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Old 10-22-2013, 10:44 PM   #1
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Question re: US, CAN, UK, AUS English editions

While browsing for ebooks, I've often come across different versions of the same English text... i.e. a British version of an American author's Penguin book or a HarperCollins Canada version of a British author. The ebook boom has raised an issue that wasn't so apparent in the paper book era: The fact that publishing rights are still largely established country by country.

My question is whether an English text is modified significantly for each market. I know that the Harry Potter books were "Americanized" for the US by changing some spelling and word usage. But in general, are there differences between the various English versions?
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Old 10-23-2013, 08:16 PM   #2
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Other than the obvious boot<>trunk, bonnet<>hood and petrol<>gas(oline) vocabulary changes, the biggest difference I see between British books and North American (USA and Canada) books is the British books use single quotes and North American books use double quotes. The use of the n- and m-dash is different as well but not as consistent. Where an m-dash would be used in a North American book, a space n-dash space might be used in a British book. I have no idea what would be standard for an Australian book. British usage probably.
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Old 10-23-2013, 09:31 PM   #3
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Some books by British authors have a whole different introduction for the US edition. This is often used to warn about terms used in the book that have a different meaning in the US.
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Old 10-24-2013, 12:33 AM   #4
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There are also a lot of slang, trade name, usage differences.
They even have different names for holidays

Personally, I like that, it helps with the flavour of the setting

I have been to go 'over the roundabout' a time or two.
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Old 10-24-2013, 03:14 AM   #5
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I have no idea what would be standard for an Australian book. British usage probably.
I think you'll find it's quite inconsistent, probably with a move towards the American style.
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Old 10-24-2013, 03:39 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by grumbles View Post
Other than the obvious boot<>trunk, bonnet<>hood and petrol<>gas(oline) vocabulary changes, the biggest difference I see between British books and North American (USA and Canada) books is the British books use single quotes and North American books use double quotes. The use of the n- and m-dash is different as well but not as consistent. Where an m-dash would be used in a North American book, a space n-dash space might be used in a British book. I have no idea what would be standard for an Australian book. British usage probably.
Those are certainly all differences between British and American books, but that wasn't the question that was being asked. The original poster was asking whether books are adapted for local English markets, and the answer to that is no, they generally aren't. American books retain American language use in British editions; British books retain British language use in American editions. There are exceptions, such as the already mentioned Harry Potter, but they are rare.
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Old 10-24-2013, 08:26 AM   #7
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Those are certainly all differences between British and American books, but that wasn't the question that was being asked. The original poster was asking whether books are adapted for local English markets, and the answer to that is no, they generally aren't. American books retain American language use in British editions; British books retain British language use in American editions. There are exceptions, such as the already mentioned Harry Potter, but they are rare.
I wish they would not do it at all. For books written in or about the UK I prefer the original slang and usage. It tends to spoil a book written in the UK about the UK and you see elevator or trunk.
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Old 10-24-2013, 08:37 AM   #8
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I wish they would not do it at all. For books written in or about the UK I prefer the original slang and usage. It tends to spoil a book written in the UK about the UK and you see elevator or trunk.
Apache
I agree entirely. If I read an American book, I want it to "feel" American.

What I don't like, however, is when an American author tries to write a "British" book, and gets it wrong. There are authors who can do it right: Elizabeth George is an example (an American author who writes British detective stories), but there are many others who can't. I'm sure the same must be true of British authors writing "American" books - some succeed (I believe that Lee Child is a reasonably convincing "American"); others don't.
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Old 10-24-2013, 05:47 PM   #9
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American spelling differs from UK spelling - as I discovered to my cost.
My debut novel was published with UK spellings - no special US edition, and let's just say the level of criticism was such that I now use US spelling - even in the UK editions (can't afford to have a US and UK editor! )
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Old 10-24-2013, 05:52 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by HarryT View Post
I agree entirely. If I read an American book, I want it to "feel" American.

What I don't like, however, is when an American author tries to write a "British" book, and gets it wrong. There are authors who can do it right: Elizabeth George is an example (an American author who writes British detective stories), but there are many others who can't. I'm sure the same must be true of British authors writing "American" books - some succeed (I believe that Lee Child is a reasonably convincing "American"); others don't.
I'm curious if you find the same holds true for television? Are American PBS 'British' productions, such as Masterpiece Theatre, played in Britain, and if so, do they seem Americanized? I realize British actors etc are used, but just wonder if their US origins show through in any way.
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Old 10-24-2013, 06:20 PM   #11
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Richard Dawkins has ranted about this a bit. Apparently titles are often different for US and UK versions - so he complains that he has often wound up buying the same book twice while traveling, and Amazon.com makes it even more absurd since it often recommends "if you liked X, you'll probably love Y", where X & Y are actually the same book.
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Old 10-24-2013, 06:37 PM   #12
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Richard Dawkins has ranted about this a bit. Apparently titles are often different for US and UK versions - so he complains that he has often wound up buying the same book twice while traveling, and Amazon.com makes it even more absurd since it often recommends "if you liked X, you'll probably love Y", where X & Y are actually the same book.
Yep - it's happened to me - art books, not fiction- and is definitely annoying. They rename and redistribute British books published several years before. Very annoying!
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Old 10-24-2013, 07:22 PM   #13
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American spelling differs from UK spelling - as I discovered to my cost.
My debut novel was published with UK spellings - no special US edition, and let's just say the level of criticism was such that I now use US spelling - even in the UK editions (can't afford to have a US and UK editor! )
OMG these folk might be my neighbors.

UK Spelling is part of the book

Here is a question for UK English writers:
Your main character is visiting the USA.
In the lobby of a High rise Office. They look at the sign "Elevators -> "

Do you change that to "Lifts ->" in a UK edition?
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Old 10-24-2013, 09:36 PM   #14
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Of course not. They are in the US, so it should say "Elevators".

ETA: I recently read a supposedly American book by a British author, and they referred to a "hire car". An American would never say that, they would say "rental car".
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Old 10-25-2013, 04:58 AM   #15
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I'm curious if you find the same holds true for television? Are American PBS 'British' productions, such as Masterpiece Theatre, played in Britain, and if so, do they seem Americanized? I realize British actors etc are used, but just wonder if their US origins show through in any way.
No, it's not shown in the UK, so I'm afraid I can't comment on it.

When American actors do try to use British accents, they are rarely convincing. The most atrocious example I can think of is perhaps Dick Van Dyke's "Cockney" accent in the film "Mary Poppins" .
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