Saturday, September 29, 2012

E-book formatting issues affect rollout of J.K. Rowling's first adult novel, 'The Casual Vacancy'

J.K. Rowling's first adult book, The Casual Vacancy, leaped into retail on Thursday, but not without publishing glitches. In the old days, this might have meant something like books not arriving at retailers, but in this new day of Kindles and Nooks, the problem was formatting in e-books.

The glitches appear to have been isolated to the U.S. version, where Rowling's e-book publisher is Hachette Book Group. In the U.K., Rowling's e-book publisher is Little, Brown and Company. The issue meant that The Casual Vacancy could only be viewed in a large font size that showed a limited number of words per page, or in a tiny font, instead.

Hachette has already released an updated version, but those who were early adopters (i.e., pre-ordered) are upset. Users affected by the mistake have to manually force their devices to install the updated version, which not everyone will know how to do.

The Casual Vacancy led several e-book charts ahead of its release due to customer fervor over J.K. Rowling's first adult novel for adults, following the immense success of the Harry Potter series.

A statement from Hachette acknowledged that it was responsible for the bug. In a statement, the company said,

"As soon as Hachette was made aware of these issue, a replacement file was uploaded to all e-book retailers. Hachette has requested each retailer contact their customers directly about reloading their e-book.

"Any consumer who purchased the ebook on Thursday ... who has not heard from the retailer, should contact them and request that their e-book be reloaded. No consumer should have to repurchase the e-book."

Little, Brown, and Company has confirmed that their version of the e-book did not have the formatting error.

Here is how the book is described at

"When Barry Fairbrother dies unexpectedly in his early forties, the little town of Pagford is left in shock. Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty fa├žade is a town at war. Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils.

"Pagford is not what it first seems. And the empty seat left by Barry on the town’s council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations? Blackly comic, thought-provoking and constantly surprising, The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults."

Customers were already somewhat in arms over the price of the e-book version, which was set by the publisher at the rather high (for e-books) price of $17.99. In addition, end user reviews at are not that positive. Currently, at the time of this writing, the book has a rating of 3.1 stars.

Among the negative comments are:

“ Much to her credit the author does this with sharp comic wit, however it does all go on a bit too long with the ending being somewhat predictable and heavy-handed. ” - Holly Day

“ I don't want to have to stop reading so I can puzzle over sentences. ” - Moirne Stark

Admittedly, the number of reviews left at the site are still a relative few.

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