Trying to Swallow a Desert

I’m in the process of slogging through Frank Herbert’s Dune. Slogging’s not really the right word. With other things going on at the moment, I’m a little more distracted, and Dune (the early sections, so far) requires quite a bit of engagement to get into. Part of my frustration stems from the medium in which I’ve been attempting to read.

When I was shopping around for the books over the summer, I was frugal. I checked prices on several sites (for new copies… no I didn’t go the discount route) and the local library. The library’s offering was limited (1 copy, I think, in their entire system…). Unable to guarantee it would be available when I would need it, I opted to purchase. In my browsing, I found a better pricing on an ebook copy. All fine and good.

Then I started reading. I’ve encountered simple issues in other books: commas transposed into apostrophes, lack of separating spaces after some punctuation marks…annoyances, but they don’t affect the gist of the text. The copy of Dune, however… there were sections where what should be a phrase is displayed as a handful of unintelligible characters. Not quite like an OCR string, but not far from it, either. Other times, there wouldn’t even be the funky characters, the phrase would just be missing from the middle of a sentence, but without any hint (beyond the contextual “Hungh?”) that something should be there. I gave up on the ebook version when I hit a page where a sentence was cut after about five words, and the rest of the screen was whitespace. The next screen? The start of a new sequence, not just a hiccupped page break. I might have continued, if that had been the case.

In my frustration, I sought out the local B&N, because the timing wasn’t ideal for waiting for an Amazon delivery. Of the three options available (mass-market, publisher’s hardcover, or a “special” B&N edition), I went for the B&N one. The motivating thought? “If it’s something that’s going to be on the shelf, let’s make it something worth having on the shelf”…and it was the cheaper of the two hardbacks.

One thing I’ve noticed between the two versions (bound vs electronic) is the paginated structure. The core material of the novel is broken into three specific parts. Each part is composed of numerous segments. I would consider them chapters, but they are not labeled as such. Specific delineations become obvious based on the use of whitespace on the printed page, but because of how the electronic version is parsed, those demarkations are more muddled.

Highly disappointing.

The upside? Even with the issues, while I am still far from finishing the book, I think I have read enough to generate a few hundred words about the structural elements and POV.

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