Friday, March 21, 2014

Updating a Kindle and a Print-on-Demand Paperback: The Never Ending Story

In Days of Yore, when printing book meant 2,000 + copies shipped to a warehouse, the mistake of, say, having called Jorge Luis Borges "José Luis Borge" would remain in one's book and upon one's conscience (like an itchy scar) until the reprint-- which, for most books, never happened. And even if it did, one's publisher might not trouble to make corrections. But now, with digital print-on-demand paperbacks, and of course ebooks, fixing mistakes is like being able to text message your kids-- you never have to really let go! Wonderful! Terrible!

Back in the fall of 2011 I put up a Kindle edition of my translation of Francisco I. Madero's 1911 Manual espírita as Spiritist Manual. I gave a talk about it for the San Miguel de Allende's Author Sala in November of that year, and then another talk for PEN San Miguel in 2012 (link goes to the podcast). Why no paperback edition? I wasn't ready to commit because the five pages of introduction I offered with that first Kindle edition were OK, but rather like having recounted a multilayered mega-saga such as Anna Karenina in the teacup of a paragraph. I refer not so much to the Spiritist Manual itself but to the origins and spread of Spiritism, Madero's own life, and Madero's role in that movement and in Mexican history. For those of you don't follow this blog or Mexican history, Madero was the leader of the Mexican Revolution of 1910 and President of Mexico from 1911 to 1913, when he was assassinated. And the powerfully radical significance of his secret book, Spiritist Manual, cannot be appreciated without this, well, rather novelesque context.

Finally, late last year, I got that introduction done to my satisfaction. I took a breather over the holidays and then, in January, published it as a proper paperback: Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution: Francisco I. Madero and His Secret Book, Spiritist Manual. 

So back to the Kindle for an update. Librarians will sniff rather loudly that, with a different title and 200+ pages of new material, I should have used a new ISBN-- that is, published it as a different book. But I wanted the people who had bought the earlier version to be able to go to "Manage My Kindle" on their dashboard and get a free update.

So then what is the copyright year on this thing? Can it be entered in thus-and-such a competition as a first publication (or not)? A dozen wiggly little questions all over the place! But digital publishing isn't considered the Wild West for nothing. Ain't no sheriffs I can see. So I just went ahead and updated the same old Kindle-- same ISBN. And since January, I have updated the Kindle, fixing typos, adding a map, another book to the bibliography, oh… 5 or 6 times.  Just yesterday I fixed a couple of typos. (I swear, typos are evidence of parallel universes.)

It's so easy! I just go into Sigil, type in or delete what I want, then upload the epub file to Kindle Direct. A few hours later, bingo, it's live on

P.S. Why am I so enthusiastic about Kindles? This chart from Bowker (hat tip to Jane Friedman) says it all.