Why Proofreaders and Editors Still Matter

In the world of eBooks, it seems that the traditional publishing models are gone. We're told that it's a whole new world and that the traditional rules no longer apply. What a load of horse pucky!

Take a close look at the screenshot below; if you need to, click on the image and you'll get the full sized original. 

What you are looking at is a copy of Matt Ridley's "The Rational Optimist" and yes, I am enjoying the book. But I could be enjoying it a lot more. Have another look at the page and you'll see a problem that persists throughout the book. Words are broken in up in strange places that don't make any sense. For instance, "genet ically" and "exacer bated". This book was published by HarperCollins who, apparently, saw no benefit to having someone proofread the electronic copy before they put it up for sale at $12.99 on the Kobo eBook store. 

Now I happen to know a little about eBook conversions and as such, have a pretty good idea about what happened here. Working from the PDF version of the book, they ran the file through a simple conversion in order to generate the ePub file. The problem here is two-fold. First, PDF is a lousy format to convert from , mostly due to the fact that PDF is not a text format per se. It's more like a giant multi-page graphic image. When you try to convert that directly to ePub, you are in essence doing a kind of OCR. The result isn't a conversion so much as an interpretation of the original text. Much better to start from HTML or DOC or ODT format files. Those are actually text.

The second problem is that HarperCollins didn't see any value in paying someone to proof this shiny new eBook before making it available for sale. If they had read even a few pages, they would have noticed how many of these errors there are.

The net result is that they make themselves look bad, they make Kobo (and Amazon and everyone else who sells the same book) look bad, and they make Matt Ridley, who is an excellent writer, look bad as well.

To be fair, I seriously doubt that HarperCollins is the only publisher guilty of this crime. Everyone is trying to make more with less, but some rules still apply. Yes, folks, even in the highly competitive, rapidly evolving, field of electronic publishing, there is still room for proofreaders and editors. 


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