Sunday, November 8, 2009

Kindle and Version Control


One of the revolutionary things about publishing for the Kindle is that it is truly zero cost. Authors and publishers upload the text of books to be published as .html files, and Amazon does the rest.

As a result, correcting or updating the text of a Kindle book is as easy as editing an .html file and negotiating an upload window in your browser. There are no new books to print or old copies containing errata to destroy.

This became relevant to me because, as I mentioned in a post below, a reviewer on Amazon asked a pointed question about the title of De Bello Lemures that was not addressed in the text. As he no doubt noted, the title itself is not grammatically correct Latin: Lemures, as a plural noun, should not be used to modify Bello. The fun "noun adjunct" stuff you can do in English is not appropriate in Latin usage.

The truth is that I chose the title I did because I believed that a measurably higher number of people would be able to decipher De Bello Lemures as "Regarding the War of the Ghosts" than would have found a more grammatically appropriate title accessible. Of course, I should have considered that the very readers most able to do that would also be the readers most likely to note an error in Latin grammar. At one point in an early draft, the Foreword included text justifying my title by claiming that it was an addition by a medieval copyist. After the Carolingian Renaissance dried up and blew away, Latin usage even by the most literate churchmen became progressively more abominable as conditions across Europe worsened, so this explanation of my preferred title was certainly plausible, and fit nicely into the entire "palimpsest" narrative. Unfortunately, I cut this explanatory material from the Foreword, along with other material, in order to scale the Foreword down and keep it proportinate to the main body of the text...and naturally the very first reviewer called me out on it.

But thanks to the Kindle, I can correct this omission. I have added the explanation back into the Foreword as a brief footnote. Since I was changing the text anyway, I took the opportunity to correct a couple of other minor items in the text as well. And POOF! I was able to upload these changes into the Amazon system, where they will go live for new downloads in a day or two. With no cost but my [minor] effort.

One can envision publishing for the Kindle eventually becoming highly iterative in nature, as authors interact with readers and make textual changes based on their input. And that's very exciting to think about.


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