Mistakes and errors in e-books

By Joe Moore

Have you noticed that there seems to be an inordinate number of mistakes and typos in e-books? How often do you see their for there, or whether for weather? How about coming across multiple words jammed together or too many spaces between words? In her Huffington Post article and subsequent CBC Radio interview, ITW Vice President Karen Dionne discusses this ever-increasing problem and comes up with some possible answers.

First, you might assume that the problem would be most apparent in self-published books, right? After all, many self-published authors have never been traditionally published and rarely can afford the services of a professional editor to scrub their manuscripts. But according to Karen, that’s not always the case. In fact, many errors appear in mainstream fiction and the culprit just might be technology. Here’s why.

An author turns in her finished manuscript, usually in MS Word, to her editor who hands it off to a copy and/or line editor. It’s polished and sent back to the writer for another once-over. Then it goes back to the editor who sends it to the typesetter. The Word doc is imported into a specialized page layout publishing program such as Adobe InDesign or QuarkXPress. The layout program is downstream from the Word doc and there’s no reversal back upstream to the manuscript.

The typesetter works with the book designer to choose font and other styling, and usually a PDF is created that is sent back to the writer for one last shot at any changes and corrections. Finally, the writer turns in final changes and the book is sent off electronically to the printer. At that point, there’s no turning back.

So far, so good. But what if the publisher decides to create and release an e-book version of the manuscript. The person who creates and formats the e-book cannot use the files created in the page layout program. They must use as a source the MS Word doc. But there’s a really good chance that all the changes and corrections made to the InDesign or Quark file were never made to the original Word file. So those errors and mistakes could make their way into the e-book.

Writers aren’t usually asked to proof the e-book. In fact, most writers don’t even bother to read the e-book releases. They assume it’s a mirror of the print version and have moved on to the next project right after the printed book is published.

Now, as Karen points out in her article, this is not always the source of errors. And some publishers treat the e-book with as much care and feeding as the print version. But because of time restraints and budgets, sometimes it’s not possible to go through the revision process again for the e-book. Still, it does make sense that this scenario is a possible cause for the number of errors seen in ebooks.

So the next time you’re reading your favorite author, and you come across a double word or an is for his or some other strange formatting mistake, don’t jump at the conclusion that it’s the author’s fault. It just might be the technology working against us.

Have you noticed more mistakes and errors in e-books than print? How about your own books? Have you ever gone back and checked the e-book to make sure known corrections were made?


BAM! Just Like That, an original short story by Lynn Sholes & Joe Moore. Download for $0.99 and get the first 13 chapters of THE PHOENIX APOSTLES as a bonus preview.

The Threshold of Pain

There’s been a great deal of discussion here at TKZ as well as on other blogs and forums about the changes taking place in the publishing industry. Most of it revolves around the rapid emergence and popularity of e-books and electronic publishing, and how it’s affecting traditional publishing. The industry as a whole appears liquid and seems to be changing almost by the day. Many of us are trying to find a stable place to stand as the ground shakes around us.

I don’t have any solutions to present here today. If I did, they would probably be outdated by the time I post my next blog. But I do have some observations.

For over 20 years, I worked in the video postproduction industry. During that time, one of the biggest advances in television and motion picture production was the advent of digital technology. Before high definition digital video, the only way to capture high quality images was on film. Even for personal home use, there was nothing better than standard 35mm film (some formats in the professional arena were larger sizes). For decades, no one envisioned that high quality images could be captured and delivered on any other format than film. (Note that film is still far greater resolution than high definition video). Even with its inherent grain, its ability to attract dirt, its somewhat fragile, easily damaged surface, and its constant weave and jitter through the projection system’s gate, it was as good as it can get. No other image delivery method could match film.

Today, most major motion pictures are still shot on film due mainly to the fact that film, unlike video, has much wider latitude and dynamic range, and still has the highest resolution available. But the image delivery system is changing. Now, original negative is transferred from film to video and color corrected within the digital domain. It is then projected in digital format rather than analog. Instead of individual frames passing through the gate of a projector, the images are retrieved from a hard drive or transmitted via satellite and projected electronically in resolutions up to 4k. It’s called digital cinema. No more scratches and weave, no more prints wearing out or film breaking. The thousandth time the movie is projected, it looks exactly like the first time.

