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Obsolete before it ships

In case you were wondering, I'm in the process of throwing off the last lingering shreds of jet-lag and grappling with the page proofs of "Rule 34", the novel that's coming out on July 6th this year.

Once I send the proofs back and any corrections are made to the DTP files, there's a final in-house check and then the PDFs are sent to the printer. This happens about eight weeks ahead of publication; the printed, bound, jacketed books arrive back at the publisher's warehouse around four weeks out, then get shipped to wholesale distributors and large retailers. So this is my final chance to fix errors before the presses roll. Because it's the final typeset copy, changes are expensive — you're supposed to limit yourself to typographical errors and refrain from editing the text.

There is a certain pub in Edinburgh that I've used as a setting for some key scenes, because it's quarried out of the side of a near-cliff and is notorious for having no mobile phone or wifi signal. Imagine my joy on discovering that it has acquired a strong 3G signal in the roughly two months since I checked the copy-edited manuscript.

I'm now wondering what else can go out of date in just two months ...

83 Comments

1:

Sabotage the transmitter. It's one solution...

Or just don't tell those of us who didn't know...

2:

They probably just installed a picocell. It's not particularly hard.

3:

No worries. It'll just read as nostalgic.

4:

s/Halfway House/Bannerman\x27s/g

Surely they don't get reception there.

5:

That is an amusing trailing question from the author of several works that deal with technological singularities.

The answer is everything.

6:

You could always suggest to the management of the pub that not having a signal is good for business by keeping people's attention on the beer and the other guests, and to install a cellphone damper to keep it the signal out.

7:

Perhaps write into the story "PROTAGONIST reminisced about the brief interlude where the pub was able to provide it's patrons with 3g signal. After having to replace it several times due to an irate local author breaking it the pub went back to being a signal-less void"

8:

Well, for us Yanks this would be just a bit of unverifiable local color. Nothing like having the entire plot tossed over the side because of Real Life.

9:

Dictatorships in North Africa?

10:

3G signal? How come you're not using a cerebral sub-ether nanophone implant like everyone else?

11:

It's very near future SF with low tech elements: UMTS occupies the same niche as (2G) GSM today, with LTE in the mainstream.

12:

I was pleased to discover that Amazon US has this available for pre-order Right Now...

13:

I got all excited for a moment before realising that you weren't about to let slip a nugget of information about that half-mythical, half-legendary establishment, The Frog and Tourettes (which is in London, anyway).

Enquiring minds want to know.

14:

In your near future there was a customer revolt against twats in the pub always talking (loudly) on their phones, playing online games (loudly), drunk txting their exes (crying) and hacking into Scottish banks (quietly), etc. and so the publican ripped out the signal repeaters in, oh let's say 2012.

15:

Especially when one of the bank accounts hacked belonged to the publican. Tacky, people, really tacky...

16:

Class 380 trains meant to run out of Glasgow Central?

Well not so much obsolete as they just didnt fucking work in the first place. Mostly due to software problems and making the damned things too bloody complex.

ScotRail has in fact refused to take any more of them from Siemens, after taking the 10 units they have "running" now.

Oh well.....

17:

I hope you didn't mention any Middle-Eastern governments (I know you've had trouble before when you picked Al Quaeda as an antagonist).

18:

Well the whole idea of printing thousands of copies of a PDF file and shipping them to bookstores around the world seems rather obsolete to me...

19:

I'm just reading through John Birmingham's Without Warning which makes specific mention of protestors overthrowing Murabak's regime in egypt. Although the book takes place in late 2003

20:

I am so waiting for this book . . .

21:

I guess that's why they call it fiction.

Got my pre-order in on Amazon. Waiting with bated breath.

22:

That old thing? There was better in the Akihabara even after the earthquake:

http://www.theonion.com/articles/earthquake-sets-japan-back-to-2147,2240/

23:

Charlie: is being The Guy Whose Plots The Future Targets For Obsolescence better, or worse, than being The Talking Cat Guy?

