Leo Tolstoy

Leo Tolstoy Credit: photos.com

Score one for old-fashioned books, perused by human editors and printed by traditional publishers. Unless, that is, readers like having their passion for great literature Nookd, rather than kindled, by a good book

A version of Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” went on sale recently for the Nook, the e-reader supported by Barnes & Noble. The version was formatted from a copy of the work from the Gutenberg Press. The company that sold the Nook version, Superior Formatting Publishing, makes money by taking books that are out of copyright because they are in the public domain, formatting them for e-readers and charging buyers 99 cents.

But in formatting “War and Peace,” the company executed a universal "find-replace" function on the word "Kindle" and its variants, which appear at least eight times in the tome, changing them all to "Nook," and its variants. The result was mellifluous Tolstoy sentences such as, "It was as if a light had been Nookd in a carved and painted lantern."

The company hasn't explained what happened and didn't respond to an e-mail requesting comment, but it's apparently common in the business to format a book, for Kindles, then for Nooks, adjusting phrases like "Formatted for Kindle by Superior Formatting Publishing" to fit the Nook version. This time it seems to have gone a bit too far, changing references to Amazon.com's Kindle device, and Tolstoy's less-commercial "kindles."

E-books are here to stay, and formats will get better. E-books will also be less expensive, and environmentally friendly. I personally get annoyed when I realize that a book of mine that I want to reread is on paper rather than my iPhone. And paper books don’t even have backlighting.

So I don’t cheer when the e-book format is screwed up. But it sure does bolster my mood every time I see evidence that we still need real, live authors and editors to publish writing that isn’t screwed up.

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