RANT: Bad E-Book Proofing

You know how often you find bad typos in e-book reprints? I’ve discovered why. Somebody scanned them in and then didn’t proof them. Look at this paragraph that was scanned from the thesis:

“Times are t-.ard,” Darla said. “-;nd of course you get all the football and baseball games fr‚Ǩe. There’s a pius.” She’d stuck out her tonguP to show how much of a plus she thought that was, and Quinn had laughed and told her how nee Bill was. And the sex ‚Ä¢.vas goo:!, she’d told Darla, deafl, healthy, athletic, coach-like sex. At the time, she’d really thought it was a plus. Three years latÙÄǧr, he was beginning to seem like a curse, but it was hard to complain at Ytt a man who was unfailingly generous, considerate, protective, under<;tanding, successful, and who'd shelled out hundreds of dollars in fossil fuel f01 her since 1982. Really, the dumba.ss was the perfect man.

I wrote that paragraph and I have no idea what some of those words are. Fortunately I have the original scans so I can check, but I can’t believe publishers are just scanning books and then throwing them out there without at least a read through, knowing that this is what happens. This thing is practically hieroglyphics.

Small rant over. Back to translating.

48 thoughts on “RANT: Bad E-Book Proofing

  1. Seems like there might be a job in there somewhere. After four years of unemployment, I’d probably do it for some entity for $5 an hour. lol And no, that’s not a hint at you, just a general thought. Boring and monotonous is relative after so long and I’m sure there are people out there who’ve been unemployed longer than I have.

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  2. You find it in books now, too, unfortunately. Books by really good authors. (Though I don’t remember a single one in Maybe This Time.)
    The sad thing about typos is – they take you out of the story. If it’s really good you go right back in , but still.

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    1. Makes me nuts when I get an ebook with typos. I mean, really? It is in an electronic format peoples. Not so hard to convert to whatever file format allows spellcheck, even if that doesn’t account for homonyms, etc. Then I know it’s just laziness. /editrixrant

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  3. Yes, there are some proofreading errors in the e-duo of Welcome to Temptation/Bet Me. Since they aren’t in the hard copy editions I have, I know whoever scanned them dropped the ball.

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  4. One of my first jobs out of library school was to attempt to digitize some plant manuals for the BP library where I was working so I am familiar with the problem of scanning documents and recognized exactly what was going on with the ebook reprints the minute I saw the typos. Yes, you would think that SOMEONE would proof these things before they put them out there. I know there is some pressure to keep up in such a fast paced digital marketplace, but come on…

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  5. That looks like maybe someone should be working on a better scanner. If the who manuscript is as bad as that paragraph, it might be more efficient to type it in.

    The Kobo version of Faking It has typos too – it’s one of my very favorite books, I hope it doesn’t discourage first time readers.

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  6. Copyediting is a dying art even in traditional publishing, it seems. I remember the first time I saw, in a Knopf book, people setting out to sea in a dinghy and coming back in a dingy. I was horrified. These days, that would be so minor, even in a top-rank literary publisher, that it would go unnoticed.

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    1. I work at a college and one of my students told me she got one of the highest grades in a class on a paper simply because she was one of the few students who actually WROTE OUT the paper, rather than writing in “text-ese”. Maybe copyediting is a dying art form because grammar is a dying art form. How sad…

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  7. I noticed some sloppy editing in the ebook version of “Snuff.” Irritating, to say the least.

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  8. I copyedit quite a few scanned books for the folks I work for – and most of them aren’t near that bad. I mainly look for things like ’em and ‘cuz (apostrophe versus single quote) short dialogue paragraphs that get combined, em dash goofs and other punctuation issues. Maybe it is just the scanner.

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  9. Yeah, text scanning is an imperfect technology. It’s available at my office, but usually involves so much clean up that it’s faster to retype.

    I kind of expect to see some of these problems when older books are transitioned to electronic format, although I’ve not run across anything as bad as hieroglyphics. Most of what I’ve seen is stuff that you might not notice unless you were actually reading the book, things that might not be noticeable if you were scanning casually. But I’ve noticed more errors in hardcopies these days, too.

