everything we create is not for free. And you will, I predict, live to regret this decision to not take action. For a lot of the reasons mentioned here by others.

    You either don’t understand copyright laws, don’t care or don’t get how negatively this can affect your own business and marketability.

    You do a great disservice to yourself and other bloggers and writers by treating this situation– someone taking your work and repackaging it for sale– so lightly.

    Seriously. It makes no sense on your part. Passive? I think it’s way beyond passive on your part and makes me seriously begin to question your professional motivation as a writer.

    And your professionalism as a writer.

    You’re starting to come across like an “amateur” because no professional writer in their right mind allows people to steal their work for REUSE 1/ without their permission (giving a blanket permission on your site isn’t the same as giving a blanket permission to republish and sell elsewhere) and 2/for someone else’s personal profit.

    I think you, like many writers, just don’t like the messy parts of doing business as a writer.

    You need to ask yourself how you can just basically roll over and play dead.

    Giving away everything? For free, for anybody to do whatever? That’s just plain, well, unprofessional. (There are some other words that apply but it’s best to stick to the business aspects.)

    I’m very disappointed in your response and you are, quite frankly, why so many writers can’t get money for their work and why their work is devalued and stolen by others (big companies included.)

    Yea. Let’s just GIVE IT ALL AWAY. FREE FREE FREE. Not the way it works (unless you are making SOOO much money from your book that you think you can literally afford to give work away…Is this person who is selling your work a personal charity of yours? Cause that is how you are treating it.)

    If you didn’t have this blog and you were writing, trust me, that would not be your attitude.

    Trent, Trent, Trent, I am totally disheartened by your choice on this.


    You can’t possibly take making a living by writing seriously.


  37. I checked out a few of those links, some of them are very touching and have some very good information!

  38. tightwadfan says:

    When Trent released the copyright to his blog material, he took the risk of something like this happening, and he said he was aware of that. So he’s not “rolling over” on this, he’s accepting the consequences of his decision. In fact, I would lose respect for him if he started whining now and running off to a lawyer.

    It is incredibly slimy, even though in this case legal, to sell someone else’s work and I would never buy this book or anything else by whoever did this. I searched briefly for it to see if I could leave some kind of comment to let potential buyers know that this guy is ripping off someone else’s but I couldn’t find the book. Hopefully it won’t see the light of day or sell many copies.

  39. tightwadfan says:

    What I was wondering is did the guy who made the paperback credit Trent as the author or is he taking credit for the book?

  40. Kevin says:

    Why is everyone calling the book-seller “slimy?” Trent explicitely granted permission for this exact type of situation. Someone out there (let’s call him a capitalist) saw an opportunity, took a risk (invested time packaging and listing the book), and now stands to profit. This is capitalism in action.

    What makes him a “slimeball?” If someone puts their work out there and invites people to use it however they want, explicitely including profiting from it, is everyone supposed to just politely say “Gee, that’s very generous of you, but I couldn’t possibly take advantage of you like that.” If Trent really thought there was profit to be made in that work, then he’d have retained the copyright and sold the work himself. Instead, he in essence is saying “I doubt there’s any money to be made in this work, but you’re welcome to try.”

    I disagree that this is at all slimy.

  41. EngineerMom says:

    @Kevin –

    Actually, reading through Trent’s release of copyright, he isn’t saying “I doubt there’s any money to be made”. He’s saying “It’s more important to me for this information to get out there than it is that I get all the money made from such a distribution.”

    He DOES value his own work, but he values the distribution over change in his pocket. That’s not the same thing as saying there isn’t money to be made.

  42. John says:

    The point to all of this is that the actions of this cretin are not illegal. They are, however, worthy of all the scorn and disapprobation we can heap upon him.

    The free market allows this guy to attempt this. That is as it should be.

    It also allows us to peacefully try and influence others to limit his sucess.

    In the old days, it was called shaming.

    Now, Amazon and other sites offer us a handy way to do this. I have added my two cents in a review.

  43. Bill in Houston says:

    I like going to ball games, but it gets incredibly expensive. We used to get a burger, fries, and a beer each but that worked out to 30 bucks. Now we’ll eat on the way (sandwiches) to the ballpark and bring a snack in my wife’s purse.

    Since I’m in Houston there is no cheap transportation near the ballpark. They purposefully built the “new” stadium without a parking lot to give local businesses a nice little payback when they charge for parking. You pay between five and ten bucks and walk four blocks. Not too bad.

    We get tickets in the upper deck (12 bucks) or occasionally the outfield bleachers (7 bucks).

    If we’re smart we can see a ball game for $25 bucks including gas and parking. Going to major league games is an incredible ripoff, though. When in Austin we occasionally see the Astros’ AAA team, the Round Rock Express. Tickets there are 12 bucks for box seats, 7 bucks for the outfield bleachers (The Home Run Porch) and 6 bucks if you want to sit on the lawn. Parking is cheap, too.

    As for the person who downloaded Trent’s book and is selling it, that’s a theft of intellectual property. There IS money to be made here, but that’s not the point. Why should some sleazebag profit from your work. I’d be filing a “cease and desist” order immediately.

  44. Evita says:

    I am shocked!

    Trent, you turned around your life to become a professional writer and then you let someone person steal your work and sell it without any benefit to you?

    Don’t assume that the guy will not make much money out of it, why would he bother otherwise?

    Please have a little respect for your work! I do, I downloaded “31 days to fix your finances” when I came across your site, and gladly paid the little $2, it was so worth it.

    Don’t be one of those starving, struggling writers because of your distate for business matters!

  45. Laura says:

    I am so tired of poeple complaining about Trent commenting/not commenting that I could scream. Seriously does it have to be brought up in practically every comments section?

  46. EdTheRed says:

    Would a DMCA takedown notice with CreateSpace and Amazon work?

  47. Sharon says:

    Leon H Roundtree III is NOT a lawyer in California, Michael. I thought so, too, The lawyer is Leon H. Rountree III.

  48. Thanks to all the reckless spending in all the social programs by US Government, dollar will collapse in near future. No doubt about it. We should all be swimming in gold now to save our assets in future.

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