Borrowing e-books from the library

I’m currently reading The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. I borrowed the e-book from the Québec National Library. Just the process of borrowing an e-book has been fascinating. When an e-book is borrowed from the library, it is no longer available for other users to borrow, because the library uses a particular kind of DRM software.

This is interesting to me because traditional borrowing of library books had the “scarcity” of the books (and thus the protection of the author/publisher’s rights) built-in to the “hardware” itself. That is to say, by the nature of the physical book itself, two people could not be borrowing it from the library at the same time.

This is manifestly not true of digital materials. Much to the chagrin of publishers of all types, it’s difficult to stop people from sharing media if it’s digital, and in fact it takes a good deal of effort to stop people from doing so, while still allowing for legitimate uses of the media in question.

I’m 67% of the way through, and I’ve come across a couple typos. Nothing major—nothing that changes the content of the book, or even makes it much more difficult to read. I don’t know why, but I can’t resist keeping a record of when I find typos.

  • “It isn’t the sort ofthing you ask questions about …” p. 29
  • “I press my hands against the sides of my thighs, breath in, set out along the hall …” p. 142

Maybe I’m reading too much between the lines here, but when I saw these typos, I started thinking about maps. Stay with me, here. I don’t know if it’s actually true, but it used to be said that map-makers would put fake streets—small ones that no one would notice—into their maps, so that if someone copied their work, they would know that it was copied.

I’m sure it’s possible to find software that will strip an e-book of its DRM, and so I wonder if these typos are like that—little “fake streets” that the publisher has inserted into the e-book, so that if it’s copied, they’ll know. If they were sophisticated about it, they could probably even make up a way of encoding which library and even which user stripped the DRM by inserting particular “typos” into the borrowed e-book.

So here’s my question for all you Margaret Atwood fans out there: Does anyone have a physical copy of The Handmaid’s Tale? If you do, can you tell me if the typos are there in your copy? Also, does anyone else feel like borrowing the e-book from the library to see if the typos are there (or in the same place)?

Side-note: How long before we drop the hyphen from “e-book” and “e-reader” the way we dropped the hyphen from e-mail?

More typos from The Witch Doctor’s Wife

  • “The witchdoctor grunted and clapped his hands.” (p. 176, In every other case “witch doctor” is written as two words.)
  • “As if that weren’t enough, the pimple-faced spy from Flanders was out to get the OP.” (p. 245, “Flanders” was the guy’s name, not where he came from.)
  • “Pardonez mois?” (p. 259)
  • “Cripple had gone from death’s door—literally—to suddenly becoming an icon of freedom.” (p. 302, Cripple did not literally come from death’s door.)
  • “Excusez mois” (p. 304)

Typos in The Witch Doctor’s Wife

Now that my thesis has been submitted, I’m reading a book for pleasure called The Witch Doctor’s Wife. It’s not a life-changing read or a very challenging one, but it’s a fun story, full of sarcastic pokes at historical political problems. It’s nice to have something light to read after mostly reading about moral theory, economic theory and human research protocols for a year.

And of course, I found typos!

  • “That invited infection, which often lead to crippling.” (p. 121)
  • “… believing she could lesson the threat by making noise …” (p. 131)
  • “Pardonez mois, monsieur” (p. 152)
  • “Excusez mois” (p. 153)
  • “Pardonez mois” (p. 155)

They seem to have a hard time with homonyms.

That’s all I’ve found for now, but I’m only on page 170 of 307. I haven’t even gotten to the murder promised on the back of the book.

Em dashes, en dashes, hyphens and The Last Battle

The Last Battle p. 205
The Last Battle p. 205

A few weeks ago I found a typo in The Silver Chair by C. S. Lewis.

This was shocking, to say the least. So, of course, I went looking for some more. I found one in The Last Battle.

Before I point out the typo that I found, I should clarify the distinction between a few different kinds of typographical marks. Specifically, I will be speaking about hyphens, en dashes and em dashes.


Hyphens are used to join two words together or separate syllables of a single word. Hyphens are what you use for compound modifiers, like “well-respected,” or for other compound words, like “being-in-the-world,” if you were talking about phenomenology. An hyphen is the mark that you get on a Mac when you press the button that has a horizontal line on it. It’s beside the button that has the “equals” and “addition” signs on it (if you use a QWERTY keyboard).

En dashes

En dashes are probably less familiar to you than hyphens. An en dash is what you see in a range of numbers or to contrast values. For example, if you wanted to write “see pages one to twenty-one,” but using numerals instead of words, you could write “see pages 1–21.” You’ll note that the en dash is slightly longer than the hyphen. You get the en dash on a Mac when you hold down the option key and press the same key as the hyphen.

