Sarah Avery (dr_pretentious) wrote,
Sarah Avery

The E-Publishing Process Giveth And the E-Publishing Process Taketh Away

The good thing about e-publishing is that if there's a glaring problem with a book, it can be fixed even after it gets delivered to booksellers--like if, for instance, a glaring typo slipped into the first sentence in the layout process.

The bad thing about e-publishing is that it's a huge pain to format the book for the several different kinds of hardware and software that end-users will read it on, whereas with print publishing, there's only one version of the book at any given time, from manuscript to galley, to advance review copy, to bound volume. Once the book progresses to the next stage, that next stage is the only version that has to be searched for problems. Depending on the publisher's budget, the copyeditor may look the book over at more than one stage, and the author, if s/he is smart, looks the book over every chance s/he gets. Old errors get culled, and there are enough opportunities for vigilance (and checks and balances between the author and the copyeditor) to keep low the number of new errors that creep in.

In e-publishing, there's a point in the process where the single current version gives way to as many simultaneous versions as the publisher releases formats. A publisher that puts a high priority on making the book look good no matter what the end-user reads it on actually has to re-do the layout in every single format, which allows several opportunities for new errors to creep into a previously clean text. The author is very unlikely to have the hardware and software to read every single format the book is getting laid out for, which means the author can only check for new errors in formats she can read on her own equipment.

You see where all this is going.

Drollerie Press makes a priority of making all its e-books look as beautiful as the platforms allow, which means the formatting step and the layout step overlap a lot. Somehow, "altar" became "alter" right in the first sentence. I caught it in the .pdf version back in February, and fixing the error in the other affected formats was what delayed the release by over a month.

Only it seems the Kindle edition still has the error. Many thanks to dthon for contacting me about it. Not having a Kindle, I had no idea. My editor, who is working herself to the bone getting the problem fixed while also juggling the release dates of dozens of other books, had no idea.

If we were doing this the old fashioned way, my books would be on the shelves in stores now, and none of us would have any recourse. "Altar" would be "alter" for as long as it took the print run to sell out, which might take a very long time if the first sentence made a bad first impression.

The e-publishing process giveth and the e-publishing process taketh away. If you ever need to explain irony to students who got confused by that Alanis Morissette song, you can send them to this post, in which things can get fixed for the same reason they went awry in the first place.
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