Get Me, I’m Giving Out Typos
In Frank Capra’s great film, It’s a Wonderful Life, one of my favorite scenes takes place in a bar after the angel Clarence has given George the opportunity to see what the world would be like if he had never been born. Nick the bartender overhears Clarence telling George that every time a bell rings, an angel just got his wings. A moment later, after Clarence and George get thrown out, Nick keeps opening and closing the cash register, which rings a bell, and says, “Get me, I’m giving out wings.” Well, typos and grammatical errors in all books have reached epidemic proportions; now whenever I hear a bell ring, I think, “A publisher has just released another book riddled with errors.”
Although this situation is most readily apparent in e-books, it also has plagued printed books for many years. It has been at least 15 years since I last read a printed book without any typos or glaring grammatical errors. But the situation with e-books is downright horrific. I just finished reading the Kindle edition of Richard Laymon’s The Traveling Vampire Show (Dorchester Publishing). Just in reading the book (not actually trying to proofread), I noticed 45 typos, some truly ridiculous. To cite one example, in one place the word “backward” appears as “back-Richard Laymon-ward”. Several times the word “corner” appears as “comer,” an obvious scanning error since in some fonts “rn” can look a lot like “m”. It’s clear to me that absolutely no proofreading could have been done on this e-book; the typos are too numerous and too easy to spot for them to have escaped the notice of even a semi-comatose proofreader. It would be amusing if it weren’t so distracting. Although this book may be a particularly egregious case, typos run rampant through every e-book I’ve read and can be found in every printed book as well, though they don’t usually appear in quite such large numbers in printed books.
The shoddy editorial work that is now the norm in the publishing world is distressing to me. I worked in the publishing industry for 11 years in the 80s and early 90s; even back then one had to fight tooth and nail to be allowed to do the copyediting and proofreading work necessary to put out a high quality book. Apparently those battles have been lost, and no one even tries any more. As is the case in so much of the business world, quality is not valued highly nowadays. So when I hear publishers moan that e-books are expensive to produce, despite the lack of paper and printing costs, I can’t help but laugh since it’s clear that virtually no effort is put into their production.
I am sure that there are still some small publishers out there that do concentrate on quality, and I would love to come across their work. But my e-reading experiences have been disheartening to say the least.