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Kindling

The process by which books are converted to Kindle format introduces errors which do not get corrected. Every publisher knows this, though none will say so on record. The problem is one of economics. The cost of a printed book covers some degree of proofing and checking—not enough, but some. The cost of a Kindle book does not support quality control, and the multi-step conversion process, handled in bulk by third parties, chops out content and creates other errors that no one fixes because no one is there to do QA.

The process by which books are converted to Kindle format introduces errors which do not get corrected. Every publisher knows this, though none will say so on record.

To be clear, there is nothing wrong with Kindle or its format. The problem is one of economics. The cost of a printed book covers some degree of proofing and checking—not enough, but some. The cost of a Kindle book does not support editorial quality control, and the multi-step conversion process, handled in bulk by third parties, chops out content and creates other errors that no one fixes because no one is there to do QA.

I love the idea of Kindle. I love Kindle on my iPhone. As the economics of publishing continues to change, perhaps one day soon, a Kindle edition will contain the same text as the printed book. Until it does, Kindle is great for light reading. But if it’s critical that every word, comma, and code sample come through intact, for now, you’re better off with print.

Update

Two salient points I should have made in this post are covered in Kindling II, posted 27 August 2009.

ShortURL: zeldman.com/x/58

By Jeffrey Zeldman

“King of Web Standards”—Bloomberg Businessweek.

Hi! I’m a principal designer at Automattic, Inc. Also: Publisher and founder, A List Apart “for people who make websites.” Publisher and co-founder, A Book Apart—brief books for people who design, write, and code. Co-founder and co-host, An Event Apart UX & front-end conference. Faculty, MFA Interaction Design, School of Visual Arts, NYC. Host, The Big Web Show. Have written two books, notably ”Designing With Web Standards,“ currently in its 3rd Edition, and, on last count, translated into 15 languages and used as a text in 85 universities.