Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Today's post departs from my stated mission to provide a glimpse into daily island life...except so far as it reflects my reaction to something I stumbled across in my reading.

Some weeks ago I decided that I wanted to read Tolstoy's War and Peace. Lou Ann loaned me her copy. At more than 1100 pages, reading it in bed required as much strength as balancing a box of bricks in my hands. In my senior years I have developed arthritis in my thumbs, which made the effort not only difficult, but painful.

I had read about half of the novel when I was given the gift of a Nook, the e-reader from Barnes and Noble. Although I am committed to supporting my neighborhood independent book store (Books to be Red), and enjoying honest-to-goodness books, the .99 Nook edition was so lightweight that it has made reading War and Peace a genuine pleasure. For those of you who have not tackled this tome as yet, it is a page-turner.

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...."

Someone at Barnes and Noble (a twenty year old employee? or maybe the CEO?) had substituted every incidence of "kindled" with "Nookd!"

I was shocked. Almost immediately I found it hilarious...then outrageous...then both. It is definitely clever. But it raises many questions. E-books can be manipulated at will by the purveyors of the downloadable software. Here is a classic work of fiction (some claim it is the greatest novel every written) used for a sophomoric and/or commercial prank. What else might be changed in an e-book? Fears of manipulation for economic, political, religious, or other ideological ends come to mind. It makes one wary of the integrity of any digital version of not only War and Peace...but any e-book.

I searched the Internet for others who have found the same "revision" but was unsuccessful. Could it be that no one else has ever read this e-book version of War and Peace? Or has no one else brought the substitution to anyone's attention? Could some software programmer have altered just my copy?

I may never have answers to my questions, but I would like to hear our readers' reactions. Please leave a comment with your thoughts.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is a list of a few traditional Ocracoke Island recipes. You can read it here: http://www.villagecraftsmen.com/news052112.htm.


  1. This is outrageous. I can see a lawsuit over the horizon. (Or is that Verizon?)

  2. Anonymous6:54 AM

    VERY keen observation, Philip. Sharing this post with several friends--devout readers, one a devout Nooker...I mean, Kindler, another a university director of scholarly communication. Curious to see if these folks have any insights to share here.

  3. Toni W.8:22 AM

    I agree with your feelings of both amusement and outrage. Clever prank but the copyrighted word should not be changed under any circumstances unless it is noted that it has been. This was drummed into me during college courses that threatened to end my career before it began if I did not use proper APA or MLA notations for each and every quote.
    I will be downloading the Kindle version of War and Peace... I doubt that any words have been changed but who knows?

  4. Hi Philip,

    I'm appalled. After receiving your input on my short story "Ode to Mrs. Godfrey", I think that it is safe to say that we agree, to edit any work, no matter how major or minor is sacrilege. The English (Russian, or any other) language is a beautiful art. The slightest change of wording or punctuation can alter the meaning or impact of that segment or the entire work.

    I once submitted an essay to a local (Wilmington, DE) newsletter for publication. The person in charge decided to make several changes without notification. When contacted he stated that his computer's automatic spell and grammer check suggested these changes and therefore he was right. I was infuriated and never again will submit anything to this particular entity.

    Once again I thank you for my experience with you and "Ode th Mrs. Godfrey."

    TTFN, Bear MacDonald

  5. Anonymous9:11 AM

    Another theory --

    Kindle was the first e-reader, sold by Amazon. Could it be possible that some software glitch in the Nook that you have, Philip, changed the word to the B&N product?

    I can't think of anything more tedious than going through War & Peace to find the spots where the word **kindle** appeared to replace it with the work **nook**

    I might have an alternate theory if a different word had been changed but to have the alteration limited to the brand names of two e-readers?

    I think that's far TOO coincidental to me.

    FTR -- I don't use spell check OR grammar check at all -- never have. Those two pieces of software are so often wrong, it's not even amusing.

    Just my take on the whole thing --

  6. debbie s.10:15 AM

    i would alert barnes & noble and the publisher to the 'error'

    i have a kindle fire which i love

  7. Anonymous10:19 AM

    "Find and Replace" would make the substitution in seconds.

  8. Brian P.10:22 AM

    You are right, this is scary and hilarious. I have been intimately anti-e-readers. I like the feel of the book, the smell of an old book, turning pages, and all the other physical and repetitive processes that go along with reading a book.
    For years product placement has played important roles in films, perhaps in our overly saturated futures books will be written with corporate tie-ins – or even more disturbing would be posthumous advertising. Nothing is sacred.

  9. Brian P.10:24 AM

    Whoops, that's animatedly, not intimately. Damn spell check.

  10. Anonymous5:04 PM

    Of course it is on purpose...life is short just enjoy the great story that came from this!

  11. Anonymous5:04 PM

    Of course it is on purpose...life is short just enjoy the great story that came from this!