(ducks, and credit to my wife for the snark)

24:

The key point is that the antiquated publishing cycle is now conclusively slower than the pace of change in the world. Not only is near-future fiction now perilous - with pubs getting picocells - but anything focused on the issues of the day risks being obsolete before it can be sold.

Answer, of course, is a tighter loop of editing/corrections/publishing/etc. that is swift enough for publishing to retain relevancy. It's no good muttering that "it's traditional", the workflow needs shortening to match the demands. At the same time, that tightening can reduce the cost, making it more possible for the publishing houses to remain part of the merry-go-round for a few more years, in the face of the realities of an eBook world.

I'd suggest that the cycle from manuscript to store needs to be measured at 1-1.5 months for a revised process, and consume no more than a week or two of man-effort. That should enable the price/time requirements to be met.

You're too aware of the realities of where things are going Charlie to not see this as another sign of the upheaval to come. A system that's running slower than reality gets torn apart in a particularly bloody way.

25:

It's too early in the morning -- I can't tell if Ian@23 is being facetious, or really thinks that little of the activities described in CMAP #2: How Books Are Made.

Because speaking from personal experience, yes, you can compress the whole process if you do it all electronically, and you can certainly squeeze it down to a month or even less to slot something into a gap in the schedule (been there, done that, got the ulcer), but trying to do that as the standard for every book is eventually going to result in a noticeable drop in quality, which may lead to a noticeable drop in paying readers.

26:

Just looking on http://www.sitefinder.ofcom.org.uk/ which shows a microcell almost directly above the Half-Way House and a bunch of macrocells somewhere near the Balmoral Hotel. Unfortunately it doesn't give installation dates.
There also appears to a cell directly above Bannermans.

I don't suppose that you'd want to relocate the action to Gilmerton Cove - probably no signal down there.

27:

Well, by all accounts there's a new iPad out today, so there's that as well.

Ahh, I do remember the days where our local pub (several hundred years old, with 2 foot thick walls), had one window that got *some* reception, so everyone would line their phones up along the window sill.
To make an actual conversation however you would have to leave the pub, cross the road and stand on a mound.

28:

I like this. In the DRC people built wooden towers to get line-of-sight to a BTS and charged their friends for access, because the infrastructure was so sparse. (That was before Mo Ibrahim, low-cost integrated base stations, Huawei, China Development Bank vendor-financing, and MySQL banded together and blanketed pretty much everywhere.) In your local pub, something similar happens because of the massive centuries-old stonework.

A pico- or femto-cell really is just a blob of plastic and silicon stuck to a huge invisible slab of patents and copyright, just as an iPhone is really a payment of several hundred pounds to Apple shareholders skewered onto a kebab with a sack of free software, which is the main reason they don't cost tuppence like WLAN gear does.

29:

Why would anyone, drunk or otherwise, send a text message to an executable version of a computer program? ;-)

Seriously, the general idea of pubs with a "No Mobiles, No J-Phones..." sign at the door works rather better than the usual "no work clothes" sign. On several occasions I've gone for a pint after a job interview and been tempted to ask the barman why he served me, because a 2-piece suit is my work clothing!

30:

Ian: I'd suggest that the cycle from manuscript to store needs to be measured at 1-1.5 months for a revised process, and consume no more than a week or two of man-effort. That should enable the price/time requirements to be met.

First, a manuscript is not a book. For a detailed run-down of what it takes to turn an MS into a book, read this. Note that of the first fifteen steps, 12 are common to both e-books and paper books. Note also that steps 1-3, 6, 7, 10 and 12 lie on the critical path and cannot be parallelized. Further note that steps 6, 7, and 12 (which lie on the critical path) all involve significant amounts of work -- multiple days to weeks that cannot be parallelized.

