Sunday, February 21, 2010
Another stage in the publishing process ended yesterday -- reading the page proofs of the second edition of my What's That Pig Outdoors? and sending them back to the University of Illinois Press.
To my astonishment, there were some two or three dozen typos in the text made from scanning the original 1991 Penguin paperback edition and running it through optical character reader software. I had read the result three times, once on the computer and twice on printouts, and could have sworn I'd cleaned up all the errors that crept through in the scanning process. When I submitted the DVD of the scanned text to the publisher last fall, I had thought it was pristine.
Nope. Scanners and spell checkers are fallible. So is the human eye. The combination can be extraordinarily messy, even if one thinks it's been perfectly scrubbed.
A smudge of dust between two letters can fool a scanner into thinking it's a stray bit of punc. tuation. The height of ascenders and descenders, especially of numerals, can vary from font to font; "1975" can be rendered "1973," as it was in two places in my text. Unless a proofreader has read the original and remembers every damn factual detail, he's not going to catch that. I wrote the thing and almost missed it.
I read those proofs carefully, word by word, letter by letter, and thought I'd caught all the glitches. But the Lady Friend, bless her patient heart, read the pages too and found still more errors.
My editor at the U of I Press presumably will read the pages himself and turn up additional flaws. Then there will be a second pass of page proofs to examine.
What all this shows is that publishing a book -- even a new edition of an old one -- is expensively labor-intensive. People who want to pay less than ten bucks for an e-book really ought to understand how much human striving goes into the professional publishing of the printed book that is the source of the e-text.
In months and years to come, fewer and fewer printed and bound books will be sold, replaced in the marketplace by more and more e-book versions of the same titles.
If the result is to be equally polished and pristine, the production costs of publishing will remain the same. They have to be paid for.