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  10. I wouldn’t mind the typos so much if the NY pubs would actually FIX them when you point them out. Most of the time, they don’t seem to want to bother – especially when it’s a backlist title. I’ve found the smaller pubs & the indies are much more responsive.

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    1. LOL, Ex and the Single Girl had upside down question marks. I have no idea why. I told the publisher a few times; they didn’t do anything. But now I have the rights back, and the clean version should be up next week. 🙂

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  11. I’m with you. I find it infuriating that publishers charge so much for e-books and so often don’t bother to have them proofread.

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    1. THIS. I get cranky about high ebook prices (I’ll pay up to 7.99, but anything over mmpb pricing makes me dig in my heels) as it is. I shouldn’t have to pay premium prices for a sub-standard product, and I shouldn’t have a publisher blowing smoke up my butt about apparently non-existent expenses. Grrrrr.

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  12. Holy Sh%88tt! Are scanners still that inept? I haven’t used one in about a decade, and I figured they might have gone beyond Gen 1 by now.

    Still, it’s almost worth it for the line “And the sex ‚Ä¢.vas goo:!”
    (especially considering it’s deafl).

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  13. My frustration level about the bad scans is such that I return e-books with e-gregarious scanning errors. I don’t buy a book to copyedit it. I also return books that are scanned in as 6pt font so the font can’t be adjusted to a size that I can read on the kindle or the iPad.

    I find especially annoying because I sent ~130 out of print titles that I love off to be scanned in, paid an extra dollar per title for OCR and have yet to find a single typo, use of real wrong word (dinghy vs. dingy, their vs. there vs. they’re) or reversed apostrophe & quote mark thing. So if this random little japanese country can do it, then folks I’m paying $14.99 for an unshareable title can find a way.

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    1. Since I have an OOP book on Amazon, I’m aware that “returns” are a possibility. I just never followed that through to its obvious conclusion. I never considered returning an ebook, but now that you point it out, I do think that this is the answer. Once they start getting them back, they may take more care.

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    2. Good for you for sending them back. That way publishers really will listen (although my editor has been great about the fixes).

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  14. Not to add to your rightful annoyance, but gotta say this is a problem with lots of publishers. Not just because of scanning, but re formatting. Even books published in the last few years. Even, unfortunately, yours.

    I read several of your books as ebooks, and if I remember right, they all had formatting problems including bumping sentences/paragraphs together making it hard to follow dialogue sometimes. A real travesty with Crusie banter.

    I’m hoping publishers improve the process soon. To be fair, though, many online retailers have individualized specs re ebook formatting so it’s not one-size-fits-all. Probably a real challenge for both publishing staff and budgets. Indie publishers like me can have each of our books professionally formatted to meet each retailer’s standard, but not so easy for the big guys to do with so many books to push out en masse.

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    1. We report all reports we get directly to my editor and she’s usually on it. I think I’m just going to have to go through all of them myself and find the mistakes. PITA, but I hate typos, too, they really do throw you out of the book.

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  15. So damned frustrating. I haven’t found things that extreme, but the recent Judith Ivory book I read on my Kindle constantly had periods instead of commas. Once I figured out what was happening I could pretty much ignore it, but here’s the problem: This is how people defend self-published, unedited ebooks that haven’t been through the editorial system– because the books that HAVE been through the system show up looking like that, anyway, so clearly traditional publishing isn’t “all that.”

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    1. This happens a lot when you scan. A human has to go through with a fine-tooth comb. There’s just no way around it.

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      1. Exactly. But I have to say when I had one of my old novels scanned and sent to me, it had very, very few problems. Not as many as this book had. How much does it cost to have a proofreader go over it before selling it to people, anyway?

