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Old 11-25-2011, 07:29 AM   #1
Cerulean
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Thumbs down Poor quality of ebooks

Hello everyone,

I've recently purchased a Kindle and started reading immediately, but I've come across a major problem. Ebooks seem to be of generally poor quality, and riddled with awkward line breaks and irritating spelling mistakes that can no doubt be attributed to OCR without proofreading. I thought this was because I had so far only downloaded free books from the public domain, but according to several forum posts all across the net, paid books and even those sold by Amazon also suffer from quality issues.

I don't particularly enjoy complaining like this, but all those errors are a huge obstacle to immersion. In one instance, there were so many different spellings of one character's name that I had to google which was the right one to continue reading.

TL;DR is there a way to find better ebooks? Am I the only one with this problem? Will I have to return my kindle and go back to proofread books?

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Old 11-25-2011, 07:36 AM   #2
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The majority of new commercial eBooks are formatted reasonably well. It tends to be the back-catalogue stuff that's OCRd and poorly-proofed. That's not to say that one doesn't find poor examples from time to time, but I buy a lot of commercial eBooks and my experience has been that the overwhelming majority are of an acceptable standard.

If you do find an eBook that's so poorly formatted that you can't read it, Amazon will give you a refund within 7 days of purchase.
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Old 11-25-2011, 07:40 AM   #3
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We just have to stand for quality:
If you get an ebook of bad quality, write up the mistakes, send a mail to the shop and to the editor/publisher.

Luckily ebooks can be changed and improved, so please insist on quality. Proofreading is neglected right now and this has to be changed! In my experience, most book people ARE interested in ameliorating the quality of their products.

So again: Keep on insisting!
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Old 11-25-2011, 07:49 AM   #4
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When I first got my Kindle I was getting books from a variety of sources and hit some real clunkers. As time passed and Amazon had more inexpensive specials I found fewer problems. I just read a book where "principle" was used for "principal" for 65% of the book and then suddenly corrected itself. I bought an e-edition of an old Chester Himes and it was incredibly bad. I wrote the publisher, got a return email full of excuses that weren't true, and will not be buying from Pegasus Publishing unless I really want the book and read a sample first. The problem was, they scanned with an OCR and did not review as they correct. For example, "the bullet mailed the hat to his head," when it should have been, "the bullet nailed the hat to his head."

But, excluding about 5 clunkers out of 200 books, I've been doing okay.
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Old 11-25-2011, 08:17 AM   #5
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Cool

Well thank you for your replies, they've made me a bit more optimistic.
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Old 11-25-2011, 04:57 PM   #6
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I experience this rarely, but I recently picked up a copy of One Hundred Dollar Misunderstanding that was clearly OCRed and never proofread.

The story is told from two points of view: a white college student with $100 burning a hole in his pocket, and the black prostitute he visits. We hear each scene as narrated by one and then the other, to great comedic effect.

Unfortunately, the formatting was so bad that there were no chapter breaks, and the POV would sometimes change right in the middle of a paragraph. There was never any real problem distinguishing who was speaking, but to leap from one to the other in the middle of a paragraph was always disturbing.

If I'd paid more than $1 for it, I'd have sent it back.
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Old 11-25-2011, 10:34 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HarryT View Post
The majority of new commercial eBooks are formatted reasonably well. It tends to be the back-catalogue stuff that's OCRd and poorly-proofed. That's not to say that one doesn't find poor examples from time to time, but I buy a lot of commercial eBooks and my experience has been that the overwhelming majority are of an acceptable standard.
I agree. I'd even go so far as to say the vast majority of my purchases have been of thoroughly good quality. And I'm pretty picky.

I suspect you get what you pay for more often than not. My impression is that a lot of the complaints on these boards around poor quality formatting etc. often have non-literary fiction as a common denominator, though there is no doubt the odd exception to the rule.
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Old 11-25-2011, 11:52 PM   #8
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The most common mistake I come across is the double triple quadruple spaces.
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Old 11-26-2011, 02:35 AM   #9
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Since you're using a Kindle, the best way to avoid the problem is to check the reviews first. Yes there are terrible conversions, even with contemporary titles from reputable publishers. But most of the problems that I have seen involved illustrations, so that may not affect you.
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Old 11-26-2011, 03:43 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Nielsen View Post
........

I suspect you get what you pay for more often than not. My impression is that a lot of the complaints on these boards around poor quality formatting etc. often have non-literary fiction as a common denominator, though there is no doubt the odd exception to the rule.
I wish it was true! Unfortunately my experience with full price ebooks from the old Borders was so bad that I stopped buying ebooks from them. The free, proof read books from Gutenberg, EBooks@Adelaide and Manybooks were of a much higher quality. I now buy from Bewrite books but have been reluctant to buy from many of the bigger retailers due to these poor experiences.
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Old 11-26-2011, 07:51 AM   #11
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I'm not trying to excuse the problem -- just explain it.

As mentioned earlier, most of these are backlist titles that don't exist in electronic form. They are scanned and a computer tries to guess the text based on the scanned picture (OCR). These guesses are inaccurate enough that there are frustrating errors.

The problem is that for many of the backlist titles the sales will be very small. it would not be cost effective to convert them if the manual correction process was more than minimal. The easiest alternative would be to see publishers begin a re-review process. All the old books would enter a new review process to discover which had withstood the test of time and were worthy of a full relaunch. This would be expensive and slow.

I suspect many publishers have chosen to quickly convert everything in a "Beta" format and then plan to clean up the books that show stronger sales. The missing step here is that these books should be labeled beta versions and should be sold for deeply discounted prices. If this were true many customers might be more tolerant of the mistakes if they understood the alternative was no book at all.

It seems to me that a better model would be a crowd sourced model. Release it for free, Wikipedia style. As the book becomes higher quality, you could begin to increase the price. This would require new Kindle/EPUB software to allow cloud based reading and corrections in the early days.
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Old 11-26-2011, 08:46 AM   #12
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They might also advertise for Fans that would be willing to proof the books for free just because they love them and would like to see them available in eprint.
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Old 11-26-2011, 11:19 AM   #13
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Sadly, I see a fair few errors even in new books, just released recently. One of the error types I've seen several times lately in new releases is books where words aren't separated by a space. You'll be going along reading and see something like "hewouldhave" or "Jamessaid" or something like that. The other error that is common still in new releases is messing up dialog. Really inexcusable.

If one single person goes through a backlist OCR'd book, they can catch a great deal of the errors, even with a casual proofread. I'm not talking about a lengthy, careful, word by word comparison to the print book, but just a read through, marking all noticed errors. Just that sort of minimal proof can really improve things.

It's some additional labor, but for the average length 300 page book, I know it wouldn't take me more than 10 hours to do the read AND do all the corrections in Sigil. I also agree that fans of the author might well be willing to proof for free.

I'd be more forgiving of errors in backlist books if those same books weren't being released at $9.99 and up prices! I like the "beta version" idea!
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Old 11-26-2011, 02:05 PM   #14
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Sadly, I see a fair few errors even in new books, just released recently. One of the error types I've seen several times lately in new releases is books where words aren't separated by a space. You'll be going along reading and see something like "hewouldhave" or "Jamessaid" or something like that. The other error that is common still in new releases is messing up dialog. Really inexcusable.

If one single person goes through a backlist OCR'd book, they can catch a great deal of the errors, even with a casual proofread. I'm not talking about a lengthy, careful, word by word comparison to the print book, but just a read through, marking all noticed errors. Just that sort of minimal proof can really improve things. ...
Actually, the spelling and grammar checker in MS Word would catch most of that. All it takes is a halfway literate high-school student to ride herd on it. Some ebook creators aren't willing to do even that much.

I recently read several of the 'Charlie Fox' books by Zoe Sharp. The older ones had been well-converted by a house engaged by the author, and self-published for $2.99. You could tell when her current US publisher (Macmillan) took over. That book was obviously OCR'd, riddled with stupid errors, not competently proofread and $6.99. The latest ebook was also done by the US publisher. The quality was almost as good as that of the first group, but the price was $7.99! Five bucks more for only slightly inferior work!

Regards,
Jack Tingle
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Old 11-26-2011, 06:08 PM   #15
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Haven't yet come across anything that makes me want to chuck it out the window, just the odd typo equivalent.
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