On the Quality of E-Books

Whilst I generally prefer to live a peaceful life of which reading is an important everyday piece, I discover every now and then that there are a number of difficulties with this approach. Generally, everything works well or good enough and I do not have to regret the amount of monies spent or effort put into purchasing and reading books but there are also moments when I wish to say something of what is being done under the near-proper term of “digital publishing”.

Let me start first by insisting though that while the following will be true in a large number of cases, it has notable exemptions and I will bring out at least one that I have seen myself. Likewise, the problem does not exist only in digital books but at least with digital books the solution is simple.

Now, I have mentioned a problem but have not defined it yet. If I may: Customers are paying considerable sums of money for books in digital form for download to e-readers or other devices with similar functionality, and yet the final product that the customer receives is not always presented to them in a final form.

Namely, while in regular publishing there is a certain quality and level of spelling that is expected of anything sent to the press, in the digital word this same quality seems to have disappeared with the publishing houses seemingly content to upload anything without ascertaining its quality.

As the next step, I will clarify my own position: I own a Kindle (and have owned previous Kindles in the past) and I spend a reasonable amount on digital books. Digital reading, or e-reading, certainly forms the majority of books I read these days. I do not mind paying for reading anything that another person has written or published, but I do expect any product I receive to respond to certain standards of quality.

Let me bring a concrete example. Over the last few weeks I have read a number of books by Jack Campbell on my Kindle, all of which were priced between £5.50 and £6.00. This price was accompanied by an explanation that the books were approximately 300 pages in other versions, and that the file which included the book was between 300 KB and 700 KB in size. In other words, a very small file with an average-length book had been priced at the aforementioned sum. I’ll be very clear that had there been nothing else, I would not mind this price for it is clear that the good Mr Campbell needs to make his income from something.

However, there was “something else”. Namely, the books were readable but my enthusiasm decreased as I encountered more and more spelling mistakes and punctuation errors. One would think that a simple spell check can find solutions to problems like that, or that one read of the book can note that a word has been split into several pieces (say, “in def ens ible” comes to mind).

Can anyone say how this is a fair use of the money that the publishing house and Mr Campbell make off the people who are purchasing their products?

I remember that when I first read George RR Martin’s “A Dance with Dragons”, the same issue was present. I also know that is the only time a book on my device has been updated, but since I have not read it again thus far, I am not confident in how much has improved.

To get back at the main issue though: We, the customers, are receiving products that are seemingly at a stage where no self-respecting publishing house would release it as a paperback, and yet we pay a very similar amount as if we were buying a paperback. So, where’s the quality I was expecting?

Do I need to pay extra for the publishing houses to trouble themselves by reading through the works at least once?

What needs to change so that I would be able to buy a final product that I could read in peace?

Are the publishing houses deserving of the money I have paid for the titles if you cannot put in a small measure of effort to make their own creations presentable?

Now, I’ll note that digital publishing is not the only culprit. The one title I have from Forgotten Books’ “Easy Reading Series” is similarly full of spelling mistakes and riddled with bad punctuation, but at least I have a personal copy of the title which acts as a small measure of comfort for the similar price I paid towards it.

I am hopeful that this trend in digital publishing can change — I say this not only with the one example I brought in mind but also remembering a number of other items I have read which have been sub-par. However, I also think that we customers need to be more vocal about establishing some set of standards.

I guess the other option would be to set a price per kilobyte, and then the publishing houses can sell me whatever they want to with me going in there knowing that there is no massive profit lurking for these same entities behind the screen — very much unlike the present situation.

So, how do we go about establishing that what is sold to us is a book that we can read when we purchase it?

And until we have managed achieving some standards of quality, let’s make the issue more public!

Artificial

Had a long discussion with a housemate over what constitutes being artificial. I have no idea how we came upon the topic but we certainly raised some interesting issues. Namely, he said that he considers dogs artificial since they were selectively bred by man. I would have disagreed with that if it were not for my wish to continue reading, but I’ll give a short overview of what I consider to mean “artificial” here, since the question in itself is rather interesting.

