Terry Pratchett’s “Snuff”: an ebook full of typos – HarperCollins charges premium Agency Pricing for unproofed ebook

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Here’s an ebook that didn’t go through the editorial process.  HarperCollins should be ashamed of themselves.  I just bought Pratchett’s Snuff from Amazon and here is some of the stuff I was presented with:

imes, for Vimes

otherpeople

nervouspeople

amongpeople

see?people

servingpeople

thepeople

watchpeople

ofpeople

turnip.people

puzzledpeople

Well,people

pub.People

with.It

andpeople

whichpeople

too.People

somepeople

country.People

Willikins.People

fightpeople

thatpeople

on.people

putpeople

much.people

whenpeople

Thepeople

occasionallypeople

upsetspeople

allpeople

long-termcouples

annoyingpeople

it.People

helpingpeople

Andpeople

Now,people

That’s just in the first 20% of the book.  Some of them recur over and over.

Thanks, HarperCollins for showing us just what you think of your readers!

37 Comments on Terry Pratchett’s “Snuff”: an ebook full of typos – HarperCollins charges premium Agency Pricing for unproofed ebook

  1. Well, that kills a sale for me. It’s astonishing how such bad proof-reading can happen. A legion of Pratchett fans would have done it for free. Isn’t there any way publishers could crowdsource this kind of thing?

  2. That’s reprehensible.

  3. Looks like someone did an s/ people/people (can insensitive). Don’t know *why* that would have been done, but looks like a single mistake rather than complete unproofed spelling error / unproofed OCR thing.

  4. Hmmm… well I searched my epub copy and didn’t find any of the typos mentioned, but I don’t have an ‘official’ copy, so maybe someone cleaned up after Harper Collins.

  5. rashkae: don’t confuse making the mistake with correcting the mistake. Whatever they did, they didn’t proof the book. If they had they would have found the error.

    John: my copy came direct from Amazon.

  6. Theresa Murphy // October 14, 2011 at 5:36 am //

    David … “crowdsource”? What happened to the good old trade of “copy editor”? To be honest looks like someone has done a global search and replace and for whatever reason removed the space before “people” … not case sensitive either.

  7. I wonder if it is a conversion error by Amazon – from whatever source format they were supplied with?

  8. Paul, tell Amazon – they have contacted authors/publishers recently when readers reported typos, so will take action.

    I agree, it’s inexcusable of Harper Collins to put out an unchecked ebook.

  9. Paul, is it HarperCollins or Amazon that screwed things up. Don’t forget that it is Amazon that does the conversion. I wouldn’t let Amazon off the hook so quickly, although I can readily believe it was HarperCollins.

  10. Probably a hidden formatting wonky, proof readers had nothing to do with it, very likely.

  11. Rich, I don’t think it matters whose ‘fault’ it was. The one thing we do know for sure is that it wasn’t Paul’s fault! It should not be the job of the customer to break down the supply chain process and detective-work where the problem happened. Paul paid full-price money for a shoddily made product. That is offensive, end of story. His best approach would be to write to Amazon (the ones who sold him the book) and have *them* figure out whose ‘fault’ it is and how to fix it.

  12. Perry Mc Daid // October 14, 2011 at 7:45 am //

    We just had a discussion about proofing on our site before this came out. Outrageous, lazy and unprofessional. An insult to authors and readers alike – and to sell this brazenly!! The mind boggles. This is the sort of mentality which hands out A+s for spelling your name right at the top of the test paper.

  13. I only meant that the error could easily have been introduced during some processing *after* the book was ‘proofed’ for typos. Obviously, someone at QA was asleep and failed to examine the text before putting for sale. But that’s an easy thing to slip through, and should be just as easy to fix.

    This is not at all like “Through Wolf’s Eyes” I bought from kobo, which was obviously an unproofed OCR. It was so bad that even the little graphic at the top of new chapter pages got rendered as gibberish insertion of letters somewhere in the first sentence.

  14. I bought my copy from Kobo and it doesn’t have those mistakes. In fact, I haven’t seen any errors. And I usually spot them, being an ex-teacher.