  12. Anonymous9:29 PM

    I would just about guarantee this is a simple find and replace hard coded into the operating system... any variation of the word "kindle" is replaced with all suffix and prefix left unchanged with "nook".... i think on one hand you can get bent out of shape that they modified the text, but your splitting hairs, this is a clever marketing substitution, it is not intended to do harm... in fact on internet forums it happens alll the time, especially around April 1

  13. I am not sure if one can define what would be an authoritative translation of a book written in another language. The only origional form of a book is in the language in which it was written. So if some publisher comes along and declares a translation to be the "official translation" who knows what commercial interests were involved in the decision. People can alter printed books just as easily as EBooks. But I will admit it is a pretty gratuitous alteration on the part of Barnes and Noble.

  14. Anonymous9:53 AM

    It is a publicity stunt and the first person to contact them of this clever stunt will win a million bucks.

    If you have scrolled down one must contact their local librarian immediately

  15. claragilbert10:21 PM

    Is it so far fetched to say ,,have a corporate name substitued or a politician's name omitted? We ...have... always...been..at war...with...EastAsia....

  16. Anonymous8:11 PM

    The reason this is possible is that the work in question is public domain. There is no copy write anymore due to the age of the work.

    In the future, I'd suggest getting all public domain works for free from Project Gutenberg instead and avoiding this altogether (not to mention saving yourself $.99) It is perfectly legal since the copy write on the works stored there have all lapsed.


  17. Anonymous12:57 PM

    It's likely that the publisher did a find and replace simply to make different versions for Kindle and Nook, and didn't realize that it affected the entire book.

  18. Anonymous11:38 AM

    This was definitely a find and replace error on the content side. The Nook device software can't change the book text before it is rendered.

  19. Anonymous11:41 AM

    This obviously wasn't done by Barnes & Noble, but by the publisher who submitted the book to Barnes & Noble.

    They created a Kindle version of this public domain book first, realized they used 'Kindle' somewhere in their submission, and did a quick find-and-replace to change 'Kindle' to 'Nook' - never once thinking it would affect the book's text rather than just whatever they put in the title page.

  20. Anonymous12:39 PM

    @Anonymous 11:41 AM

    That is the most logical. Whoever submitted this to B&N probably also submitted this to Amazon as well. Does it say "Nook" anywhere else, for example, stating that this is formatted for the Nook? Most likely they did a Replace All, replacing all instances of Kindle with Nook. They likely didn't intend to change Kindled to Nookd, but replace all replaced more than they intended. They should have done a more careful replace, checking each instance to see if it was what they meant to change.

  21. "Nookd" may be a typo for "nuked".

  22. Anonymous2:05 PM

    Just FYI, but if you're reading classics such as "War and Peace", check out Project Gutenberg.

    They take old books that are out of copyright, scan them, and convert them to a digitized format. There are usually formats for the Nook and Kindle as well. The books are free, so you would have saved yourself $0.99. Not much, but it would have bought a paper or a cheap cup of coffee.

    I've picked up a few classics from Projecgt Gutenberg and have been happy with the quality.

  23. Anonymous2:56 PM

    I soon foresee Amazon searching every Kindle and cranny for competing brands and doing their own replacement...

  24. Which version of the book did you buy? Was it the one published by "Superior Formatting Publishing"? Because if so, that would be rich . . .

  25. Anonymous3:44 PM

    To check whether the change was made in the ebook or by the Nook system software, open the ebook file in Sigil (free ebook editing software) and search for "It was as if a light had been".

    If the next word after "been" is "Nookd" you'll know it was the producer of the ebook file and not the Nook system software.

  26. Anonymous4:57 PM

    Its really easy and fun to go all conspiracy theory here, but I'm pretty sure that this is an example of someone using Barnes & Noble's self publishing service to publish a book that is Public Domain (the copy write expired and now belongs to all of us). This is a VERY common thing to do on Amazon's and B&N's self publishing, and there is nothing the companies can do about it.

  27. Anonymous5:16 PM

    This reminds me of when an over-zealous news site changed the name of the athlete Tyson Gay to 'Tyson Homosexual'.

  28. I wouldn't be too worried. Authors still hold IP rights when publishing through Amazon or B&N so if they changed anything they'd get sued hard. War & Peace is public domain.

    It may be they modified it do they can claim it under an ISBN and claim IP rights on that version to sell it. You are allowed to do that.

  29. I wonder if the word "nook" appears in the text at all, and if was changed to "Kindle" for anyone with the Amazon e-reader.

  30. Anonymous11:57 PM

    There is an article at gadgetbox.msnbc.msn.com that explains that it was a publisher error, not a marketing trick by barnes and noble. Apparently the publishers search and replace was overzealous. And yes, I believe it actually was Superior Formatting Publishing.

  31. Philip: If you have the time, could you try viewing that same downloaded ebook in a nook App for PC/Mac, iOS, or Android. Interested to see of the word is being replaced by the Nook reader or if the source text was altered and distributed this way.

  32. This is outstandingly funny.

    Btw, I enjoy reading your blog, you are indeed a nook'd spirit.

  33. ... LOL, I've gotten so used to The Kindle Chronicles' clever use of "kindled spirit" that it apparently has replaced the original "kindred spirit" in my mind.

