Well, It Blows.

We didn't buy an air conditioner yesterday, even though temperatures are expected to top out at 32'C today, with a serious smog advisory. Unfortunately, even this can't induce us to spend over $700 for a decent air conditioner. Perhaps we will find one used. Or perhaps we'll spend money in the future on central air (thus increasing the value of our home). Or perhaps we'll invest in a dehumidifier (half the battle).

We did spend money on two very neat window exhaust fans. Very effective, and easily reversible, we planted them in our bedroom and office windows and turned them on, venting cool outside air into the house. Today, with a flick of a switch, we'll be venting warm inside air out of the house. It actually dropped the temperature down effectively, and has finally gotten the air moving in our upper floor.

UK Version
US Version

So, why do Americans have to get different book editions compared to their Canadian and British counterparts?

David asked about this in my last post, comparing the British/Canadian covers to American versions, and I agree with him. I must thank Scholastic and Raincoast distributors in Canada for granting Canadians the British versions of the Harry Potter series. I happen to believe that the British edition covers are of a better design. And though I find the covers of the Chrestomanci series to be a little too colourful for my liking, I'd still rate them above their American counterparts (pictured below).

But, to me, the most egregious example of American/British difference in book editions is the renaming of the first Harry Potter novel from The Philosopher's Stone (UK) to The Sorcerer's Stone (US). The Philosopher's Stone is a real (albeit mythological) item. The sorcerer's stone is a dumbing down of the name into something that doesn't exist. This difference was even transferred over to the movie, with American and UK/Canadian versions bearing their respective alternate titles.

I know many American Harry Potter fans find this to be an insult of their intelligence. They know or can guess what the philosopher stone is, and indeed Dumbledore explains it to them; changing it to the sorcerer's stone doesn't make the element conform more closely to the magical elements of the story, it's just stupid.

It's hardly the first time something like this has happened, however. Pinnacle Books published a short-lived range of Americanized Doctor Who novelizations, where among other things, British jelly babies became American jelly beans to prevent Americans from getting confused by references to British candies. American fans soon put paid to that assumption.

And it goes the other way, too. American novelist Madeleine L'Engle discovered to her dismay that the first line of her classic book, A Wrinkle in Time had been changed from "it was a dark and stormy night" to "it was a dark and stormy night in the United States of America" by some clueless British publisher.

This sort of patronizing behaviour is hardly limited to publishers as well. How many television shows dumb things down for the audience? How many programs do we remember and respect because they buck the norm and respect the intelligence of the viewership (including The Prisoner, Babylon 5 and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as opposed to Star Trek: Voyager)? Fortunately, there are plenty of publishers and editors who do the same, producing novels that don't compromise themselves for the mass market, and thus receive considerable respect from that same mass market.

Choosing different book covers for your editions isn't quite the same as modifying text to (supposedly) fit the culture. There is less that we can criticize about that, save for complaining on a case by case basis over a particular cover and the apparent audience the design is aimed at. And I think the case should be made for consumers to choose their favoured editions, even if it means spending a little more to special order it. The same book ends up getting bought, anyway. And fostering a collector's interest can't help but boost the authors' income.

Finally, a bit of practical advice I've just discovered. When drinking slurpees and frozen drinks, are you tired of the icy residue that forms at the bottom of your cup, which won't go up your straw? Next time, when drinking your iced cappuccino, drink from the top down. Run your straw through the upper layers of your drink. Remember, ice floats in water, so drink the ice first.

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