Has the movie-going experience been hurt by digital cinema? No. In fact, it’s been enhanced beyond what the audience even realizes. The image is rock solid, crystal clear, and comes with multiple channels of digital audio for a totally entertaining experience. In most viewers eyes, it’s better than film.

How does this relate to analog vs. digital books? We must remember that what readers get when they purchase a book is a container holding our writing. Just like film and digital files can contain the same images, analog and digital books can hold the same words. An analog or printed book is simply a delivery vessel—something that contains our words and delivers them to our readers.

Remember Kodachrome film? It was first manufactured in 1935 and quickly became the most popular method of capturing and delivering images to the casual photographer. Eastman Kodak canceled production in 2009. Why? Because digital cameras had finally surpassed film as the most popular method of taking pictures. No one was buying Kodachrome anymore. But pictures were still being taken. Only now, the delivery system—the container—is digital files.

Could that happen to books? Maybe. And if it does, it probably will take a long time. After all, it took Kodachrome 74 years to die. But I hold to the theory of the “threshold of pain”. When something new comes along—let’s call it a widget—the first adapters must experience a certain amount of pain in order to try it. As the widget is further developed, refined and perfected, the pain starts to diminish. As the pain continues to decrease, more customers migrate to the widget because they learn of its pleasures and are willing to tolerate or ignore any remaining pain. At some point, the negatives along with the price dips below the threshold of pain, and the widget is embraced by the majority of the audience.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         Here’s an example. Six years ago, I bought a 60” Sony HD TV. They were mostly available in high-end electronics boutiques. Top resolution was 720p. It cost me over $5k. There was a lot of pain in my wallet and the fact that it took months to get any kind of HD into my home. Today, I can get the same size screen at 1080p resolution at Wal-Mart for less than half the price. Hardly any pain. A whole lot of pleasure. And HD TV’s are as common as toaster ovens. The TV is a delivery system. What it delivers is images—or more specific, entertainment.

I believe that as a delivery system, analog books can be replaced if the replacement brings the user more pleasure than pain. If the reading experience is as good or better than analog. If they are reasonably priced. Easy to read from. Easy to use. Massive storage. Unlimited battery life. Unlimited selection of books. Scratch-‘n-sniff paper smell. OK, that last pleasure is future-ware.

Are e-books the answer? I don’t know. But what has happened is that due to the economy, competition, and a shifting marketplace, the electronic publishing flood gates have begun to open. A lot of new widgets are flowing out. The one thing they all have in common is that they are delivery systems. But what they deliver will never change. Our words. Our art.

Are you an early adaptor who likes living on the bleeding edge of technology? Or do you sit back and let others be the lab rats before you pull out your wallet and head over to Wal-Mart?

Out with the old . . .

Happy New Year to everyone! With the arrival of a new decade, one thing is obvious: technology is moving at light speed. What was hot just a few years or even months ago is old and obsolete today. It used to be that early adaptors lived on the bleeding edge. Now the bleeding edge barely starts to hemorrhage before something new comes along. It took a long time for things like VHS tapes, over-the-air analog television, and dial-up Internet connections to be given a decent burial. In today’s environment of wireless streaming video, smart phones, Wi-Fi, and e-readers, we really have to pick and choose, and do our research to hang on to something for any length of time.

But my post isn’t about tomorrow’s innovations; it’s about those warm-and-fuzzy things we grew up with that are either on the trash heap or on a fast track to oblivion.

stamp Let’s start with postage stamps. OK, I know, you just used them to send out your Christmas cards. And like me, you got a lot of cards delivered by the mailman. But this Holiday Season, I received more e-cards than traditional Hallmarks. As a matter of fact, quite a few were Hallmark e-cards. With texting and email, who buys rolls of stamps anymore?

Next comes faxing. It used to be that faxing was the only way to instantly get an important document from point A to point B. Well, not quit instantly since sometimes you got a busy signal or the recipient’s machine was out of paper or you programmed the wrong number and set it for after hours delivery and there was a guy in Indiana whose phone kept ringing and he wanted to hold you under the water until the bubbles stopped. But it was fairly quick and reliable. Today, just scan the document and email it as a PDF attachment. Cost? Next to nothing. Faxing is as dead as your New Years ham.