  34. This is precisely the scenario that I discussed with my regarding ebooks vs traditional media. Even in different revisions of the same physical book we can still refer to earlier imprints, but with the electronic format there may not be any real original.

    I likened this to the events in Orwell's 1984 where inconvenient history was simply overwritten and the original information destroyed.

    Sure that's going a bit far, but obviously Barnes & Noble have already taken a step towards the Orwellian future by having life imitate art.

    David Nicol


  35. My guess is the publisher did a global search and replace to change it from "Kindle edition" to "Nook edition" ... and this happened. Less sinister, but still troubling. While I embrace e-books for convenience, their impermanence is a concern, for exactly these reasons.

  36. LOLOLOL! I KNEW there was a reason I'd stuck to nice, searchable, inexpensive (probably mostly hack-proof) pdfs instead of forcing my readers to buy all these 8-track players just to read a book.

    We call ebooks "Fred" -- now they've managed to "Party 'till Fred gets hurt." I've been in publishing since 1986 (helped Booksurge become Createspace). This cracks me up so bad. http://www.lulu.com/desertpeach

  37. Anonymous1:00 PM

    First thing to do is to contact the provider with a strongly worded protest. You wanted the novel - not some advertiser's sorry joke. Did you pay for it? If so, you have been defrauded. Not funny; they have completely destroyed the integrity of Tolstoy's world and smashed any chance of suspension of disbelief with a gimmick that goes CLANG!!

  38. Anonymous6:22 PM

    I don't think this was a prank. I think it was more likely a badly thought out attempt at counter marketing. They probably did a search and replace on their entire library, thinking to change ads, inadvertently changing a lot of other things. Typically stupid for a large corporation.

  39. Anonymous6:39 PM

    Such an egregious error must be punished.

    They should search every kindle and cranny until they find the responsible person.


  40. Pretty clearly just a bad editing job, not a conspiracy. War and Peace is out of copyright so there is no legal action to take by the author, it should be a simple matter for the publisher to correct.

  41. Anonymous10:18 PM

    hobbs said;

    It's almost certain that B&N had nothing to do with this — the "publisher" probably just ripped off a Kindle edition of the book and automatically replaced "Kindle" with "Nook" throughout, then submitted it to the store.

  42. Anonymous12:17 AM

    As a retired editor who worked a lot with the search-and-replace function in word processing software, I can easily understand how this happened. If you don't double-check your work and what the program is doing, this can be the result. I'd suspect an inattentive or inexperienced operator before I'd assume malicious intent.

  43. Anonymous12:19 AM

    As a retired editor who worked a lot with the search-and-replace function in word processing software, I can easily understand how this happened. If you don't double-check your work and what the program is doing, this can be the result. I'd suspect an inattentive or inexperienced operator before I'd assume malicious intent.

  44. In my PhD thesis, many moons ago, "Spell check" in MS Word surreptitiously changed all references of Epstein, an author, to Estonia, the country. Luckily I caught it, just before it was printed and sent out to the reviewers.

  45. Anonymous4:23 AM

    Actually, no public domain book can be copywrited even if the wording is changed. Only the additions or added commentary can be copywrited,

  46. As a heads up, for any classic texts like that, avoid B&N altogether and head to Project Gutenberg. You can download almost any out of copyright book for free there, including "War and Peace." And you're guaranteed, since PG has no horse in the race, to get unadulterated text. I read their version of W&P (the Maude translation, I think) earlier this year on my Nook, and enjoyed it thoroughly.

  47. I don't actually fear that this can happen with ANY e-book. I do fear that it can happen with any Nook e-book. I don't actually believe that it wasn't a B&N error. But then again, I'm a die hard Kindle fan.

  48. A printed book can't be manipulated after printing, a digital one can.

    There is no need to speculate why this action was taken, it is just again a proof of the stupidity of marketing and profit orientation.

    Forgive my bad english, my criticism in german is more
    defined, http://buchbestattung.de/2012/06/06/kindle-nook-die-7-te/

    Thank you for your blog, it is a pleasure to read!

    Connie, Gribow, Germany

  49. Steve L6:56 AM

    Hi Pillip-

    I'm up in Annapolis, Md. I'm including this in my cybersecurity master's degree term paper as an example of Amazon not being able control their product once it gets outside of their control.

    Looks like you're a celebrity.
    You've hit an artery, and I think are going worldwide.

  50. Anonymous7:23 AM

    I just checked a copy of War and Peace on the Nook (The Signet Edition) and didn't find this issue.

    Might have been a glitch.

    Either way there seems to be some over reacting to it.

  51. This is a message on the home page of Superior Formatting Publishing's web site: "Barnes and Noble promptly brought this to our attention and the issue was resolved. The current copy of War and Peace on sale has had the error fixed. This was a simple editing mistake and we apologize for any inconvenience caused."

  52. Came here via memex, since translation has been time immemorial, words have been added, replaced or removed from many great texts.

    Sadly some base their ethics on a misquote of a mistranslation.

    Only now, can this be accomplished by volume on demand.