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        1. It depends on the proofreader. At StoryWonk, we charge .0035/word, which may seem like a lot (comes out to about $280 for an 80k novel) but that’s because we comb through it, word by word, making sure everything matches the original text, or is fixed if the original text had a typo. We also throw the scanning in for free if you go with us for proofing as well. Plus, we’re really, really good. 🙂

          Another option, though, if you really can’t afford it, is trading proofing with another writer in the same boat. Fresh eyes are important; I’ll skim right past the same mistake in my work over and over again. So trading with another writer you trust could be an option for those of us (most of us!) on a strict budget.

          But when it comes to your business, I think everyone should hire a professional. Covers, copy, proofing, scanning. It’s your image, and it matters.

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          1. Lani, that’s really pretty inexpensive. I’ve done some proofreading for genetics & immunology materials (chapters, articles, etc) and my rates were considered low at 1 cent/word. Admittedly there was specialized knowledge involved, but really that turned out to be about spelling.

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          2. It’s only $300 to copyedit an eBook and these foully “produced” professionally published eBooks are still this common? I have one where every “fi” combo printed as “du”. Sure, I got better at parsing dut as fit, but it would have taken maybe 30 seconds and three rounds of search and replace to fix it. Appallingly lazy for something they were Selling For Real Money. I didn’t know I could return it…

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  16. As a reviewer, I read a LOT of books. And I come across a LOT of typos. I’ve always wondered why and figured it had to do with declining work ethics and the publisher’s push to get books on the market (both print and e-). And, yes, if I find more than one or two typos (or the typo is just so blatent that it cannot be ignored), I will mention it in the review. If you are like me, typos can drive you to put (throw) down a book – no matter how good it is – so I feel you deserve to know what you’re getting into when you open those first pages.

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    1. I think there’s just no excuse for a typo in the first chapter. I prefer zero typos, but having them in the first chapter makes me think the publisher does not care about their product or customers or authors.

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  17. This feels so timely. Thanks for letting me add to the rant, although a wee bit off the topic of scanning and typos. I just wrote a response (in my mind) to our local library foundation. They want to launch a plan! Form a literacy committee to produce a vision! And of course they need more money. I wonder how a plan feels once launched, just floating in the air, hoping someone will turn the poor plan into something more tangible.

    I’m off to read a well-crafted, well-written Crusie book to restore my equanimity. Online, without typos and with no helpless plans and visions awaiting launch.

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  18. You know, this is a topic I’ve been thinking about some lately. I can understand (up to a point) errors in a book that had to be scanned in to be made into an e-book, but when you send in a new manuscript, isn’t it already in some electronic form, like a document file or text file? How hard can it be to reformat that so it shows up on an e-reader screen properly? Please.

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    1. I think sometimes computers burp. Which is why every single phase of the process had to be copy edited.

      Of course I’ve had some copy editors put mistakes in a book. ARGH.

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      1. Yes, burps. Also, software versioning. Mac and Windows files on recent versions of office are pretty much interchangeable, provided you’re in more or less the same cycle of office and have identical fonts across systems. I have gotten documents from folks using iLife where all punctuation is replaced by hollow squares with random letters in. I have gotten docs from folks using old version of WP where at some point the font was set to times new roman, and all the punctuation came from wingdings. Converted to work, sentences ended with airplanes on a windows box and with random clusters punctuation on the mac.

        Cleaning that stuff up can be tedious, tedious work. I have the attention span of a gnat. Or some other highly distractable critter. Code isn’t written to proof. People have to do it. Smart people, who are finicky and precise and have senses of humor.

        You know how maddening autocorrect can be with even text messages, and yet people don’t turn it off, because then they’d have to think about what they were writing. And I do actually think that the more a person texts and IMs and chats, the less sensitive they are to typos & wrong words in published material.

        I, on the other hand, last night used Calibre to explode a (DRM-free, gift, non-returnable) epub from an author to change passed to past. And to correct the spelling of the author’s name, which ends -cie but sometimes was ending -oe and sometimes ending -de.

