Uncle John can barely fathom the agony doing all the work to make a book, get it out to thousands of bookstores…and then having to gather them all back up again. It occasionally happens to publishers, however—forced to recall a book because of a really bad mistake that nobody noticed.
Kindle’s 1984 and Animal Farm
In 2010, people who owned Amazon’s Kindle e-book devices and who’d paid for and downloaded files of George Orwell’s classic novels 1984 and Animal Farm found they suddenly couldn’t read them. Amazon had deleted the books from Kindles, en masse, overnight. What could have been wrong with a couple of universally beloved books that had been available for more than 60 years at that point? The versions of 1984 and Animal Farm that had been sold, bought, then deleted, were unauthorized, copyright-violating versions. Amazon apologized and promised that if it had to do something like this again, it would give Kindle users fair warning before deletion.
Faulty home improvement books
A publisher called Oxmoor House faced one of the most far-reaching recalls ever in 2010. Oxmoor needed back about 951,000 copies of 14 editions of nine separate titles, which had been originally published between 1990 and 2009. They were all home improvement, handyman, and do-it-yourself books published in conjunction with other brands, with titles like Sunset Home Repair Handbook and Lowe’s Complete Home Wiring. According to a statement by the company, the books contained incorrect technical diagrams and inaccurate writing instructions that could lead readers to install electrical wiring wrong, “posing an electrical shock or fire hazard.”
Comic books and drinking
Comic books are books too, and they get recalled, too, usually because of some minor printing or coloring error. The thing that got DC Comics’s Action Comics issue #869 recalled kind of fits that description, but it’s a little bit worse than that. The cover of the November 2008 comic about a battle between Superman and Brainiac showed Clark Kent/The Man of Steel alongside his Earth dad, Pa Kent, standing by their Smallville farmhouse…and Pa is drinking a beer. Because comics are marketed to kids. DC ordered comics shops to destroy all shipments of the comic, and the next week they received a shipment of issues with the cover redone. On that one, Pa Kent is drinking what is clearly labeled “SODA POP.”
Public safety concerns
Johnna Holmgren became a star on Instagram under the handle @foxmeetsbear, where she shared photos, recipes, and awareness of food foraging—scouring forests for edible berries and wild mushrooms. Holmgren’s large following led to a cookbook deal with Crown Publishing, and Tales from a Forager’s Kitchen hit stores in 2018…and was then removed from them not too long after. The reason: public safety concerns. Holmgren’s recipes included the use of raw morel mushrooms, raw elderberries, and raw acorns. Eating those things without cooking can cause mild to severe gastrointestinal problems or worse. Holmgren removed all mentions of the book from her Instagram, and she and Crown stopped promoting the book as it was pulled off of shelves.