You can shortcut on marketing, cover design, flap copy, sales push, ARCs and a bunch of peripheral marketing and sales activity -- for example by using off-the-shelf generic cover art that hopefully matches the same genre as the finished manuscript -- but if you do so you risk screwing your sales.

Because the process is long-drawn out, publishers parallelize to maximize their efficiency by running a production line, with multiple books going through these phases nose-to-tail (or in parallel, with each editor or cover designer or whatever working on more than one title at the same time -- because of course they're waiting for sign-off on the quality of each piece of work before they can release it to production). Consequently, any medium to major British or American publisher does indeed have a fire-hose of books hitting the bookstores on a weekly basis -- just not all by the same author.

I once asked an editor at a non-fiction house back in the early 1990s how fast they could get a book out about, say, a topical current event -- the revolutions in the middle east, or Princess Diana's car crash, or whatever. The answer was "ten weeks". You line up multiple authors working on separate chapters and feeding chunks to an editorial team as they write them, and you blast everything else in the departmental work queue off the track. (Of those ten weeks, about four were for printing and distribution.) But you can't write a novel that way, and it's horribly disruptive for the publisher who does it -- they can rush one book out in ten weeks, but five other books get held up for ten weeks, giving them a cumulative over-shoot of about one working year. In effect they're just borrowing resources from other projects to squeeze an express train out past the queue of freight locomotives.

Final note: I'm working on the proofs to "Rule 34". A professional paid proofreader is also working on them in parallel. It takes me at least three ten-hour days of maximum focus to get a minimal job done; an exhausive check by a professional proofreader typically processes 50 pages per working day and this is a 350-page book. Nor is it a job that can be automated because the purpose these days is to spot the hard stuff -- not mis-spellings, those all got weeded out ages ago, but things such as critical internal inconsistencies, homophones ("their" vs. "there"), duplicated words words (which are murder to spot if they span a line break), and points where the DTP operator missed an instruction in the CEM (for example, to de-italicize one word and italicize the following one).

We could skip the job entirely. Then you would complain about all the typos. Speed, Quality, Low Price -- pick any two.

31:

I'd be crap at editing. I have some sort of autocorrect in my brain that fixes typos and grammar errors without me being aware of it consciously.

32:

There are several good London Pubs that either have no signal, or only signal for some operators ......

34:

Most people do - after all, your brain is trying to extract the correct meaning, not to spot the inevitable mistakes in transmission. Natural language has a lot of redundancy built in because it has evolved to get through despite noise, etc., and if your brain spent the entire time telling you about all the mistakes it was correcting for, you'd never have time for the actual meaning.

As an experiment, record a conversation between you and a friend. Then play it back and count the number of umms and errs. Compare that count with the number you noticed at the time.

(OK, so it's "don't think of a rhinoceros" time. Now you will notice them all.)

I personally do spot some errors - I've got quite sensitive to one person's tendency to use "it's" instead of "its" every few dozen pages. Again, that's a homophone thing, but if I'm checking his text, I will actually do an explicit search-and-check on the two spellings.

35:

I'm better at spotting other people's typos, homophones etc than I am at my own.

BTW, Larndarn is one long trip from anywhere I am regularly, just for a few pints.

36:

Ooh. I'm as it happens heading up to Edinbrough for a few days this evening. Will be staying with friends, whom have no Wifi. I maybe have to add the Half Way House to my list of places to visit. Which are mainly consisting of pubs so far anyway. hm.

/ Chris

37:

Which would explain the parallel-posted #30 para 1 nicely.

38:

Oh yeah. Charlie, will Rule 34 be available any where as an Epub version, far as you know. Or an .audible audiobook? I know you don't have any personal control over that sort of thing but just wondered.

Cheers,

Chris.

39:

"Rule 34" is almost certainly going to be published as an ebook within 28 days of the hardcover release -- the publishers in question are moving frantically to simultaneous paper/ebook publication. Don't know about specific epub format options, but it's highly likely (depending which side of the Atlantic you live on).

