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.


Gov. Rick Scott’s budget not pro-libraries (Part 2)

"Rick Scott - Caricature" by DonkeyHotey, via Creative Commons

“Rick Scott – Caricature” by DonkeyHotey, via Creative Commons

My sincerest apologies for the missed post last week, everyone. I had a personal issue to attend to, but it’s been resolved and I’m back on track. Unfortunately, Rick Scott won the position as Florida governor. Given that, I’ll skip my whole Charlie Crist section and focus on what Scott has in store for us.

In “Governor Rick Scott’s FY 2014-2015 Recommended Budget Highlights,” he said he will continue to support Florida public libraries with a recommended $24.7 million.

It’s big money for us, but not nearly enough to keep libraries in top working condition.

According to a Miami Herald article earlier this year, “Without more tax dollars, Miami-Dade County’s library system would fire 56 percent of its full-time staff and bring on part-time workers to operate branches that will see hours cut by an average of 35 percent…”

Rather than increasing “the special property tax,” the plan was to cripple the library system. I say “cripple” because without funding to update services and materials, it will become obsolete.

In another article, it states Miami-Dade public libraries is spending 90 percent less on children’s books than they have in previous years. This is problematic because many families turn to libraries to look for books for school, but some now have to turn to Amazon or other sources to find them because the library doesn’t have enough funding to get the latest books or even have enough books for all of the branches.

Just this Friday, I looked in the library system to get a copy of “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn for my book club, but all 85 English hard copies were checked out and 109 people have it on hold. That’s not even a book for school. What happens when a young student needs “Night” by Elie Wiesel for class, finds they’re all checked out and can’t afford to buy it?

“Library systems serving more than 1 million people typically invest about $600,000 a year on children’s books,” reported Douglas Hanks. “Despite a population topping 2 million, Miami-Dade children’s budget falls much closer to the $66,000 average that the [Library Journal] calculated for libraries serving communities of 100,000 people – about the size of Miami Gardens.”

I’m extremely worried because signs point to Scott not being in any sort of rush to supply libraries with the extra necessary funds to stay afloat. In the first line of the first paragraph of his recommended budget, Scott says he’s about “tax and fee cuts, eliminate[ing] government waste and pay[ing] down debt.”

I’m all for eliminating waste and paying down debt, but a tax increase is necessary to keep libraries in working order.

True, libraries are underused in our city, but perhaps they’re underused because people found they don’t have the books we need.

Whenever a semester started, the first place I would look for textbooks would be the library. If they didn’t have it, then I would turn to a used book store, then the internet.

And if their argument for cutting back on library money is that books are dead so we won’t have to buy as many, there are a couple holes in that argument. First, there is a large population that still uses print books, specially the poor and underprivileged that don’t have access to e-readers. Second, we need properly trained staff that is equipped to help patrons with evolving technologies available at these locations. Finally, libraries offer much more than books, they offer vital services such as resume writing workshops, gardening workshops and workshops on other essential skills that would better the community. If funding is cut, the workshops will be cut too.

As it stands, I don’t think the library is open enough. I work long hours during the week, and by the time I have time to go to the library, it’s closed. Sundays I often find myself wishing they were open.

Going back to Rick Scott, I foresee a battle coming on. For now, keep going to your local library and show him via numbers that libraries are still relevant.

If you would like to help financially, you can donate to Friends of Miami-Dade Public Library on Give Miami Day on Nov. 20, visit the Friends’ Booth at the Miami Book Fair International from Nov. 21-23, or buy books at the Friends’ Annual Book Sale on Dec. 10-13. Additionally, you can donate used books to the library. 

Bookworm worries as elections come near (Part 1)

With Florida elections coming up, something that has been on my mind is library funding. With choices like Rick Scott and Charlie Crist, it feels like I’m either going to lose my pants to one bully or my sweater to the other.

Florida has never really been a state with the reputation for being intellectual. More reason to fund libraries and education, I would think. But I have reason to believe we should be worried because in 2013 they threatened to take away a big chunk of library money. They threatened to close down several public libraries and the hours of remaining libraries. I know because I was there protesting in front of West Kendall Regional Library.

Standing with my fellow protesters outside of West Kendall Regional Library.

Standing with my fellow protesters outside of West Kendall Regional Library.

While the usage of print books might be declining (and this is contestable), libraries aren’t solely about books. These ancient institutions provide other services to people. For instance, they hold workshops on gardening, poetry, resume building, job hunting and other non-reading activities. They also have programs for kids, such as the program they had in the summer that provided children with a free lunch. Libraries are an invaluable part of the community and they should not have to be threatened by budget cuts.

In honor of the upcoming elections, I’m going to break from my usual routine and turn this post into a three part series explaining each potential governor’s position on funding for libraries and education as well as their past history.

Tomorrow Charlie Crist will be attending FIU and I hope to get some answers from him. Tune in Sunday, Nov. 2 for more information.


Protesters standing outside of West Kendall Regional Library informing local citizens about the possible cutting of their libraries.