War and Nookd – And quick thoughts on dynamic electronic text

A funny but disconcerting look into the fluidity of ebook text:

The Nook version of War and Peace had changed every instance of “kindle” or “kindled” into “Nook” and “Nookd,” not just on Philip’s copy, but on ours too.

This was just a publication oversight (dare I say laziness?), and a change such as this is easily picked up in the course of reading the text itself. But because it’s easy to change text slightly in ways that aren’t detectable until it’s too late, I find it a touch disconcerting:

The unwitting hilarity of a publisher doing a “find and replace” and accidentally changing the text of a canonical work of Western thought is alarming. Many versions of e-books are from similar outfits, that distribute public domain works formatted for Kindle or Nook at the lowest possible prices. The great democratizing factor of the ebook formats – that anyone can easily distribute – can also mean that readers can never be quite sure that they are viewing the texts as the author intended.

Perhaps it’s my SF writing brain kicking in, but what about an ebook that is free but has targeted advertising inserted in the text? Say, whenever a smart phone is referenced in the text it is replaced with ‘iPhone’ if you are reading on an iPhone, or ‘Windows phone’ if you are reading on a Windows phone? This is trivial to accomplish, and kind of cool…sort of… It’s not as cool if text is subtly changed to promote a particular ideology, though.

Just a thought.

Read it all here: http://futureoftheinternet.org/war-and-nookd

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