Posted by: Jeanie F | May 14, 2010

Patch-work by Publishers? Pro or Con?

This week the Christian Science Monitor posted a blog by Matthew Shaer entitled “Amazon sometimes issues patches for Kindle e-books. Is that a good thing?” The focus of this article was whether the ability to constantly update and modify text in e-books is a positive or negative factor. Amazon does occasionally modify a book and send the new, revised version to its readers.

An example Shaer provided was F. Paul Wilson’s novel, Enemy of the State, which was “patched” by Amazon. When some customers complained, Amazon admitted that they do modify texts. Wilson himself is quoted as saying, “the ability to update texts is a thing of beauty.”

Shaer goes on to acknowledge that the ability to update – particularly non-fiction and news – could be a good thing. However, he adds, this may not be the case with literature. He cites Marcel Proust as an example of an author who was “a chronic reviser of his own work.” Shaer postulates that Proust could “tinker and noodle” a great work of literature (he uses In Search of Lost Time as an example) to death.


Even we hosts of lowly blogs feel the pull to go back and improve our first run at an entry. But isn’t that one of the great assets of using an electronic platform? If only I could have highlighted and deleted, cut and pasted, while writing my master’s thesis rather than typing away on my portable Smith-Corona!

All authors aren’t Proust, but many would probably love to go back to do some “tinkering” to improve their work. It might be even better if we, the readers, could go back and make some of  the improvements, wiki-style. Maybe I’ll pull out my copy of Swann’s Way and see what I can do with it!


  1. I saw that same bit of news and wondered about it much as you did. Correcting typos and so forth would seem alright, but subtantial revising seems like a bit of a tar baby.

    Can you opt out of having your purchased ebooks updated?

    • That’s a good question. I haven’t had any of my purchases changed, but judging by the Amazon customer response it seems that you can’t. The books are actually “housed” at Amazon and delivered through a 3G wireless network so, probably, when the book is changed all versions are changed. The only way you could protect against it would be never to turn on your wireless connection – but then, of course, you could never buy new books!

  2. Hmmmm. Don’t know how much it matters, but would nice to be the option I would think.

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