Changable e-books

Nathan points out that e-books are not fixed into their final form the way print books are. Should there be a final version? he asks. Does the tinkering even help books?

a) Yes. I would love to get rid of typos, repeated words, and that dratted scene where a character stands up twice. I would love to be able to fix these things without waiting for a new printing or new edition.

b) NO! NO! NO! By God, there needs to be a point where you call it done and put it aside and quit worrying about it! How could you ever move on to the next project?

c) What if the author changes her mind about something big and makes an important change, only you as the reader loved the original version? To make a somewhat exaggerated point, can you imagine Robin McKinley deleting BEAUTY from your e-reader and substituting ROSE DAUGHTER?

c) Worse, if the book can be fiddled with, what would prevent third parties rather than the author fiddling with them? What if some nameless Amazon employee suddenly decides to mess with MY BOOK? If Amazon could delete books other people bought, what would stop them from fiddling around with books other people wrote?


Amazon’s published terms of service agreement for the Kindle does not appear to give the company the right to delete purchases after they have been made. It says Amazon grants customers the right to keep a “permanent copy of the applicable digital content. . . . Retailers of physical goods cannot, of course, force their way into a customer’s home to take back a purchase, no matter how bootlegged it turns out to be. Yet Amazon appears to maintain a unique tether to the digital content it sells for the Kindle.

I would REALLY be unhappy to have ANYBODY BUT ME make changes to any book I ever wrote — and almost as uncomfortable giving even the author the right to make any change bigger than fixing an obvious mistake.

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2 thoughts on “Changable e-books”

  1. Abridged versions of classics are common. A dead author rarely objects.

    Living authors often do. An expurgated version of Fahrenheit 451 was distributed by the publisher from 1967-1979 before Bradbury learned about it, and stopped it.

    When it comes to authors changing books, my mind goes first to Stephen King’s Unedited Version of The Stand – (a great illustration, in my mind, of the reasons for editors).

  2. I definitely agree about The Stand. There’s a cautionary tale for us all — the moral being possibly Trust Your Editor or at least Everything Is Improved By Cutting.

    I actually like my abridged copy of The Count of Monte Cristo better than the uncut version, too, though I don’t know how common that opinion is.

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