I just finished reading the classic Ray Bradbury novel Fahrenheit 451, which I noted had just been released for the first time in ebook form a couple of weeks ago. It was far from my first reading, and was actually the fourth time I had bought the book over the last 30 years. Three have been paperbacks – one that simply died with use, a second one that is still in great shape, and a third from when I was traveling, and now the ebook version is on my Kindle Fire.
No spoilers here, but the book is as awesome as ever and highly relevent in current society, though the early chapters were more uneven than I remembered.
While I am certainly no stranger to reading ebooks or to Fahrenheit 451, this time I started doing something I have never previous done while reading: using the Kindle’s highlighting features I made note of all of the typos. Perhaps it is telling of how familiar I am with the book … or perhaps it is just how numerous and egregious the errors were. Either way, I just found myself at the end of the book with a couple of dozen highlighted pages that display errors. The typos, like the one above, were all rather minor, but they were numerous – and they were NEW.
As I noted, this is the fourth version I have bought and I cannot recall this many errors before. I confirmed it with my current paperback, and the other two have been lost – one to over-handling, and one loaned and never returned. But that tells me that the text was pristine at some point, and this ebook was shoddily edited. Not only that, but the Afterword and Coda present in my 1987 paperback are nowhere to be found.
Here is yet another look at the exact same section of text:
As you might notice, this is an ebook format on my iPad version of iBooks. It is a Calibre converted version from … somewhere. I have had Fahrenheit 451 electronically for many, many years, and likely read it on a Pocket PC during one of my annual trips to present at the SPIE technical conference. This version was likely scanned and OCR’d from an original book at a time before the Kindle or Nook or widespread ebook availability. If you wanted to read an ebook, you had to grab it from Gutenberg and convert it, or get busy with the scanner … or find it on Usenet. This is one of those books I would have bought in a second – and did – when it became available.
But if you notice, there are no typos in that section of the book … nor any of the others I found in the new release. Also the Afterword and Coda are present. So you could say that the new ‘official’ release is inferior to not only the print versions but also to the user-scanned version from nearly 20 years ago.
So to Simon & Schuster, Ray Bradbury and others, I have a message: