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Old 04-03-2009, 12:36 PM   #1
acprinter
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Place the blame where it belongs.

There seems to be a daily barrage of postings complaining of poor support from either Sony or Amazon. Almost all of the complaints have nothing to do with Sony or Amazon. Come on people, put your complaints where they really need to be placed, the publishers.

The publishers are not doing their job of proper formatting or proofreading. I suspect that in many cases books are not even looked at (proofread).

Does anybody know where the formatting of many books are done? I suspect that they are farmed out to third world countries where the people do not speak English or whatever other language the book is written in.

As a retired printer, I can say that in our printshop all of the people in the shop were required to at least give the printed sheets we were handling some proofreading. Errors not picked up by the proofreaders were often picked up by the printers and bindery people. Today many of the books are printed in China and I see horrible mistakes that would never have gotten out of our shop.

The ebook formatting and proofing are even worse than the printed books; I suspect that the publishers just think perfect books materialize out of thin air.

I also wonder if today's dependence on getting something done quick rather than well has had an impact. If a publisher is using OCR to scan the author's work into an electronic format (whether for distribution electronically or printed), this may be the source of many of the errors. My wife proofreads for Project Gutenberg's Distributed Proofreaders. The scans frequently mis-read common words (and becomes arid for example). The OCR text is proofread three times to catch as many errors as possible. Yes, of course, errors still do get through. But it is also amazing the errors missed in early rounds of proofreading.

So, again, its not Sony or Amazon. They are given the work; they are not the source!

I have that off my chest know so I feel better and I am going to head outdoors and plant 10 grape plants and get the garden ready for veggies.
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Old 04-03-2009, 12:46 PM   #2
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I'm currently proofing a book I scanned for my own use. It's horrid. The OCR I used probably was not the best, it's part of the scanner bundle (HP). But the point is, do publishers really trust OCR that much, that they don't have the books then proofread by humans?
Alternatively, don't Amazon and Sony have Quality Control departments that should be at least looking at the books before they're put on the sites?
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Old 04-03-2009, 12:51 PM   #3
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It's a good point: Put blame where blame is due.

All the same, many of the errors in discussion are often due to bugs in Amazon's document transferal system... I have experienced those firsthand when I input my books into the Kindle store. And for the record, Kindle support (as has been pointed out elsewhere) is a bunch of frakkin' idiots.

Sony has clearly advertised support for ePub, but their conversion engine leaves a lot to be desired... accurately-formatted ePub generated by some publishers does not display properly.

Sure, "git 'er done quick" is a problem, but it is a problem with vendors too, not just with publishers. When hardware and/or software is put out not-ready-for-prime-time, it can make even the best publisher's work look bad. The e-book industry has already suffered quite enough of that, they don't need help from Amazon or Sony, or anyone else.
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Old 04-03-2009, 12:54 PM   #4
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"Real" proofreading is hugely labour intensive. It takes me 100-200h of work to properly proof-read one of the Dickens novels that I create, for example. By "real" proof-reading I mean comparing it line by line with the manuscript, and making sure that every punctuation mark is correct. If you simply read the OCR page and fix things that "look wrong", it's much quicker, but also much less accurate, of course, in that you've often no way to know when the OCR has used the wrong word if that word still "fits" in the context of the sentence.

One can certainly understand why publishers are reluctant to spend the money to properly proof OCR's "back-catalog" stuff that they convert to eBooks. Obviously a professional proof-reader can do the job a lot faster than I can, but the fact remains that it's still a labour-intensive, manual, process that costs money.
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Old 04-03-2009, 12:55 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by phenomshel View Post
Alternatively, don't Amazon and Sony have Quality Control departments that should be at least looking at the books before they're put on the sites?
They're just the retailers... that's not their job. (Making sure the reader works properly, is.) I doubt Barnes and Noble cracks open every book they get, to make sure they are printed properly, before putting them on their shelves.

In these cases, the publishers should have a direct check-back system to verify that their material uploaded, and downloads, properly. And yes, they should USE IT!
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Old 04-03-2009, 01:24 PM   #6
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Ok, it's two different aspects of retail. I realize, of course, that Barnes & Noble isn't going to pay anyone to sit in their back room and proofread new books that come in.

However, I can't let this pass. Quality control is indeed part of a retailer's job. I've worked in retail longer than I care to remember, and limited quality control is something I do every day. I check dates. I check seals, and the "look" of the product before it goes on a shelf. Even our teenage stockers do this.

I agree with your check-back system. That would help, tremendously..
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Old 04-03-2009, 03:00 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HarryT View Post
One can certainly understand why publishers are reluctant to spend the money to properly proof OCR's "back-catalog" stuff that they convert to eBooks.
Sure, but they should then refrain from passing the cost of proof-reading the paper edition to the e-book price, which I'm afraid they often do.
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Old 04-03-2009, 03:19 PM   #8
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I've bought pbooks only to find out that entire chapters were missing from the middle of the book. Now, when buying pbooks, I thumb through and quickly scan all the page numbers to make sure nothing is missing.
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Old 04-03-2009, 04:03 PM   #9
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An important question here is: Why are the publishers OCRing their books? Except for the rare artisan presses, NONE of them are using letterpress anymore. All of their books were typeset and printed from electronic files in the first place. I'm not expecting them to be able to keep formatting, but the text and content should at least be the same quality as what was printed. This is not even counting basic consumer layout programs like Quark and InDesign which encourage you to keep the text in a separate file that is linked into the layout file.
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Old 04-03-2009, 04:17 PM   #10
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An important question here is: Why are the publishers OCRing their books? Except for the rare artisan presses, NONE of them are using letterpress anymore. All of their books were typeset and printed from electronic files in the first place.
No, I am pretty sure the publishing industry only started using computers and digital files in 2006. Everything else is in typewritten manuscripts.

BOb
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Old 04-03-2009, 05:08 PM   #11
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No, I am pretty sure the publishing industry only started using computers and digital files in 2006. Everything else is in typewritten manuscripts.

BOb
Well, you are close. The fact is that they have no source control and can't use a single point to assemble the book again after it is printed. In addition they often throw away whatever digital files they have after the print. Hopefully this will change someday.

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Old 04-03-2009, 06:54 PM   #12
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Every post has been a very thoughtful comment and just creates more questions. So where and how do we start in making publishers and vendors see the light and tidy up there work?

Craftmanship is dying in every field. Today's slogan it's not my job.
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Old 04-04-2009, 06:11 AM   #13
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true, but wouldn't it be great if someone could zoom through the books once to get rid of the glaring errors like two words run together or completely wrong punctuation?

Quote:
Originally Posted by HarryT View Post
"Real" proofreading is hugely labour intensive. It takes me 100-200h of work to properly proof-read one of the Dickens novels that I create, for example. By "real" proof-reading I mean comparing it line by line with the manuscript, and making sure that every punctuation mark is correct. If you simply read the OCR page and fix things that "look wrong", it's much quicker, but also much less accurate, of course, in that you've often no way to know when the OCR has used the wrong word if that word still "fits" in the context of the sentence.

One can certainly understand why publishers are reluctant to spend the money to properly proof OCR's "back-catalog" stuff that they convert to eBooks. Obviously a professional proof-reader can do the job a lot faster than I can, but the fact remains that it's still a labour-intensive, manual, process that costs money.
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Old 04-04-2009, 06:25 AM   #14
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I'm not sure publishers ever really did spend that much time proofreading reprinted books because prior to ebooks, a publisher often just had a paperback of the original for reference and would photograph its pages and print them rather than setting some underling to retyping and resetting the whole thing. You can tell by looking at some reprinted books - say, sf novels from the Fifties and Sixties - where the print looks a little heavy and thick. That's because you're effectively reading a photocopy.
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Old 04-04-2009, 11:25 PM   #15
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Craftmanship is dying in every field. Today's slogan it's not my job.
I remember Freddie Prinz using that as his gagline in Chico and the Man. That attitude is older than you think!
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