Audible audiobooks are a bit different. We sell audiobook rights separately, when an audiobook publisher approaches us. The good news is that Recorded Books have a license to produce "Rule 34" as an audiobook, so it should turn up within a couple of months of the paper publication appearing. (Audible are another company; I don't know how syndication/resale between audiobook vendors works -- I've never used audio books, myself.)

40:

Reminds me of a particular email that made the rounds a while ago, in which you had to spot all the errors in a specific piece of text. The brain does an amazing job when it comes to unconscious auto-correction. We see what we expect to see.


41:

@34, thanks Charlie. I look forward to it. FWIW, I'm a blind guy, in the South West, UK. Paper non user friendly version for me :). Using Ibooks / Audiobooks on Ipod. Man, if I'd had this amount of stuff years ago, when I had more time to read...

42:

Charlie, I wonder if you'd care to share your take on what Cory Doctorow tried in "With a Little Help?" That is, crowdsourcing the proofreading, and letting the fans do it with instant feedback? That would seem to thin down most of the heavily time-intensive bit of publishing.

I know you guys work together, and you might not care to share private opinions, but if it is something you feel comfortable sharing publicly, I'd love to hear it.

43:

I'm now wondering what else can go out of date in just two months ...

The ... codex?

44:

After the Soviet Union fell, "USSR invades US" novels were showing up in bookstores for at least a few weeks.

45:

Yup: it's unworkable for me.

Firstly, it's incompatible with the business process of producing a book on paper -- you don't retypeset other than for the first run in a new page format (e.g. from hardcover into paperback) so you don't get a chance to issue an updated draft.

Secondly, as 80% of a book's sales show up within 3 months of initial publication, and it takes readers time to feed back to you, this is going to leave half or more of your readers with buggy copies of the book.

Thirdly, you're assuming readers are good proofreaders. For the most part, they're not.

Fourthly, I already put out a call for typos when I get wind of a paperback edition coming. You'd be surprised how few people answer it, much less with anything more precise than "there was a typo somewhere in the first half, but I forget where".

46:

I'm surprised that you can't grep for duplicate words words. There would be some false positives, so a human would need to check the results (e.g. what the definition of is is) but it seems like the kind of thing that could be done well via computer.

47:

I do check for duplicate words -- before I hand the MS in. Trouble is, the production process can re-introduce them from time to time. And I can't grep the PDF file.

48:

Clearly, your novel takes place in a parallel universe that is exactly like our universe, except for the 3g coverage.

49:

Charlie @47: "And I can't grep the PDF file."

That depends. If it is an image in the PDF, you're out of luck.

Otherwise (if it is a PDF containing text) you can do the following, all in one line, assuming osx has the strings command and a perl interpreter:

strings filename.pdf | perl -ne '$line=$_; $s=$line; $w=""; while ($s =~ m/(\w+)(.*)/){print $line if ($w eq $1); $w=$1; $s=$2;}'

50:

Man, even I think that's geeky. Good on you!

51:

Sean @50: "...even I think that's geeky."
Yeah, I guess it IS a little rough around the edges. It wasn't supposed to be a thesis, though, just a quick one-liner. Could be improved to handle multi-line strings, but with PDF being what it is for the "strings" command it seemed kind of pointless. One could obviously do better but unless involving a full-blown PDF interpreter (none of the free ones that I know of are worth their salt with the tentative exception of ghostscript) I don't think it would be a fifteen minute job to get the same thing done with a few lines of code. Even with implicit instantiation of the Pattern and Matcher objects in the Java "Strings" class I don't think it could be done with less than 40 lines. AND my perl is a little rusty, too.

52:

Being "geeky" has nothing to do with being rough around the edges. I was quite impressed with it.

53:

Does the pdftotext command work on a mac? On linux it does a pretty good job. It does include all embedded text in the pdf though, so things like tables, page numbers, headers and text elements from embedded pdf/ps graphs are still in there. Probably less of a problem for most novels though.

