Here on Language Log we've often talked about unfortunate search-and-replace miscorrections, which now seem to be infecting poorly edited e-reader texts. The latest example, via Kendra Albert on Jonathan Zittrain's Future of the Internet blog, is a doozy. The Nook edition of Tolstoy's War and Peace (in its English translation) has been de-Kindled, quite literally. Every instance of the text string kindle has been replaced by Nook.
A company called Superior Formatting Publishing offers a $.99 version of the now-public-domain War and Peace through Barnes and Noble’s Nook store — the lowest price version to be found there. When a blogger named Philip of the Ocracoke Island Journal read his copy, he noticed something quite odd:
“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….’ “
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.
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.
It's always dangerous to enforce an editorial guideline by means of a global search-and-replace, whether that guideline leads you to replace queen with Queen Elizabeth, gay with homosexual, or Cronkite with Mr. Cronkite. (And please don't try to convert 50 Cent into foreign currency.) I have a feeling we're going to be seeing a lot more of these howlers, as e-publishers look to make a quick buck off of repackaging public-domain literary classics but don't bother with the niceties of copy-editing before making texts available electronically.
[Or as Theo Vosse puts it in the comments below, "Don't touch the clbuttics."]
(H/t, Greg Howard.)