  15. I emailed Amazon and they sent me an updated version of Snuff, and it is fixed and has better formatting.
    A friend in USA told me that he bought the HC and it has some mistakes too.
    At least it is easier to get a fixed version of an ebook than one of a printed book.

  16. As an indie, I load my own text to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform, and I can tell you that an essential part of the process is Preview, which enables you to check the text as it will appear on the Kindle.

    It’s not Amazon’s fault if there are irregularities in an ebook.

  17. Timothy Wilhoit // October 14, 2011 at 8:53 am //

    B&N has a customer reviewing the book and s/he has the same complaint: “Full of typos!” It is definitely HarperCollin’s fault.

  18. “Editorial process”? Very funny. The demise of the editorial process began 20 years ago when people like my current boss were informed by their publishing houses that “We don’t need people who do copyediting anymore.” I find it quaintly naive that people still believe that editors, you know…edit. They’re there to find the next big hit, rework it into something that’ll sell, and publish it. Proofreading and copyediting are not part of the process, which is why I’ve edited my own book to within an inch of its life (and asked a strict grammarian friend to do the same just to be sure). I refuse to put my name on a book that’s not as perfect as I can make it, but a lot of others don’t care.

    I’m going to guess that Terry Pratchett does care, but from what I’ve seen on my Kindle, spacing errors are common–I’ve always figured that had something to do with the way ebooks are produced. This instance, though, looks like some sort of coding issue, and HarperCollins is left with egg on its face and its complete lack of interest in quality control for all the world to see.

  19. Theresa, I understand your point about the value of copyeditors. The thing is, publishers are complaining about shrinking margins (of the profit kind, not the ones of the sides of the pages). Given that they seem bound and determined to cut costs, I just think that they ought to find novel ways to ensure quality. Certainly, I’d rather they kept on the copyeditors, just as I’d prefer that there were still elevator operators in hotels.

  20. It’s ironical that it was Terry Pratchett who, when someone said to him, “Don’t publishers have people who make sure spelling, grammar and punctuation are correct?” answered, “Yes. They’re called authors.”

  21. Theresa Murphy // October 14, 2011 at 10:33 am //

    David L … very humorous reply … made me smile thanks.

  22. Brian / AnemicOak // October 14, 2011 at 11:02 am //

    @Rich, Amazon does provide tools to do the conversion if the publisher wants to use their ePub file as a basis for the Mobi, but the publisher can still proof the resultant Mobi file. Amazon even provides a previewer which will show you what the file will look like on various Kindle platforms.

    The last time I had a Harper book full of errors I got the best results by tracking down the email for the head of the specific line/label at Harper and contacting her directly (not easy to find those emails, but they’re out there). It took them a couple of months, but they eventually put out what appears to be an error free replacement.

  23. The saddest part of this is that it’s been over a year since I alerted HC to numerous and serious errors in a number of books by another of their authors, one of which was so bad that I demanded a refund for the book. (I got it). I also alerted the author himself, so he could put pressure on them, or at least get the ear of someone at HC that I could never reach.

    And after all this time, it seems nothing whatsoever has been done over there to correct the problem they’ve known about for so long. Very sad.

  24. Sounds like whoever did the conversion could use a little more training. Those are grossly unacceptable errors that should have been caught by the person doing the conversion, let alone a final proof.

    Let’s not forget the most important aspect here: it’s a new Terry Pratchett novel! I’ll take anything and everything I can get.

  25. I find a lot of errors like this in ebooks from the big publishers. Even in the age of so much downsizing that you’re lucky if more than one editor looks at a book, every single page of the book is always turned and checked. Why is that too much to ask for ebooks? It’s clear that an editor doesn’t look at these books after the conversion process. How does this editor know? Because the people doing the converting almost always flub and put a third “e” in “Acknowledgments” in the Table of Contents.

  26. Frankly, I’m astonished that nobody has yet commented about the eBook not being up to snuff. I mean, come on, the publisher just laid that pun right out there and nobody picked it up!