54:

Charlie,

I was being deliberately provocative. I've read all your missives on how the publishing industry operates and I implicitly accept everything you say about how it works (you should know after all).

None of it matters.

The forces are coming from outside that industry and requiring a process, that's built on tradition, is going to have to change. The bit that was missing from your previous series was "ok, that what was, now what will be".

eBooks will upset things significantly. For a start, the current prices of books won't hold. You might get a fiver for a book, but much more and piracy will reduce the effective take to that level anyway.

With that pricing basis, I personally don't think the publishing industry can survive, give the author still has to get a living wage. Maybe they will find a way to finesse it; but to do so will take a much lower cost base - and total process change (probably dropping or automating things you consider essential). It's a square that would need to be circled, but a solution for them isn't "well it can't happen".

The implication of the publishing cycle decoupling from the pace of change in the world at large can have unexpected implications. Maybe a historical fiction doesn't matter about a world that has changed between starting writing and publication - but changed tastes and markets can. It's a faultline that's ignored at peril, but generally not recognised as such in time.

As a comparison, look at banking (something you also understand). They too tried to ignore the implications of electronic funds transfer - "but we need to send cheques back to the branch". How many cheques get written today? Even they, with their paws on the cash, eventually had to recognise that 3-4 days to clear funds wouldn't work and had to get synced to the instantaneous update that the world expects.

And finally, with your 2 from 3 pick, I think its going to be speed and low price, with quality coming via revision on the fly after 'publication'. Maybe people will be waiting for v1.01 of the book before they start reading in future?

55:

Well, if you're waiting for the corrected version of the book, then you're not really getting speed, are you? And if revisions are continuing to happen after the book has been initially published, those are going to cost money. It sounds to me like the model you're describing differs from the existing one only in that ebooks are distributed earlier (and given that a lot of the ebooks I've read are simply OCR output, it's not really different at all).

I'm not convinced that piracy or the threat thereof drives prices down. They have been saying that for decades in the gaming market, and yet prices for most titles on the HD consoles are pretty much constant ($60 in the US). That theory assumes that there is a significant group of people who will pay for an item only if the cost is below X, and will obtain it in other ways if it's above X. I think it's more plausible that people who obtain ebooks, etc. in other ways are not doing so to avoid the cost specifically, but rather because they aren't looking to buy. They're just looking to see what's out there.

Do you think people will be willing to accept, say, 60% of the quality of the books we read today at 60% of the price? (Not being familiar with the UK market, I'm not sure what kind of price cut you're suggesting.) Given that there's still a significant number of readers who are sticking with paper books, I'm not sure that deal is going to attract too many buyers ... and you're not going to get much attention if you ask for 90% of the quality at 60% of the price without a demonstrable way to improve said quality for less ...

56:

The forces are coming from outside that industry and requiring a process, that's built on tradition, is going to have to change.

My understanding of the current mechanisms of publishing are based on Charlie's posts and on the bits and pieces that I've picked up in my bibliophilic life. The way I see it, modern publishing isn't really based on tradition. The names of the jobs (editors, proofreaders, etc.) may not have changed, but their duties have changed greatly over time. See comment #30 regarding not needing to check for misspelled words. The publishing cycle isn't decoupled from the pace of change, it's simply a process that is much more labor-intensive than it seems at first blush. Those labor-intensive steps require skills that can't easily be automated and take time to learn and to use well. Business are rapaciously efficient at maximizing profits, so I don't think that publishing houses would be ignoring things that will make their jobs easier/better/more profitable.

