Digital Barth

Mark Liberman noticed something, while reading The Development on his kindle:

What struck me about The Development was the transformation of every single instance of the singular inanimate possessive pronoun “its” into (the orthographically regular but culturally deprecated form) “it’s”. (…) The experience of reading this work left me with the familiar problem of attributional abduction: trying to find the most likely explanation for some puzzling aspect of a published work. Could Barth have done this on purpose, perhaps to make a point about the arbitrariness of writing’s cultural conventions? Did he mean to insert one apostrophe into a mis-typed “its” and mistakenly change every similar string in the whole manuscript? Or was the error (if it was an error) introduced by a copy editor or someone further along the chain of production?

However, he then checks the print edition and finds none of the changes he found so delightful. The rest of the post, and the comment section then goes on to delightfully explore the deplorable copy editing practices of amazon and what it means for books and what the hell Barth actually wrote. Read it all here. You can also find discussions of The Development at The Fictional Woods, a forum for readers of all stripes.

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