I would start with the example of art — art, for me, is not artificial. It is not because to create art (draw, sing, write, etc.) there has to be an idea, and that idea is a consequence of thought. I see thought as a natural process, and therefore art is just giving thoughts an earthly form.

An example of an artificial item would, however, be teflon. Yes, sure, there was the idea of the material which turned into its creation, but the defining difference is that for it to become reality, someone had to manipulate the molecular composition to create a substance with new properties. This is a good example of artificialness.

Same is exhibited by the concept of artificial intelligence — it has been conceived to act on its own, therefore past the first act of starting up, everything is a creation of a creation. Therefore, it is unnatural (not that it should not be, but that it is not from nature).

The same housemate brought up the example of some substance that is found both in nature and synthesized by man, with the only difference in the final being that the natural one has a higher degree of purity. To his question of differentiating between the two, I answered that one has been engineered by man while the other is the result of long processes. The processes that have been substituted for a temporally short chemical engineering experiment thereby remove the quality of naturalness, and define the final result as an artificial substance.

While short, I believe that this provides a sort of answer to this very interesting question.

From a Train

Trains. Wonderful creatures, beasts of great power and strength. Having taken two rather long train journeys (journey upcountry and back, it might be called) I can rejoice in the technical wonder that trains are. Sure, an airplane might have been quicker; a bus *might* have been cheaper (usually it is not), but trains have something different. Trains are comfortable. More so than buses and airplanes.

Plus, the views… The east coast journey is a good one : from Newcastle up to Edinburgh itself the sights to be seen are great. I can just imagine what the more northern coastal line (Inverness-Aberdeen-Edinburgh) looks like, but it cannot be any disappointment if the southern section can be taken as a measure.

And the bridges… Some of them make me think of the times they were built in, of the hardships people had to endure in the name of development and advancement. The two large rivers I crossed were the Tyne and the Tweed, and both of them had a fair number of bridges besides the main railway one. Makes you think of humans.

Can just hope it is not too long until an affordable train ride connects Londres with capitals in the Baltics (although it is probably possible even now to follow a route that goes along the lines of London – Paris – Berlin – Warsawa – …).

And I read (now in English) the great master Sienkiewicz’s books. Aside from the awful anglicization it was great. :=) As expected.

“How could you hold out?” asked the chancellor, with an accent of doubt.

At these words, Skrzetuski raised his head, as if new power entered him. A flash of pride passed over his face, and he answered with a voice strong beyond expectations: “Twenty assaults repelled, sixteen battles in the field won, seventy-five sallies.”

The Loss of Reason

I was surprised a few minutes ago by my thought that said in relative terms that I could be saddened by the fact that I can reason everything in three-four words in terms that mean everything to me (and possibly, less than nothing to someone else).

Why saddened ? Seems that this is one of those things that you most want to come to pass while at the same time not being really sure if that is the best course for everything.

But, certainty, that is something I have never lacked : so, indeed, onwards I go, every doubt (as always) hidden under ten thousand layers (this post here being a theoretical test of thoughts 😉 ), but as was said in a movie that I watched today : “You are more willing to lose a war than admit a mistake.”

And yes. I would lose a war… the war… but mistakes never happen; and that is actually the truth, for what is a mistake but a thought that it could have been done better by our own actions — and yet, if we had known that at that moment we would have so done : therefore, either all of our actions are mistakes in retrospect or none of them; and for an optimist (an extreme optimist) such as me, that means we make no mistakes at all.

But there are a few “questionable actions”. And those will remain for the eternity until humanity manages to surpass its… humanity.

LJ Problems | Technology in General

 LJ seems to be acting up a bit. Have had it before, but today the posting is awful — three tries and a browser-switch before I successfully did manage a post here. That’s quite odd, and I hope they fix the problems soon enough. 

Increased reliance on technology = inability to cope when technology itself becomes unreliable? 

This brings to mind the various sci-fi shows/books where societies work but if something would break down then no one would know how to fix it (Foundation, City and the Stars, Songs of Distant Earth, and others) — while I believe that at some points societies will begin to devolve in their complexity of knowledge, I hope that day is still far ahead on Earth and that the apex we will achieve will last for a long time. 

Actually, can there even be an apex in science? 

Most interesting.