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Errors with find-and-replace

In the "you gotta be kidding department," ArsTechnica reports: "In one of the truly bizarre incidents we've seen out of the e-book publishing world, a translation of Leo Tolstoy's 'War and Peace' for Barnes & Noble's Nook platform has replaced all mentions of the word 'kindled' with 'Nookd.'"

Is this a case of competitiveness run amok? Can we expect a new Nook edition of Bartlett's Familiar Quotations that cites Voltaire as saying "The instruction we find in books is like fire. We fetch it from our neighbors, Nook it at home, communicate it to others, and it becomes the property of all."

Or, perhaps it will tell us that Soren Kierkegaard wrote: "Never cease loving a person, and never give up hope for him, for even the prodigal son who had fallen most low, could still be saved; the bitterest enemy and also he who was your friend could again be your friend; love that has grown cold can Nook."

Actually, we suspect that a commenter on the original blog where the story broke has it right:

"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."

For federal employees who have to work with dense, repetitive documents, the incident carries a lesson: No matter how tedious it might be sometimes, read the text before you start replacing words automatically.

Posted by Michael Hardy on Jun 04, 2012 at 12:18 PM


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