Em dashes

An em dash is used to indicate a break in thought or an explanation or to introduce an interpolating thought with a break that is even stronger than parentheses. It is also used to indicate that a speaker was interrupted.

For example, “I ate the cookies—all of them—and felt no remorse.” [Interpolating thought]

Or, “I just can’t believe—” [The speaker was interrupted]

Or, “This is the way to get there—the way to get there without being noticed, of course.” [Explanation]

The em dash is even longer than the en dash. You can type an em dash on a Mac when you press and hold the shift and option keys while pressing the same key as the hyphen or en dash.

What does this have to do with The Last Battle?

Look at the typographical mark between “Marsh” and “wiggle” in the scanned page from The Last Battle. It’s an em dash. It’s way too long to be an hyphen. In fact, there’s an hyphen at the end of the line, in the middle of “disenchanted” for comparison.

Hyphens are used for compound words, like Marsh-wiggle. Em dashes are used for something completely different.

If you own another edition of The Last Battle, can you find this typo in your copy? I’m reading from the 1995 Scholastic reprint.

The Silver Chair

Silver Chair Typo, p. 122
Silver Chair Typo, p. 122

This year, I read a first edition book, Wertheimer’s Rethinking the Ethics of Clinical Research, and I wrote down every single typo or other sort of mistake that I found in the book. It was quite an extensive list by the end of it.

I posted that list here.

I suppose through that effort, I became more sensitive to finding typos wherever I look. I recently re-read a book from my childhood that remains a favourite of mine: The Silver Chair, by C. S. Lewis.

And I found a typo in it. I scanned it and posted it as an image attached to this post.

It’s on p. 122. I’m sort of tempted to go to a library and see if the same typo is in other editions. The edition that I have is the 1995 Scholastic reprint. Can anyone else, who has a copy of another edition of The Silver Chair, find this typo in their copy? I’m really curious as to how widespread this is, and how far back the typo goes.

Is it unique to the 1995 Scholastic edition? Or does this typo go all the way back, unnoticed to Lewis himself?

“Rethinking the Ethics of Clinical Research” by Wertheimer

I’m reading this book on the advice of my supervisor, since he thinks that it will be useful in writing my thesis. He’s very right. It’s the first edition of the book that has been published, and so, as I’ve been reading it, I’ve been keeping a list of the mistakes in spelling, grammar or typography that I find in the book. If you follow me on Twitter you may have noticed that I’ve been tweeting the mistakes as I find them, too.

Apparently my supervisor and Wertheimer are academic rivals, and so my supervisor was very pleased to hear that I was doing this. He kindly offered to email it to Wertheimer himself for use in correcting future editions. :)

I’ve finally compiled all the tweets, scraps of paper and other places where I recorded the mistakes I found in “Rethinking.” Here they are:

  • Mistake, p. 5 paragraph 2, “its” should be “it’s”
  • Mistake, p. 27 paragraph 2, “requires” should be “require”
  • Mistake, p. 76 “the” shouldn’t be there
  • Typo, p. 96 closing parenthesis after “Department Meeting” is italicised
  • Typo, p. 103 “comprehend” should be negated
  • Typo, p. 111 “by passer” should be “passerby”
  • Mistake, p. 133 “A risk or a burden?” has no verb in it. Just saying.
  • Typo, p. 139 space between “society” and period before ellipsis
  • Typo, p. 139 unmatched quotes around “new miracle cures”
  • Typo, p. 145 unmatched closing quotation marks after “accept”
  • Typo, p. 171 opening quote before “it” should be closing quote after “good” in 3rd paragraph
  • Mistake, p. 181 “anymore” should be “any more” at the end of the page
  • Mistake, p. 182 “disproportionately” should be “disproportionality” in 2nd (new) paragraph
  • Mistake, p. 188 whole sentence is copied nearly verbatim.
  • Typo, p. 198 missing space after ellipsis
  • Typo, p. 200 only two points in ellipsis at end of 5
  • Typo, p. 200 need space after ellipsis in 7
  • Typo, p. 210 weird line break before “competitive” in 1st paragraph
  • Typo, p. 224 space needed after endnote 60
  • Typo, p. 269 four points in ellipsis after “reciprocity”
  • Typo, p. 280 missing period after “B accepts”
  • Typo, p. 311 four points in ellipsis before “the importance”
  • Typo, p. 312 backslash between “physician” and “investigators” in 2nd paragraph