When was the last time you actually opened that huge, dictionary-size copy of the Yellow Pages? With Google, Internet Yellow and White pages, all those books do is kill trees. Then they clog up the landfill. Aren’t you glad you’re not a Yellow Pages advertising salesman?

Ten years ago I wrote dozens of checks a month to pay bills and buy stuff. Today I average maybe one a month. With online banking, PayPal, and Quicken, writing checks is right up there with listening to music on AM radio. There is still AM radio, right?

Video rentals made Blockbuster a blockbuster business. Then came Netflix, the Blockbuster killer. Then came Red Box, the Netflix killer. Then came Blockbuster Express the . . . well, being reactive instead of proactive in the tech world means you have one foot in the grave. Soon, wireless, on-demand, streaming 1080p video will kill them all including DVD and Blu-ray. I guess after that, we’ll just have to think of a movie and it will appear in our heads. BTW, watch for no-glasses-required 3D television coming soon to a Best Buy near you.

Picture a large group of big heavy books with matching covers that took up a complete shelf in your office. They were called encyclopedias. Remember the last time you went to find information in an encyclopedia? Me neither. By the time it would take me to pull the book from the shelf, I can find the answer online from 100+ sources.

Aren’t you glad you’re not an encyclopedia salesman? Or a fax machine salesman? Or work in a video rental store?

And I saved the best for last. Newspapers. I know I’ll get a lot of “you’re crazy” comments on that one. I’ll be honest, I love reading the newspaper while sipping my coffee each morning just like everyone else. But let’s face it, folks, printing newspapers and having them delivered by some guy in a noisy little POS car at 5:00 AM no longer makes for a profitable business model. Some have already fallen. There will be more in the new decade.

Technology marches on. Today it’s marching so fast, that it’s hard to keep up. So don’t get too attached to that latest gadget. You might be trying to sell it on eBay tomorrow and no one even meets your reserve price.

Here’s a final thought about technology: "640K ought to be enough for anybody." — Bill Gates, 1981

is there anything you can think of that is on it’s way out the door in 2010?

The E-reader Tsunami Is Coming

By Joe Moore

We’ve had a few previous discussions about e-books and the electronic devices on which you can read them. Why another post on the subject? Because unlike in the past, things are about to get really serious. So if you’re thinking about investing in a reader such as the Amazon Kindle 2, you might want to hold off for a short while because there’s a whole new generation of  readers about to hit the shelves.

A number of companies such as Asus, Plastic Logic, and the sony-readerBritish company Interead are ready to launch new devices that will get you reading digitized books and newspapers at prices that are finally becoming reasonable, some starting as low as $165. Sony is already shipping their e-reader starting at $199 (pictured). On October 20, Barnes & Noble introduced their e-reader called the Nook ($259).

Major publishers are jumping into the e-book pool on sites like SCRIBD while thousands of books are being converted into Kindle format and made available on Amazon every day. If nothing else, the term “out of print” will soon disappear from our vocabulary.

There is a downside to the plethora of new e-readers: format compatibility. An example is the books and periodical subscriptions your purchase through Amazon may not be readable on a different brand other than Kindle.

kindle2 Also, keep an eye on Google in all this. They want to scan millions of out-of-print books and make them available through the Google Book Search for e-book readers. Amazon is fighting this because Google’s deal makes it hard for other e-book sellers (such as Amazon) to scan and distribute these same books. I bet this battle gets dirty before the dust settles.

But the tsunami of new e-readers should mean that we’ll see the end of Amazon’s only-game-in-town Kindle dominance as the prices go down and the features go up. Remember the Apple iPhone a few years ago and what happened next?

Do you have an e-book reader yet? Or are you resisting even the thought that this is the future?

