Penguin Uncle Tom’s Cabin Review: An Experiment

The rate of transcription error in Ann Douglas’s Penguin edition of Uncle Tom’s Cabin is very high. I explained the magnitude of the problem in my American Literature Association conference presentation.

The Digital Americanist session organizers expressed an interest in publishing the essays, so I’ve decided to engage in an experiment as part of an intended revision of the essay. Yesterday, I wrote reviews of the Penguin edition on popular sites (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and WorldCat) to see if I can dissuade students and scholars from using that edition. Amazon and WorldCat now display the review. BN does not yet display it, and I’m not sure whether the review submission was successful. BNs review tool is awkward. So I’ll try again in a day or two if the review has not appeared.

UPDATE: BN now does display it but to my horror BN strips out HTML tags. So I’ve published a review about “error” with little br’s in it. In my HTML code they signaled page breaks. BN does not allow one to update reviews. D–n!

When I first looked up the Amazon page, 93 percent of people who viewed the page ended up buying the book. At the time I submitted the review (Saturday, July 7), Amazon reported that its sales rank was 41,945 among books. Today, Sunday, July 8, its sales rank is 151,688. What a range! I wonder if my review can dent these numbers. So I hope that my review makes it to the first page of reviews (where it would be more likely to be read).

Academic papers have a very small audience. I assume that the review on Amazon, BN, and WorldCat will have a much larger readership. I want to see if the review can dent the Penguin edition’s Amazon sales rank or the percentage of shoppers who buy the edition. If either happens in the next six months, I’ll have an interesting topic for expanding my conference presentation into an article. I hope to receive some indication whether readers who are aware that an edition has a large number of transcription errors would still purchase it.

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