Your comparison to banking seems, to me, to be a false analogy. Banking is, essentially, data manipulation. Computers are very, very good at that sort of thing. Fiction writing is a creative act and as such, isn't easily amenable to automation. The text that an author creates will always have to be worked on by other people before it's fit to print and economies-of-scale dictate that you want to make one batch of books, with as little waste as possible. Thus, you put all of that human-necessary work in before you print, rather than after. Per Charlie's comments in #45, relying on on-the-fly revisions seems to be terribly unworkable. If v1.0 of a book is horrific, then people won't buy enough of it to justify making v1.01, much less create the hypothetical critical mass that would be required for post-publishing revisions to have a chance of success.

I have a rather apropos personal example. My grandfather wrote a collection of stories from his life as a doctor in the rural Midwestern US, around the middle of the 20th century. The stories were well-written and filled with many amusing bits of history (i.e. catfish noodling and sterilizing a self-assembled OB kit in his oven) but the editing was totally horrific. There were multiple occurrences of the number one replacing the letter "L", plainly misspelled words, and seemingly obvious formatting errors. The book came from a vanity press, thus the poor quality. If I wasn't related to the author, I would have been put-off by the shoddy quality of the work. There's the results of going for speed and low price.

57:

I'm talking the near future with eBooks as the main publishing mechanism. Then you purchase what amounts to a subscription to a given book, getting v1.01 for free, etc. Couple that with a bounty for finding and correcting faults and v1.01 would probably follow a few days after v1.00

As for a book, I'd say that yes, it is an exercise in data manipulation. The meaning of the words is more the domain of the creative side. One can be supported with tools (obviously), whereas those tools are unlikely to fix poor prose or dodgy plot.

And not unconnected with the discussion at hand: http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/2030129/ec-goes-book-cartels

58:

A yes, "e-books" ...
There's This piece about price fixing.
What a suprise that wasn't!

59:

Charlie writes blog entries here several times a month, and the entries are readable, engaging, and generally free of egregious grammatical, spelling, and formatting errors. Is there a paid editor responsible for that outcome? Or to put the point even more sharply, I have seen published SF novels with a higher defect rate than Charlie's blog entries.

I can easily find more high-quality and interesting personal blog entries than I have hours in the day to read. I am skeptical of claims that without publisher-gatekeepers readers will be unable to find good reading material, or that without paid editors good reading material will not be written. I am not skeptical of the claim that gatekeeping and editing help writers to produce something pleasing and readers to find it, but the indispensability of that help should not be exaggerated.

60:

I've been reading a book by a well-known author. Some details of the text suggest elements were written after May 2010. No names given, but "Prime Minister" matches Cameron rather better than Brown. No mention of a coalition, so maybe pre-written, but the author is not the sharpest mind in the block when it comes to the UK.

I have also seen quite a few glitches in the text, apparently missed words, for instance. A rush job, or an author getting big-headed?

61:

Im not sure how many people would actually want to do that. Personally I might buy a pre-edit ebook if the author is one of my favourites and the ebook in question is part of a series and I want to know what happens next but I think it's a bad business model to put an unfinished product out their faster with less quality.

I'm not sure why you think the publishing industry needs to speed up? Yes the world is getting more fast paced (though not in all areas) by why does an author such as our host need to start spitting books out in 80% of the time? What's the economic advantage to this do you think? It's one thing to advocate banks utilising better and faster technology (it increases trade and boosts the profits) but I'm not seeing why the publishing industry "MustSpeedNow or get left behind!!11!1!" as you seem to be suggesting

62:

#45

3) That is almost certainly true, particularly since proof-reading is a skill in its own right. Anyone who doesn't think so has never tried to proof-read a significant document, say 100 sides of A4 (even double-spaced).

4) How many people read (particularly for leisure purposes) fiction with a notepad and pen so that they can write down, say, "Rule 34, page no $natural, para $natural, line $natural, "their" instead of "there"? I suspect the honest answer to that is at the heart of your issue here.

63:

Charlie writes blog entries here several times a month, and the entries are readable, engaging, and generally free of egregious grammatical, spelling, and formatting errors. Is there a paid editor responsible for that outcome? Or to put the point even more sharply, I have seen published SF novels with a higher defect rate than Charlie's blog entries.

