Tuesday, September 27th, 2011
15

Neal Stephenson E-Book Yanked from Amazon!

William Morrow/HarperCollins has pulled Neal Stephenson's brand-new book, Reamde, off Amazon after, one would guess, getting tired of hearing about just how many errors there are in the e-book production. (It's not clean.) Now the e-book version is no longer visible at all to U.S. visitors to Amazon, and appears as "unavailable in the U.S." to mobile viewers. (This was first noticed late last night by Macworld editorial director Jason Snell.) Reamde is #36 in books overall on Amazon this morning, so removal of the e-book, even temporarily, is a serious financial choice. (The Kindle version was #6 on the Amazon scifi list, while the print/audio was at #4.) This being a Neal Stephenson book, the criticisms of the e-book errors were not outraged all-caps freakouts but mild and literate complaints left on the Amazon page.

Ha, it is probably not an arcane puzzle, but yeah I wouldn't rule that out entirely either. Also? There's no reason a clean PDF file can't be made in this day and age… unless you're making people do two jobs, or you never expanded the production department when digital became big, or if you have a bunch of harried kids doing the work of their bosses with no supervision.

Anyway, we look forward to a fresh copy! The book is really good so far. I'm only 16% of the way through. (That's page 160, or "Location 3672 of 22930," in the astoundingly dumb Kindle parlance.)

Disclosure: I wrote my HarperCollins editor an email this morning that said "How about that Neal Stephenson book!" and didn't hear back.

15 Comments / Post A Comment

dntsqzthchrmn (#2,893)

Two jobs — try five. But the news is there may yet be bonuses this year, so I'm guessing here comes job six?

@dntsqzthchrmn :(

NFK (#8,747)

Maybe temp workers suffering from heat exhaustion were put in charge of the pdf conversion?

amuselouche (#448)

Vaguely related – last night I ran across my new favorite Amazon review on the (non-kindle) page for Paradise Lost. "Good book, terrible spelling." (Two stars)

Kindle locations are So Much Better than pages. They actually are tied to how many words I have read, as opposed to pages, which are an arbitrary number of words depending on page size and font size and all that. Stupid pages.

@Andy Schultz@facebook Oh, hmm, maybe I should try and accomodate them? I just see this big number and I'm always like WHAT, WHAT, WHY, OH GOD. And it freaks me out!

But yeah "pages" are now imaginary. I'm scared of this brave new world.

Also I am REALLY sick of garbagey-produced ebooks. :(

johnpseudonym (#1,452)

In India, they would call this unclean book "an untouchable."

MaggieL (#3,424)

There are people who know how to convert books into kindle format, and there are copyeditors, but those are never the same people and the digital people are so new and so overworked and there's no budget for them to hire copyeditors. Those in charge think "Why would we need to copyedit it again in a new format? It's been copyedited and proofread a bunch of times for the book!" Because I imagine what's happening is that this line:

Ebooks are compli-
cated.

Has been converted and reflowed to

Ebooks are compli-cated.

Pants (#10,516)

@MaggieL Pre-cisely! Also, there tend to be organizational backups that lead to this process getting rushed, on top of that.

skahammer (#587)

I never cease to be amused by the mass-market commodity purchases which people describe themselves as paying "top dollar" for.

I wonder if this would make an interesting list, compiled via the Google or some other similarly-facile means.

riotnrrd (#840)

@skahammer I would claim paying effectively the hardback price for the "you have no rights" rental of a book is "top dollar." It is also paying "stupid dollar."

KenWheaton (#401)

Don't even get me started on the free edition of Mark Twain's "Life on the Mississippi" for my Nook! Why, it looks like someone just scanned it through an OCR program or something!

Though I do find it sad that an author as big as Stephenson — who writes so much about digital thingamabobs — has a publisher (or whatever handles ebooks) that would be so careless with this stuff.

frontsidebus (#5,387)

@KenWheaton Especially considering he wrote a book length essay back in the day about computer OS with long sections on the form and function of various types of text editors

Ref your comment: "(That's page 160, or "Location 3672 of 22930," in the astoundingly dumb Kindle parlance.)"

There isn't really a hard and fast thing called a "PAGE" in an epub document. epub isn't the same as PDF. It isn't a one time formatted "PAGE". It is a "re-flowable" layout (like html) which conforms differently to the device and font size choices on the viewer. If you change your font size or use a different shaped reader, your "page" number will of course have to change. They use of a position marker enables synchronization so you can keep a bookmark, current position reference, and margin notes or whatever across different devices with different display capabilities.

skahammer (#587)

@Andrew Pollack@facebook I think Choire's beef might be with the terminology itself. "Position" is kind of a squishy, low-information word for such a compact, precise concept. I don't have any brilliant ideas for a substitute term at the moment, but I'll bet improvement is still possible here.

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