Tuesday, September 25, 2012

It's-a me, in-a paperback!

Super Mario: How Nintendo Conquered America is now in paperback!

In a sort of anticipatory preparation for the paperback release, the hardcover edition of the book has been quietly yoinked off of bookshelves. Now, though, it's back, with all-new features!

--A breathtaking new cover, showing not the classic 8-bit Mario but today's 21st-century Mario

--A whole NEW chapter on Nintendo's launch of the 3DS, its development of the Wii U, and on its war over a plummeting stock price

--The word "Konami" spelled correctly

--The word "Famicom" spelled correctly

--A bit about bonsai trees

--11% more bibliography

--And more!

I joke about the spelling corrections, but only to hide to pain. See, on some pages of the hardcover Konami and Famicom really WERE spelled incorrectly. Lots of people read through it lots of times, but mistakes have a way of sneaking through.

But the paperback isn't just a reprinting with a softcover: it's a newly laid-out text. new margins and all that. As a result, we had the opportunity to make all the fixes we heard about from hardcover readers.

There's a video game analogy that seems right, if miserly in its implications: the beta. Hardcover readers participated int he beta read of the book. All the big bugs had been taken out, nothing every didn't work, but there were some minor kinks. Like "Famicon" and "Komani" sneaking in. They've all been addressed, and now the paperback read is sthoom as slik! Er, um, smooth as silk.

For everyone with their hands up right now, yes, that analogy is imperfect. Because, yes, beta testers know they're not playing the gone-gold final release of a game. They accept some wonkiness for early access. And often they play for free.

But I feel confident in my analogy because this is not just how it worked for my book, ie, mistakes in the first edition that got corrected later on. This is how it's worked in publishing for hundreds of years. Dickens, Darwin, Stephen King, JK Rowling, and everyone in between all had errors in their first editions. Some were minor: once in a while there was a whopper. (One famous example from Daniel DeFoe back in 1719: Robinson Crusoe takes off his clothes, swims to a wrecked ship, and then fills his pockets with stuff.)

Movies have continuity errors. Books have misspellings. We try our best so that they don't, but we become blind to the content. The only real way to notice them is to expose the work to an audience who hasn't seen it before. And even then not all the tangled get combed out, because the early-reader audience is bound to be small. (And, for any sort of specialty work, if you're not already well-versed in whatever the specialty is the imperfections of description will sail over you.)

The only real test is actually releasing it, then paying attention to what everyone says about it. And fixing it all. Movies very quietly do this: small errors that were on screen will be tidied up for the DVD. Blogs do this: no need to let a misspelling live for a minute more than it has to. And books do it: same principle, except the timeline is extended so it's fixed a year later instead of a minute. 

No one really talks about it much, which I guess builds up the infallibility-of-the-book argument. And the infallibility-of-the-author thing, which the self-depreciating part of myself wants to shake off like an ill-fitting smoking jacket. But for anyone who noticed any slip-ups in the hardcover, uh, give yourself a pat on the back!

But I shouldn't leave without mentioning some paperback positives, other than just fixing errors, which everyone does. We wanted to add some more content to the paperback, and I had posted two extra chapters to the web. But those were "prequel" chapters, if you will, taking place before the main action of the book began. (And they were ultimately cut not for space or because they stunk but due to pacing.) Adding them in, at the end of the book seemed not worth it.

So I wrote new chapter, all about Nintendo's handling of the 3DS and upcoming Wii U launches. it ended on   bit of a downnote, and I had wished it would be a bit more optimistic. Then I got a brainstorm, threw together a few final pages that tied everything very nicely, and that's the end of the new chapter. it really reads, I think, like this was the original ending of the book.

So go check it out!