When Lerner Publishing Group recently decided to publish books for sale in the United Kingdom (www.lernerbooks.co.uk), one of our main tasks was to “anglicize” the texts designated for that market. I immediately thought this was a poor choice of words. Consider the definition of anglicize from Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary: “to adapt (a foreign word or phrase) to English usage.” We obviously weren’t adapting foreign words or phrases to English usage. We were taking American English and adapting it to a form more familiar to readers in the UK, but it would still be English. This is going to be simple, I thought.
The reality is, adapting U.S. texts for sale in the UK market was a lot more complex than I’d first bargained for. It’s true that changing “color” to “colour” is not a radical departure from my comfort zone. And while my tongue still stumbles over the word “maths” (instead of math, as in, “I need to do my maths homework”), I think I’m getting used to it.
But adapting books for the UK entails a lot more than an added letter or two. In some cases, we renamed the book altogether. At left is the Lerner Books UK cover for what in the United States we called Your Body Battles a Skinned Knee.
According to our UK experts, some of the books were the wrong size for the UK market. Others were too closely focused on examples from the United States. Some of our books used a less-than-ideal font on the covers. And of course there is metric conversion to consider, which needs to be addressed in texts, sidebars, captions, charts, diagrams, and on, and on.
So in the end there was a lot more to think about than simply adding a “u” to “neighbourhood.” To make things slightly more complicated, I had to deal with international time zones. London is six hours ahead of us here in Minneapolis, so just as my breakfast is starting to sink in and my early morning haziness is passing, my UK counterparts are wrapping up for the day and starting to head for home.
We’ve made it work so far, and I think the product is pretty great. Next time (if there is a next time), I’ll write more about some of the cover changes we made and why.