There are thousands of e-books on the Amazon Kindle Store that have content errors. They may range from a series of simple spelling mistakes to a total mishmash of misspelling, appalling grammar and non-existent editing.
In an attempt to counter this and provide a better reading experience, Amazon will, from third February, begin showing customers a warning message on the Kindle store detail pages of books that contain validated quality issues. The warning message will be removed as soon as Amazon receives an updated file from self-published authors or publishing companies.
Whilst this is good news for readers like myself who have bought and downloaded a book only to find that it’s almost unreadable, as an author I have some reservations.
Take spellings, for example. As a Brit I write colour, which is different to the American spelling of color. There’s aeroplane and airplane, authorise and authorize and a whole host of words that have different national spellings. You will no doubt think of many yourself. Both versions are correct, but my UK spell checker flags up the US spelling as wrong.
And what about arcane technical and scientific terms like Pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism, which is a medical condition? (Boy did my spell checker have to think about that one before it marked it up!)
When we throw in dialect, slang, conversation and deliberate misspelling, not to mention foreign accents, intentional spoonerisms and bastardised and “new” words, one can’t help wondering just how Amazon and its presumably automated editing is going to sort out what is correct and what isn’t. Much of meaning and spelling is derived from the context, and anyway what is the good of correcting spelling if you ignore poor construction, punctuation and grammar?
My fear is that in trying to cure one problem, Amazon is opening a large Pandora’s box of others.
Unless the AI (for I’m sure the editing won’t be done by humans) is more sophisticated than anything we’ve seen before, this new initiative will surely catch good, well written works as well as bad ones.
Which will leave the readers no better off than before.