In the world of traditional publishing, if errors make it through the editing process for a book, authors (and their readers) are stuck. A lucky few authors are able to get egregious mistakes like wrong character names or missing paragraphs fixed in later print runs, but most of time, errors remain in the text forever.
Enter ebooks and self-publishers. Ebook (and Print-on-Demand (POD)) files are easier to fix and upload than the hard-formatted versions used in traditional printing. And authors who self-publish can ensure fixes are made.
Is this ability to change an ebook file a good thing?
My first thought was “no.” Too many times, if we think something is temporary, we won’t be as conscientious. I don’t know about anyone else, but my handwriting is neater when I know I can’t get a “re-do.” *smile*
Similarly, I want authors to treat their ebook files as a permanent, final version. I don’t mean authors shouldn’t fix a typo if they find it, but I want to trust they did their utmost to ensure a book is free from errors, especially for anything above and beyond minor issues.
But I’ve been shocked to see some self-publishers take an “eh, I can fix it later” attitude. I saw one self-publisher comment that he didn’t use beta readers because his real readers—the ones who have paid money for his book—would point out all his mistakes, and then he’d upload a new file.
Then what did he think would happen? Most ebook retailers and self-publishers don’t have a nice, automatic way to update distributed ebook files, so readers are left out of later “fixes” for the most part. That can make early buyers feel cheated if there are significant changes.
Granted, that self-publisher’s comments are probably an extreme case. Just as likely among writers I know would be a perfectionist author, constantly wanting to tweak their books because they’re unable to let them go. Neither approach is healthy in my mind. Either way, I’ve always wanted to think of ebooks as being as permanent and unchanging as paper books.
Then I read an article yesterday that made me question my attitude. The article was about an opera of all things, but it pointed out that most art forms are malleable.
Orchestras today have standards for what an A note is (440 cycles per second, apparently), but back when many classical songs were composed, there was no standard. In fact, musicians often tuned their instruments “up” to sound more “brilliant.” As a result, what we think of as an A note has changed over the centuries, and the classical songs we know don’t necessarily sound as they were intended.
The article then points out that da Vinci’s Mona Lisa has been trimmed down over the years and that there are three very different versions of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. How did we decide which one was the real masterpiece?
In other words, the article raised the question for me of whether art is ever “done” or “unchangeable.” I know I prefer feeling like I have the final version of a book, but is that just my perfectionist nature speaking? I don’t know. But as more readers transition to e-reading, our always fluctuating culture might change its perspective on books in ways we never anticipated.
Do you think the ability to change ebook (or POD) files will affect how we view the permanency of books? Should authors ever change ebook files? Does your answer depend on if the change is for minor typos vs. more involved changes? Do you think the ability to change files leads to a less conscientious attitude? If an author changes an ebook file you’ve purchased, do you want to be notified of the update?Pin It