Amazon? Dumas would be spinning in his ` (grave) if he knew.

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2010/07/20 07:01 -04:00, original URI:

Yesterday one of the big news stories everyone covered was the information from Amazon that E-books for the Kindle were outselling hardcover books.

Here's a link about it but this is fairly gratuitous, I'm sure you've seen it.

You'll notice thast none of the stories pointed to a source; in the new Internet, we don't always have those!

Anyway, given my recent experience it made me weep for the future of books a little, to be honest.

I'll explain why....

So, the other day I was flying.

Heading back from India, via Frankfurt.

This is a very long couple of flights.

So I was reading some old favorites of mine on my Kindle.

Oh, did I mention?

I have a Kindle.

Pre-loaded with titles since I was heading to India and didn't set up the international download deal.

And I was reading while movies were playing in the background.

I admit that stories like The Count of Monte Cristo would be better in French, but my French is not really quite up to that task (I actually can accomplish it, but then it is much harder and is no longer reading for pleasure -- so I stick to translations).

And suddenly, I find one of those issues I just can't ever seem to get too far away from:

Geez, Amazon! What's up with that?

How would Alexandre Dumas, père feel about this, exactly?

Lucky for us he is nearly 140 years past being able to respond.

I can't help wondering whether the Kindle is sold in France. Or in Quebec.

What is wrong with these people?

Now the Interent has watered down words like père a little, so that even French Wikipedia will find père when you look for pere (ref), but that is just to make search easier. We haven't yet changed the "Father" or "Senior" suffix in French to remove the grave accent above the letter e.

All of the words have been stripped of accents (even words that would usually retain their accents in English versions)....

I should be grateful that the items list has the accent properly listed. Maybe. Though proper indexing of trashed content is hardly a point of pride, Jeff.

Yet another "let's provide all the free content we can" project consisting of a Lucasian "shove as much crap on the list as we can even if it is, in fact, crap" that gave us Star Wars I-III.


I guess Dumas would not be allowed to spin in his grave since in the free content the grave is not available!

I also had the Kindle Reader for PCs on my laptop, so I decide to try that too. Maybe it was just an issue on the device?

And unfortunately....


Which is worse -- not having the font support for the character or stripping it from the text or choosing content that never had it in the first place?

Between two and three of these crimes have been committed here....

Is this merely representative of the shoddy job they do with free titles they offer? Or the crappy quality of the titles they pick up?

Is there some special module required for international support?

Or should I just return this otherwise nice device for one that can handle Western European languages better, given how unforgiving I tend to be of such fundamental issues?

OPrime on 20 Jul 2010 8:47 AM:

Surprised that you haven't applied the Unicode fonts for the Kindle, fairly active community over at the MobileRead forums.

Michael S. Kaplan on 20 Jul 2010 8:51 AM:

I am a mere user of the Kindle who had the device less than a week before the reported incident. I didn't even know there *were* Unicode fonts for the Kindle (and it isn't like the device is being notified such things exist). :-(

Peter Ibbotson on 20 Jul 2010 8:57 AM:

Downloading the english language version from project gutenburg shows the same problem, however the french language version works fine on my Kindle. Certainly "Le père et le files" as chapter II shows correctly accented.

Poor OCR?

Skip on 20 Jul 2010 9:05 AM:

This was a screwup in the encode, almost certainly, and not in the Kindle itself (and not a particularly uncommon one).   The Kindle definitely can handle those characters, I've seen them.   I don't actually know if it was expecting extended ASCII and getting UTF-8, or the other way around, but it's probably one of those two cases.  It would be easy enough to fix using Calibre (and probably won't require stripping the DRM - at least a fair percentage of the free classics I've seen are non-DRM'd).

Oh, and as for the unicode support, unless things have changed, it requires jailbreaking the kindle, and I've read about corrupted fonts bricking them, so I'd probably avoid that until there's an official solution.

Michael S. Kaplan on 20 Jul 2010 9:13 AM:

Yep, I've no interest in the jailbreaking route at this point. I'm just disappointed.

So is Alexandre, I suspect....

Michael S. Kaplan on 21 Jul 2010 3:41 AM:

Perhaps the saddest picture of all (click on picture to make it bigger):

Carl on 21 Jul 2010 3:58 AM:

Banana Computer's eBook prog is weirdly inconsistent. If you search for the author, the auto-suggest has the accent. If you download it, it puts the author's name under the book title with the accent. But if you read the book, the title page has no accent. I think the screw up is on Gutenberg's side, since the eOS devices come Unicoded out of the box. Their East Asian script support is great in my experience, but the Indic support is messed up: they have some fonts, but it puts the vowels in the wrong spots (it reproduces the old Wikipedia "fa" look).

John Cowan on 30 Jul 2010 8:28 AM:

This looks very much like finding 8859-1 when you expect UTF-8.

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