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War and Nookd — eBook Regex Gone Haywire 185

Posted by Soulskill
from the thinking-things-through dept.
PerlJedi tips a story that highlights one of the downsides to ebooks. A blogger who recently read Tolstoy's War and Peace on his Nook stumbled upon some odd phases, such as: "It was as if a light had been Nookd in a carved and painted lantern..." After seeing the word 'Nookd' a few more times, he found a dead-tree version of the book and discovered that the word was supposed to be 'kindled.' Every instance of the word 'kindle' in the ebook had been replaced with 'Nook.' "The Superior Formatting Publishing version isn’t a Barnes and Noble book, so this isn’t the work of a rogue Nook marketer from B&N. Rather, it’s likely that Superior Formatting Publishing ported its Kindle version of War and Peace over to the Nook — doing a search and replace to make sure that any Kindle references they’d inserted, such as in the advertising at the end of the book about their fine Kindle products, were simply changed to Nook. 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."
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War and Nookd — eBook Regex Gone Haywire

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  • by MetalliQaZ (539913) on Friday June 01, 2012 @02:31PM (#40183003)

    Such an amazing set of tools such as diff and grep would probably amaze them.

  • by Thud457 (234763) on Friday June 01, 2012 @02:32PM (#40183017) Homepage Journal
    "I accidentally Western Literature, is that bad?"

    It's not just intentional malice you need to look out for but also just pure distilled stupidity.
  • by LighterShadeOfBlack (1011407) on Friday June 01, 2012 @02:32PM (#40183031) Homepage

    'eBook Regex Gone Haywire'

    This is a straight-forward substring replace, not a regular expression. A not-completely-stupid regex would at least have only converted \bKindle\b, although obviously even then human oversight would be necessary.

  • by i kan reed (749298) on Friday June 01, 2012 @02:32PM (#40183037) Homepage Journal

    Diff is the kind of thing that MOST PROFESSIONALS would benefit from.

    Imagine diffing laws from year to year.

  • Amusing, but... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 01, 2012 @02:34PM (#40183065)

    So, this story is definitely an amusing anecdote, but I feel like TFA has the wrong takeaway. The fact is, while this specific issue is obviously e-book related, the overall problem of poor quality, low cost public domain publications is in no way specific to e-books. There have always been low budget publishing houses that print poorly edited, poorly translated versions of public domain works. Spend some time digging around used book sales, you'll find an endless supply of these, most notably from the 60's and 70's.

  • by careysub (976506) on Friday June 01, 2012 @02:40PM (#40183143)

    Unless it is in Russian. Any translation runs the risk of not being "as the author intended".

  • Re:Amusing, but... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ColdWetDog (752185) on Friday June 01, 2012 @02:40PM (#40183147) Homepage

    So, this story is definitely an amusing anecdote, but I feel like TFA has the wrong takeaway. The fact is, while this specific issue is obviously e-book related, the overall problem of poor quality, low cost public domain publications is in no way specific to e-books. There have always been low budget publishing houses that print poorly edited, poorly translated versions of public domain works. Spend some time digging around used book sales, you'll find an endless supply of these, most notably from the 60's and 70's.

    No, the sad part is full price books from Amazon with incoherent pagination, horribly over recompressed jpegs and a verdant sea of spelling errors. I'd give Project Gutenberg a pass for those sorts of things except that the majority of PG books I've read are actually pretty well done.

    When I'm paying top dollar for a product, I'd like some attempt at quality control....

  • by Genda (560240) <mariet&got,net> on Friday June 01, 2012 @02:41PM (#40183165) Journal

    Part of the problem is the grotesque need to put advertisement inside everything we do, because sweet Jebus help me if we can't find some way to squeeze another penny of profit off a dead author's moldering corpse. Sadly, this problem isn't going away any time soon. How about this, separate the "Work of Art" from the annoying bits. Literally have them be distinct and separate objects. Leave the art alone. Do not touch it. Keep your grubby mitts off my masterpiece you heathen. Dork with your part as much as you like... it is after all your part. This is about sloppy data management and publishers need to begin to understand the nature of data. That is, if they intend to sell books in an electronic format. All you publishers, please have a brief but productive conversation with a few software and IT folk about how you manage data integrity, and ensure your product doesn't A) Get stepped on by stupid stuff B) Get corrupted by lack of proper data safeguards.

    The rest as they say, is business as usual... please proceed, nothing to see here.

  • Re:Amusing, but... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by h4rr4r (612664) on Friday June 01, 2012 @02:53PM (#40183341)

    I find when paying top dollar is when you are least likely to get quality control. Look at really expensive software as a great example, I have never seen any costing 6 figures or more that was not a huge pain and did not fail to do its job on a regular basis.

  • by AKabral (1056068) on Friday June 01, 2012 @03:23PM (#40183851)
    Accidentally replacing nookd with kindled (or verse visa) is hilarious.

    But...

    When you intentionally mar a national treasure due to current political correctness:
    http://news.slashdot.org/story/11/01/06/1555251/the-continued-censorship-of-huckleberry-finn/ [slashdot.org] - where they searched and replaced "ni99a" with "slave" from Huckleberry Finn...

    Well that's just arrogant (demonstrates a belief in the superiority of current social mores over historical realities) spineless (so our genteel sexting children don't have to face the fact that some Americans enslaved and legislated the inferiority of a whole race) and impoverishing (robs people of the opportunity for a real authentic discussion of the troubled history of race in this country).

  • by DavidTC (10147) <`moc.xobreven' ` ... .vidavsxd54sals'> on Friday June 01, 2012 @03:52PM (#40184453) Homepage

    Setting aside the idea of whether or not the word should be replaced at all, replacing it with 'slave' is deeply stupid.

    I understand how that word can make the book hard to read, and if people want to release altered versions, whatever...but the word to substitute in is 'Negro' or 'colored', not 'slave'. 'Nigger' isn't about Jim's state of enslavement, it's about his skin-color. He will still be called that slur whether or not he is free, he will always be seen as 'other' and 'not part of society', not because of his enslavement status, but because of his pigmentation

    Glossing over that is revisionist history of the worse kind, leading to a total screwed up lesson that, hey, Jim is now free, thus not a slave, and hence all those people who were so concerned about him being a nigger^Wslave will be entirely happy now, and Jim's entire life will be fluffy bunnies from now on and he'll be invited to their dinner parties.

    I don't know how Mark Twain would feel about his text being altered, I suspect that he'd be happy that racial slurs are no longer accepted, and could conceivable be okay with changing the text so that people continued to read it...but I suspect he'd be rather annoyed at the new text conflating racial prejudice with slavery. (And, thus, sans slavery, everything is fine.)

  • by BattleApple (956701) on Friday June 01, 2012 @04:34PM (#40185357)

    A while back, I reverted an edit to the Black & Decker article. Apparently, someone was offended by the name of the company.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Black_%26_Decker&diff=prev&oldid=353835547 [wikipedia.org]

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