Should consumers worry about undetected e-book updates?

George Orwell's "1984" shakes up modern day ebook publishing policies. "Orwell 1984, libro borrado sin permiso a los usuarios Amazon Kindle" by derechoaleer, via Creative Commons Flickr

“Orwell 1984, libro borrado sin permiso a los usuarios Amazon Kindle” by derechoaleer, via Flickr

Miami Tech Girl, Maggie Diaz-Vera, asked me, “Does it ever freak you out to think that there could be slight updates being made to e-books without our knowledge?”

Ever since I read Orwell’s “1984,” I’ve been paranoid about such things; it’s one of the reasons why I’m still open to buying print books (publishers would have to issue corrections or changes in an updated print edition.) However, because of a lawsuit stemming from Amazon’s mass eradication of “1984” from Kindle in 2009, authors and the company have to jump through many hoops before they can make changes to purchased e-books.

To correct an e-book on Amazon, there are three steps:

1) You contact them with details of what needs changing.

2) They evaluate the level of error as either distracting, destructive/critical, or additional to critical.

3) Once corrected, updates would be made available for customers on their “Manage Your Content and Devices” page.

Only when the customer requests the update, will their purchased e-book be corrected. Kindle customers should note that updates to e-books erase whatever notes, bookmarks, or highlights they might have had, making the update noticeable. For this reason, we can be sure there are no discreet updates being made to Kindle e-books.

After reviewing the iBooks Store procedure, I understood that the author would have to release the update(s) as a new version entirely and label it clearly as such. This means the updates would also be visible.

Yet, I’m not entirely satisfied. While updates are now more consensual, should consumers worry about the accuracy of the information in the update? Is there a dedicated watchdog group, like Politifact, keeping track of updates in published nonfiction e-books? Do e-book publishers explain what was changed?

According to the entry, “Notifying Customers of Book Updates,” customers are alerted if there are major corrections and that an update is available, but it doesn’t specify if they’re told what the corrections are exactly. It’s one thing if the update is to change the size of a picture or fix some typos, but it’s quite another if something was added, deleted or changed from previous information.

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