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  19. There’s another problem too, cutting off a sentence and dropping it down to the next line, so a sentence is kinda hanging there. I’m in the process of fixing mine. Not happy about it, but once you send your work off, it’s out of your hands. And who knows what goes on electronically, I don’t have a clue really. My brain isn’t wired that way. 😉

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  20. Why do I suspect that dumba.ss and “times are t-.ard” will now become part of the Cherry lexicon?

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  21. Well if nothing else this discussion gave me a good laugh. I’m married to a… Oh never mind. One must be professional in public. Or so I’m told.

    And why aren’t scanners better? You’d think you could teach them the errors of their ways.

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  22. Bad scans are a problem in the legal profession too. During the discovery process of a civil case, documents get sent back and forth among parties and then are (sometimes) filed with the court. Used to be that the first side’s lawyer would type up the document, then the second side’s lawyer would have to re-type the first side’s document, inserting the second side’s comments, and then it went back to the first side’s lawyer (or a third side if there was one), who would re-type all the previous stuff, inserting more comments, and eventually it would go to the court to wade through all that verbiage.

    Then, along came scanners, and lawyers were thrilled — they wouldn’t need their paralegals to spend hours re-typing all the other side’s stuff, thanks to the magic of scanners. Except the scanners introduced all sorts of errors and no one was paying that much attention to the old stuff, just the new stuff, so by the time it got to the court, the final document was a mess, and probably longer than in the old day, because without the constraint of knowing someone would have to hand-retype everything, lawyers let their verbosity off the leash.

    New court rules now require (at least for some types of documents) that the lawyers exchange digital copies, so the first lawyer emails her version as an attached file, the second lawyer adds her comments, and sends it back by email, etc.

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  23. Have to throw my two cents in. I’m a freelance ebook and print book formatter. When it comes to ebooks, you will rarely find them without errors because most people think it’s ok to just upload a Word doc or a scan and let it go. When I format, I format by hand and in html. Makes for a cleaner doc that works on all platforms and people can tell a difference. I think publishers just don’t have the time nor the inclination to care about these ‘little’ things that make the reading experience enjoyable or devastating, all things considered. You’re seriously better off doing it all on your own – hiring the professionals – than hoping your publisher is dotting every I and crossing every t. You just can’t beat an actual human being in a world where technology is still so full of bugs.

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  24. Errors really take one out of the story. A word in italics bumping into the next word really annoys me. Many of the ebooks I’ve read have this problem.

    I’ve bought a few of your e-books as well as every other format just in case I have an unexpected road trip without the hard copy or paperback or audio version. If I have a bad day, I can pull out the ereader for a Crusie fix.

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  25. I do this for a living…scan/OCR/proof, then format to eBook platforms (Epub, Mobi/Kindle, Word). Believe me, it takes a village to proof, and a lot of time! I read every word and compare it to the print version, then run it through SpellCheck, then send it off to the author for their look-see. And I invariably miss at least one punctuation mark. It’s a HARD job!

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  26. I’m doing some proofreading for the non-profit that creates ebooks for Project Gutenberg. I can look at a page, carefully, then run the WordCheck that’s part of our interface, and see things that totally got past me. And sometimes they’ve made it past one or two other sets of eyes. The scannos can be sneaky (‘arid’ instead of ‘and’ or ‘lie’ instead of ‘he’) and not show up in a spellcheck. Even worse, sometimes the ‘mistakes’ were intended by the author and as a proofer you don’t correct them but call the attention of the post-processer (God, so to speak) to the question.

    I got started doing this after being outraged by an ebook (in Spanish, which I’ve been learning to read) in which accents were very messed up, and in which ‘frío’ came out ‘Mo’. (It took me half the book to figure out that one.) I emailed the publisher (U.S.) pleading with them to have someone clean up the book. Then I joined Distributed Proofreaders, and now at least I feel like I’m doing something.

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  27. Actually, “And the sex ‚Ä¢.vas goo:!” is all the rage to say now. I was just telling my boyfriend that the other day. He puffed up bigger than my Aunt Helen after a pie-eating contest.

    Jenny, you’re a trendsetter!

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