07 January 2014

Samuel Delany: The E-books


Today, Open Road Media releases e-book editions of a number of Samuel R. Delany's best books. I've had the chance to look at the Kindle edition of Dhalgren, and it's really excellent. Indeed, it looks to be the most accurate text, incorporating the corrections to errata in the Vintage editions, which were, until now, the most accurate.

The other Open Road editions (which I haven't yet seen) are: Babel-17, Nova, Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand, The Motion of Light in Water, and the four Nevèrÿon books.

The one big difference between the real-book Dhalgren and the e-book Dhalgren (that I've noticed so far) is that the Kindle edition, at least, can't reproduce the embedded text in Part VII, and so the journal is presented linearly. It's a significant difference, forcing readers to read the sections in a different order than they might choose for themselves. It's probably an unavoidable consequence of making the book available in various electronic file formats. An example will make clear what's changed:

Vintage edition, 3rd printing

Kindle edition

The change is probably only really bothersome to those of us who are a bit obsessive about Dhalgren, and we've already got at least one of the actual book that we can run back to if we're feeling upset. For me, the great value of the e-book edition is in the corrections to the text and, most importantly, that it's searchable — as someone who occasionally does scholarship on Delany, having searchable editions of his books not only saves lots of time, but also opens new ways to look at the books, for instance by finding out how many times particular words are used, which might, somehow, someday, be useful information...

Many of Delany's other books have been available in electronic formats for a while — most of the Wesleyan University Press editions, plus the most recent novels, as well as free editions of The Jewels of Aptor and Captives of the Flame (released with the writer's permission). Indeed, for a while Through the Valley of the Nest of Spiders was only available via e-book (Amazon currently has some copies, and more may be arriving at other outlets), and Dark Reflections is currently only in print that way. Having Open Road now release these nine key titles, though, is really exciting.

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