Nooks and crannies in eBooks

Lovely story which highlights one of the hidden affordances of eBooks:

Some weeks ago I decided that I wanted to read Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Lou Ann loaned me her copy. At more than 1100 pages, reading it in bed required as much strength as balancing a box of bricks in my hands. In my senior years I have developed arthritis in my thumbs, which made the effort not only difficult, but painful.

I had read about half of the novel when I was given the gift of a Nook, the e-reader from Barnes and Noble. Although I am committed to supporting my neighborhood independent book store (Books to be Red), and enjoying honest-to-goodness books, the .99 Nook edition was so lightweight that it has made reading War and Peace a genuine pleasure. For those of you who have not tackled this tome as yet, it is a page-turner.

As I was reading, I came across this sentence: “It was as if a light had been Nookd in a carved and painted lantern….” Thinking this was simply a glitch in the software, I ignored the intrusive word and continued reading. Some pages later I encountered the rogue word again. With my third encounter I decided to retrieve my hard cover book and find the original (well, the translated) text.

For the sentence above I discovered this genuine translation: “It was as if a light had been kindled in a carved and painted lantern….”

Someone at Barnes and Noble (a twenty year old employee? or maybe the CEO?) had substituted every incidence of “kindled” with “Nookd!”

I was shocked. Almost immediately I found it hilarious…then outrageous…then both. It is definitely clever. But it raises many questions. E-books can be manipulated at will by the purveyors of the downloadable software. Here is a classic work of fiction (some claim it is the greatest novel every written) used for a sophomoric and/or commercial prank. What else might be changed in an e-book? Fears of manipulation for economic, political, religious, or other ideological ends come to mind. It makes one wary of the integrity of any digital version of not only War and Peace…but any e-book.

Yep. Great blog post.

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