I’ve wanted an e-book reader since the first time I heard of the concept, but I didn’t break down and get one until my birthday last fall when I decided to go with a Kindle. The reasons I waited so long are mostly financial, but the Orwell incident made me a bit skittish about it:
Amazon set off an online uproar when, in response to the discovery that it was vending unlicensed literary content, it summarily deleted copies of works by George Orwell from the Kindles of some users. Now, as part of the settlement from a lawsuit that ensued, the company has publicly clarified the policy that will govern any future deletions.
I also have a lot of trouble with the ‘e-reader concept’ that the incident highlights so well. You don’t actually own the book, you own a license to view the book that is subject to the whims of the company you got the book from. Not to mention that most major e-readers have their own special format that can’t be read anywhere else.
I finally broke down and got the Kindle because the benefits finally got better than the drawbacks. E-readers have been around long enough to work out most of the design flaws, and they’ve come down in price. Not to mention that lots of enterprising people have found ways around the digital rights management techniques that the major players use. (Of course I haven’t taken advantage of that, I just like to know it’s there if I want too.)
But the latest e-reader news is the most spectacularly funny failure I’ve seen in a long time. From trolling through the Kindle store it seems pretty common for some publishers to grab the classics that are older and out of copyright and format them to sell cheap. Turns out one company did this with War and Peace. They apparently took their Kindle version and reformatted it for use on the Nook. As part of the process they used my favorite Word feature and did a search on ‘kindle’ and automatically replaced it with ‘Nook’.
Apparently the intern assigned to do the conversion let the software do all the work and forgot that kindle was a legitimate word long before it was dragged into the Amazon brand. So you end up with quotes like:
It was as if a light had been Nookd in a carved and painted lantern….
And then they put it out for sale.
That certainly puts an exclamation point on a lot of people’s concerns with e-books. When they’re that easy to change you can never be sure if you’re reading what the author wanted you to read. That’s a concern with new editions of any book paper or otherwise, but the easier it is to change the more likely changes are.
At the moment I’m more inclined toward the opposite view. With the ease of distribution of e-books it should be much easier to find the correct version. Though I can see a future where there is so much ‘drift’ that it will be tough to figure out what is correct. This line of thinking does make me wonder if ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ will someday be considered canon will Jane Austen ends up as an imitator, or lost altogether.
It’s certainly a great big FAIL as projects go, but I do have to wonder how many downloads they’ve sold to curiousity seekers and press since the news went out.