That's an observational bias.

Firstly, my blog entries do include errors -- but if someone prods me about it I edit them. So if you come to them more than 3 hours after they're posted they're usually clean.

Secondly, a novel is 2-3 orders of magnitude larger than a blog entry. If the prevalence of proofing errors is 0.5 per blog entry you'll get the impression that my blog is error-free and I'm a good writer, even though this corresponds to 100 errors per novel.

Thirdly, we notice mistakes (other folks' mistakes, that is) -- they draw the eye. Well proof-read novels don't stick in our memory -- when was the last time you read a book and thought "hmm, that was really cleanly copy-edited?" We tend only to notice the failures.

64:

googlemess - the issue is more that, failing a communist revolution, we need a method of making sure authors get paid in order for them to survive and keep producing books for us to read. Thus, the publishing industry. I can't quite work out how your comment is entirely relevant except to read like you don't care about the authors need to live.

65:

From memory, when I came across one in TFM (while reading on my iPhone), I pasted it into an email, and noted down chapter and unique text string (using Calibre's reader) when next at my laptop.

66:

I thought I'd at least impled "dead tree version of $title". :D Even with the e-version(s), I'd suggest that you're the exception that proves the rule.

As it happens, I do proof-read technical docs (for typos, omissions and ambiguities) at work, and know that doing this sort of error spotting (unless it's hugely jarring) would interfere with my enjoument of fiction.

67:

I don't suppose that you'd want to relocate the action to Gilmerton Cove - probably no signal down there.

Basically, anything outside the bypass is suspect. I lose 3G at heading south across Lothianburn or Gilmerton junctions. (And while O2 are generally good, I've barely even got a phone signal indoors on the Bush estate).

On the other hand, 3G has crashed completely in Edinburgh city centre before now - one day last Festival springs to mind.

68:

I agree that publishers are historically and currently important to the financial well-being of authors. I was prompted to respond by this:

"My grandfather wrote a collection of stories from his life as a doctor in the rural Midwestern US, around the middle of the 20th century. The stories were well-written and filled with many amusing bits of history (i.e. catfish noodling and sterilizing a self-assembled OB kit in his oven) but the editing was totally horrific. There were multiple occurrences of the number one replacing the letter "L", plainly misspelled words, and seemingly obvious formatting errors. The book came from a vanity press, thus the poor quality. If I wasn't related to the author, I would have been put-off by the shoddy quality of the work. There's the results of going for speed and low price."

It's a kind of objection that I've heard in ebook/self-publishing discussions before, and I think it's a red herring. Every blog is in some sense a fast, low price vanity press yet I can find very good reading material without publishers to narrow my search or paid editors to ensure that there's material out there worth reading*. Even 20 years ago software could have caught the simplest mistakes listed above (blatant misspellings and numbers swapped with letters). The trickier issue is that it is too difficult and risky for an author to write full-time without a traditional publisher.

*Yes, I am aware of some very popular blogs that just ride the coattails of traditionally published and edited news media, and no, I am not referring to them.

69:

Sure, just pointing out that ebooks make noting it (assuming 'it' is something not pbook specific) as you go somewhat easier. And authors that have 'typo hunt' posts on their blogs means that you have an easy way to pass them on.

70:

Why would you know about this? I read the same reasons that Charlie had in an article in the WashPost. (The paper version had the list laid out better.)

71:

Last fall, a new book came out, a prequel, for a series I hadn't read. They were the only books of the author's that I hadn't read because they were fantasy. I ordered the original republished three books and the prequel. The third book of the original trilogy was festooned with errors. Surely if you republish something you'd have a look at the manuscript first! (I won't buy the other books in the prequel part -- I don't like much fantasy and I definitely don't like this set.)