  27. The sample errors above obviously indicate a search-and-replace problem after the book had gone through the editorial process. Some ebook formatter accidentally took out the spaces before the word “people”.

    Somebody, somewhere does need to look at the ebook output before it goes on sale.

  28. Brian / AnemicOak // October 14, 2011 at 8:29 pm //

    Do authors get Galley Proofs of an ebook like they do with a print book? It might help with problems like this since a lot of publishers (the big ones are often the worst) can’t seem to be bothered with proof reading.

  29. Brian, the author usually receives the master galley of the paper book, not the ebook, if she writes for one of the big publishers. It’s often the exact opposite for ebook publishers who do small runs or POD paper versions. They work with the ebook master copy.

    The authors with the big publishers never see the ebook formats because it is created from the master paper copy which is already proofed.

    Some of the problems with the Pratchett novel may be an end of page error which mashes the last word on one page with the first word in the next. I’ve had that problem on occasion when I translate or cut and paste between text programs. That’s probably why the error wasn’t in one format, but was in another.

  30. all of the publishers seem to be ‘charging’ for services not rendered. kind of like those auto shops that charge you for rustproofing, and then don’t rustproof. publishers whine and piss and moan about their costs, and how expensive editors are, and keep their book prices high to cover those ‘costs’. but then they leave the authors to do their own copyediting — or not.

    they’ve been doing this for ages with the print versions, too. the macmillan mysteries were among the worst. the ones i’ve read have never been read by anyone at the publisher, or there wouldn’t have been entire paragraphs repeated within two pages of each other.

  31. Clytie Siddall // October 16, 2011 at 1:33 am //

    I’m currently replacing my paper-book Agatha Christie collection with ebooks, all from HarperCollins. These ebooks are full of errors: typos, missing spaces, missing line-breaks, spurious line-breaks and indents within the same statement, no space between an ellipsis and the following sentence, non-sequencing or missing text, and an embarrassing lack of the simple ability to place a cedilla, grave or circumflex on a vowel (in Poirot’s occasional French phrases).

    All these errors jolt me out of the story. I wrote to HC when I encountered errors in the first ebook I purchased from this author, but have had no reply. I’m making notes as I go, in the Kindle app, and like other readers I wonder why publishers don’t pay attention to this capacity within the reader community to offer accurate reporting and feedback. They seem to think “near enough is good enough”, but they’re actually ruining their assets: the reputation of good authors, the reason why people buy their books. No matter how good the story is, you can’t read it if you can’t decode the proofing errors.

  32. Jen: ‘acknowledgements’ is not a flub. It’s a (chiefly UK) variant spelling.

    Back on topic, though, HarperCollins’ ebook quality is appalling.

  33. Peter Williams // October 25, 2011 at 10:52 pm //

    I was just about to push the buy button too.

    Thanks for the information and they just lost a sale.

  34. I’ve just finished reading this book in my Kindle and it was perfect! no mistakes.

  35. Boo-boo. Awww, bless that your OCR has suffered a syntactic error. Dry your eyes, pop out and buy the actual paper book as the author intended and one day you’ll be able to read it to someone and be proud rather than whinnying about accuracy rates on Amazon.

  36. Danny, I’m unclear as to the intended tone of your comment, as there seems to have been very little attention to proof-reading. Someone, perhaps your copyeditor, has substituted “boo-boo” for what I think may have been your intended “boo-hoo,” since the former would be a childish word for a minor injury, and the latter is a common imitation of a child’s cry, usually used as a mock-expression of sympathy. Later, the same erring copyeditor seems to have substituted “whinnying” (the sound a horse makes) with “whining” which, by the sense of the rest of what you have writte, would seem more appropriate. In this case, since the book in question came from an Englishman, you might consider the more regional “whinging.”

    To sum up: I think you need to have words with your copyeditor. Carefully chosen and well-checked words.

  37. All of Kim Harrisons books are like this as well. Harper Collins is also the publisher.. I’d be embarrassed if I were them. I requested refunds on books that were like this. I refuse to pay the full price for a book that was never edited.

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