J K Rowling’s New eBook Looks Like $18 of Crap on the Nook and Kindle

Publishers like to justify their ridiculous ebook prices by claiming to offer great value for the price. I’m sure that’s what Hachette was thinking when they set the ebook price for Casual Vacancy, J K Rowling’s new book, at $18.

Now, if only the ebook didn’t look like crap Hachette might have gotten off with just a few disappointed customers.

Reports are coming in today and yesterday that the Nook and Kindle editions of this ebook look terrible. Readers are reporting that the font settings are screwed up, with the Kindle edition only being able to show the smallest and the largest fonts, with some users not able to change from the smallest and virtually unreadable font.

This complaint has been confirmed by a number of reviewers on Amazon as well as several Twitter users, but that’s not all. I’ve heard a number of nearly identical complaints about the Nook edition for this title. I first heard this in a private Facebook group last night, but now it is being echoed on B&N’s Nook Support Forums:

Have others run into this problem?  I have a Nook Simple Touch and cannot adjust the tiny font of the new JK Rowling book.  I don’t think I’ll be able to read 400+ pages like this!

And here is another.

There’s no word yet from the publisher on when this will be fixed., though now that it has hit the major tech blogs (Gizmodo already picked it up) I expect it to be their top priority. In any case, this just goes to show that price does not now nor has it ever correlated to ebook quality.

Update: Hachette has said that they fixed this issue and already provided the corrected ebook to the ebookstores. According to paidContent:

There was an issue with the file (no issues reading the book, just adjusting the type), but that has been corrected and is fully adjustable/functional for all those who have purchased the e-book and for those who will purchase it in the future.

That’s great but not exactly true.  According to Laura her copy isn’t fixed:

If you’ve already bought the ebook, the file isn’t going to correct itself. You’ll have to download it again — and Amazon isn’t yet pushing out an updated version, so you can either try buying the ebook again (which: why?) or wait for an update to roll out.

Luckily there does appear to be a work around.

All the reports of the font issues are only being reported on the Nook and Kindle hardware. The apps don’t seem to have this same issue, so if you’re not bothered by being forced to switch you could always read on an app until Hachette fixes the problem.

image by FontFont

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. Sturmund Drang27 September, 2012

    Carly Kirkland once asked Banacek why he liked “all this old stuff”. He replied, “I don’t like old, I like good. There’s maybe 50 years of new and millenia of old; so it stands to reason there’s more good old stuff than good new stuff.” (I’m misquoting and dating myself all at the same time.) Why would anyone pay near 20$ for Rowling when Anne Bronte and Mary Shelley can be had for 0$? Why would anyone pay 10$? 5$? It’s not reasonable.

    1. Xyzzy27 September, 2012

      I can’t speak for anybody else, but I pay for newer books because I don’t tend to enjoy the more challenging style of older/literary works, prefer newer genres like humorous urban fantasy that weren’t common (or around at all), and strongly dislike the oldschool gender stereotypes that were the norm in much earlier eras.

      No offense intended, just to be clear — I think that your approach works well for the kind of person that loves literature or enjoys reading primarily for the challenge. As I learned the hard way after becoming an English major in my undergrad days, I’m just not in that crowd. 🙂

  2. the rodent27 September, 2012

    > font issues are coming from the Nook and Kindle hardware

    What you mean to say is the built-in software or firmware on the devices. The “hardware” isn’t at fault.

    1. Nate Hoffelder28 September, 2012

      Yes, that was sloppy of me.

  3. Xyzzy28 September, 2012

    I’ve never tried breaking DRM or altering a DRM-infected ebook before, so this is just conjecture: couldn’t somebody industrious just unzip the bleeping file, fix the formatting issues by hand (which shouldn’t take terribly long), then zip it back up and read? For that matter, don’t most of the really good Android reading apps let the user adjust the regular text’s font size to their heart’s content regardless of what the book originally specified?

    Either way, I’m starting to wonder if publishing companies have any major employees with business sense left. Have they somehow failed to notice that one of the many reasons people cite for illegal distribution/downloading ebooks is that those copies very often have major formatting/spelling errors fixed and are thus higher quality? For that matter, if the buyers do end up having to pay for a new copy or wait a long time before a replacement is given to them, it will act as yet another rationale behind people not paying in the first place; in the readers’ shoes, I certainly wouldn’t fork over $20 for something that should be free.

    1. Xhara28 September, 2012

      You can simply use one of those DRM cracks available and then edit the epub using SIGIL to fix the formatting. At least that’s what I do in those situations. How ever I don’t intend to buy an ebook for the 18$. No way.

  4. […] If you purchased a Nook or Kindle ebook of JK Rowling’s Casual Vacancy, you may be experiencin…. […]

  5. Kebin28 September, 2012

    Let’s put blame where it should go … he who must not be named did it.

    1. Nate Hoffelder28 September, 2012

      Who, Jeff Bezos?

      1. Kebin28 September, 2012

        Are you telling me that Jeff is …

  6. Scott1 October, 2012

    Funny. I know someone who obtained this book via bittorent and she says it looks just fine in un-DRM’d Mobi format on her K3.


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