72:

paws4thot @62: When I proofread my own books, I never cite "page N, paragraph N, line N." The paragraph number is redundant. That's my experience with authors submitting corrections for books I'm editing or proofreading, too.

Now I do have to say "left column" or "right column," because Steve Jackson Games publishes in 2-column layout. . . .

73:

Fair enough, but see also #66 for context that I'm used to doing it with technical docs, often with full legal paragraphing.

74:

I feel that some locations which I use in my novels should comp me a meal or pitcher of beer or something. I'm thinking of my chapter "Shootout at Burger Continental" -- which is actually an Armenia/Continental place frequented by Caltech faculty and students with discounts.

That's in my draft novel "Alzheimer's War" which I started on 29 Nov 2010, thinking it a short story. It is now 483 pp (124,350 words) and I am wrestling with the Stross Criteria for endings.

That worked for the 3 previous novels that I completed in 2010. My day job, teaching 7th and 8th grade algebra to anarchistic Latinos, cuts into my writing severely. And I'm over due on cutting 31,000 words down to 5,000 for the special Roger Penrose/Stuart Hameroff issue about Consciousness in the journal Cosmology.

Which explains why I've been lurking the past few months...

75:

It shows my age. I print out my chapters, and proof-read by hand. Sometimes at a Starbucks, or in the Faculty Cafeteria, or on a bench near the Snub Cube sculpture fountain at Caltech. This works better for me than editing on-screen. Micro$oft Word stops spellchecking when my novel mss get big enough to really need it. So when I finish a draft chapter, I email it to subscribers, and let gmail spellcheck guide my next revision. Then print out and use a pen. You know, the graphic device which outputs as quickly as you can move your hand... Oh, and crowdsourcing from facebook friends when I post the slightly spellchecked chapter on my "wall."

76:

I've done hand-proofing too, using red and blue line method (red for speeling earours and blue for the sort of grammar up with which I will not put).

77:

jonathan @76: "Micro$oft Word stops spellchecking when my novel mss get big enough to really need it."

You might want to try Openoffice or Libreoffice for handling documents larger than a 100 pages. Apart from the fact that spellchecking will work they are also less prone to moving things around or strange formatting changes in unrelated parts of the document than MSWord. The interface is different enough to take some getting used to, however.

78:

Or, if you write in chapters, you could use a "master document" in Wurd I think. I'm not quite sure how to set one up, but basically each chapter becomes a .doc file, and the master lets you do manipulations like speel chucking, printing, creating indices and TOCs, pdf conversion... as if they were all in one file.

79:

Any reader should realize with a wee bit of reflection that a story reflects a fictionalized view of reality around the time it was conceived, researched, and written, not as of the publication date, let alone the date the reader picks it up. I could point at stuff that likely has Heinlein rolling over in his grave wanting to edit because reality has already overtaken stuff he set in the far future, but at some point you have to let go of a story and let it become part of the past.

Tell us when Halting State Effect obsoletes something the very day you write it down, eh?

80:

I submit into evidence the "Inspector Rebus" novels of Ian Rankin, where a journey made by the specified mode of transport, at that time of day and year (at least for the year when set), would take that length of time give or take luck with traffic lights, all "significant places" are where and as described...

81:

Anthony: Any reader should realize with a wee bit of reflection

Well, there's your problem in a nutshell!

82:

Call me a cynical, militant, atheist crank but I'd hypothesize that every copy of The Bible printed within my lifetime has been obsolete well before I was born.
Seriously, obsolete before it ships can easily happen in the videogame industry where a game that slips too far behind the screenshot-curve or some trend in game design often ends up being dropped in limbo or utterly scrapped.
I've also had the privilege of being hired to develop a third-party interface-upgrade for something that had a long-overdue official version released about a week and a half after the contract was agreed-on.

83:

I remember discovering Belhaven 90 in the Halfway House a few years back. Wonderful stuff, and never managed to find it since. Of course, the fact that I'm living all the way dahn sarf doesn't help there.

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