How Technology Will Change The Way We Read And Write

by Clare Langley-Hawthorne

Last week my husband forwarded me an excellent article in the Wall Street Journal (http://online.wsj.com/article_email/SB123980920727621353-lMyQjAxMDI5MzI5MTgyMDE5Wj.html) on how e-books will change the way we read and write and it sparked a great deal of enthusiastic debate between us. The author of the article, Steven Johnson, basically had his ‘Aha’ moment when he bought, on sheer impulse, a copy of Zadie Smith’s book ‘On Beauty’ on his Kindle. His ideas about how technology can revolutionize not only the book publishing industry but the act of reading itself are, I think, intriguing as well as exciting.

There were three aspects of his article that immediately caught my attention:

The way that technology will transform the essentially solitary, linear act of reading into a community, interactive activity;

The possibilities that technology open up for the e-book-world from hypertextual, searchable books to global book groups;

The revolutionary way e-books will alter the way people buy books from pay per chapter options to the reemergence of ‘forgotten’ books that are now being rediscovered.

Imagine your home library transformed into a virtual, searchable repository of knowledge…

Imagine being able to drill down into the backstory of a book just by clicking on hypertext links embedded in the e-book (as a writer of historical fiction this opens up all manner of possibilities to help inform and deepen the reading experience for my books)…

Imagine being able to highlight a paragraph in the book you’re reading and make comments that will be accessible to both the author as well as the community of readers who are looking at the same e-book…

After reading this article, I was like, wow, the possibilities are endless…and when I look at my four year old boys I can’t help but wonder – what will the world of ideas and books be like for them in the future?

So what do you think about Steven Johnson’s take on the future of e-book technology? What do you imagine that future will be like? What excites you the most about the way technology can revolutionize both the way you read and/or the way you write?

Geek genes vs. Levi jeans

By Joe Moore

I consider myself to be tech savvy—maybe more so than the average PC user. I believe I have geek genes. My wife has Levi jeans. She is always calling me into her office to say that there’s something wrong with her PC and could I fix it. It’s usually the result of pilot error.

I wasn’t born with a geek gene. I believe I got it while in close proximity to someone who was born with it: my son. I remember TRS-80 when he passed it on to me. Many years ago, he came home from school one day with a Radio Shack TRS-80. He had traded a friend an old CB radio for it. The TRS used a TV for a monitor and had a paltry 16k of RAM. No hard drive. Storage was on an external 5.25” floppy disk or an audio cassette tape. Within a week, I got my hands on a basic word processing module and was using the computer more than my son. I wrote lots of stories with it as I dreamed of becoming a novelist.

commodor64 Being an official geek at that point, I soon grew tired of the TRS-80 and moved up to the highly advanced Commodore 64. Same external storage but a whopping 64k of RAM. Now we were getting somewhere. I found a better word processor program and kept writing more stuff. My first novel was years away, but I was on a roll.

Somewhere along the line, I learned how to use an Apple Macintosh. Built-in floppy storage and a massive 128k of RAM. I could feel the power.

applemacintoshThen I purchased a dedicated word processing device made by Magnavox called a VideoWriter. It was a computer, printer and monitor built into one unit. I wrote my first book using it–an action adventure novel set in Cuba and South Florida.

My first real, bigboy computer was a 286 made by Emerson. It had 4MB of RAM and a 40MB hard drive. Today, you can find toys in a McDonalds Happy Meal with more memory than my Emerson.

Next came a Micron which I used for many years followed by my trusty Dell 8100 which lasted 7 years. Along the way, I replaced its RAM, hard drives, fans, optical drives–just about everything but the motherboard.

xps-630Which brings us to my latest: a new Dell XPS 630. It’s considered an extreme gaming machine. I don’t play PC video games but I do a lot of graphics design and my old Dell just couldn’t keep up with the heavy lifting needed for the newest CS3 versions of PhotoShop and InDesign. My new machine has an Intel Quad-core processor, 4 Gig of RAM, 6 fans, and a terabyte of storage. When I turn it on, it’s like the scene from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation where the city power grid dims.

Does having geek genes help me write better novels? Probably not. But when you’re a geek, it doesn’t really matter. All that does matter is staying on the “bleeding edge” of technology.

So whatever happed to my son who gave me the geek gene? He went on to become a federal agent for the Department of Defense. His specialty: computer forensics.

Which do you have: geek genes or Levi jeans? What was your journey like along the techno highway to get to your current computer? And the most important question of all: Are you a MAC or a PC?