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Not of merchantable quality [updated] • 15 September 2010 • The SnowBlog

Not of merchantable quality [updated]

This is pretty unacceptable. I mentioned that some of the Kindle books I've been buying to read on my iPad have had decidedly funky - and completely amateurish - formatting, despite being the output of blue chip publishers. Well, the other day I bought a technical book, complete with complicated text layouts, and the damn thing is almost unusable. Take a look at the two images lower down in this post. They're from two different versions of this book and they're samples of how to write Ruby software - that's what the book is about. In the properly formatted example (the first one) there are some comments over on the left and the code itself on the right. But look at the second version, the Kindle one. It jumbles the comments in with the example of how to write software. This book is supposed to be giving you your first glance at Ruby code and it's turned it almost into junk. You certainly couldn't get that code to run. And yet in the print version, it's all neatly arranged. So where did it all go wrong? Seriously, I'm interested to know. Is this widespread, with the Kindle versions of textbooks being sold in the Amazon store while being unusable? Or can the Kindle format handle these sorts of layouts properly and it's just this particular publisher (and a few others I've been unlucky enough to encounter) that's screwed up? Print version:

Click for larger version

Kindle version:

Click for larger version

Updated: The book in question was published by No Starch Press who are distributed by O'Reilly (who, as Matthew points out in the comments, practically invented ebooks). I dropped them a line and they responded within 24 hours to say: a) sorry b) they were pulling the electronic version of the book immediately until it was fixed c) they would fix it d) in the meantime I could have a PDF of the book e) I could also have a discount of 30% off my next order for my trouble I have to say I don't really see how they could have handled it better. And, fuelled by thoughts of a 30% discount on their already discounted e-books, I bought three of them that I probably otherwise wouldn't. As Em (who once did a project on this) will tell you: handling a complaint really well can often produce a loyal customer from a disgruntled one. And, any Medical Publishers out there who can tell Matthew (see below), and maybe the rest of us too, how they prepare their e-books?


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