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Publishers, Writers and Distributors: The Proof-Read
An open letter to publishers has been written on TeleRead, criticising them for what is an unacceptable failure on the part of publishers to proof-read digital texts.

An open letter has been written and posted to publishers online which criticises the publishing market for failing to understand the importance of proof-reading in digital texts. The author, known as Joanna, writes a scathing letter in which she lambasts publishers and makes firm comparisons between the approach adopted for the digital market and that of the printed market. Joanna argues that "If you found yourself with a box of printed books that had such obvious mistakes, you’d recall them and not send them out to the stores. If you learned about it after the fact, you’d issue an apology and refund your reader’s money." This letter has caused quite a stir amongst readers of this letter with blame falling not only on publishers but on distributors and writers.

The letter raises an important debate about how the digital market is being received by publishers, especially main stream publishers. Very few of them would argue that the digital market is as strong as the printed market, despite evidence to the contrary, and so they treat the digital market differently. There is a lower standard of quality control, if indeed quality control even exists for digital texts, which leaves readers and authors wondering whether it is worthwhile to invest so heavily in the digitalisation of the literary market. After all, if publishers are refusing to consider the digital market as an integral part of publishing, what reason do readers and authors have to do so?

The problem, however, does not rest solely with publishers. I agree entirely with both Joanna and many of the comments that publishers should be focused on quality control and ensuring that there are no errors in digital texts. Given the associated costs between quality control with printed texts compared with that of digital texts, there is no excuse. The cost is minimal - it only requires one person to read through the text using a computer and correct those errors before submitting it to distributors but publishers have failed even on that level. Authors are also to blame for some of these problems. The digital market is strong because many authors are now circumventing the publishing industry and "self-publishing" and so, as a result, many of the texts which are available to readers have only been viewed either by the author or by a close circle of people. There is no quality control procedure in self-publishing.

There should be. An author's commitment to his/her work should be to maintain the highest possible standard. Sales will fall dramatically if a reader discovers a plethora of errors in a digital text. With the likes of Amazon using reviews for products, there will come a time when a reader will post a review of an author's text warning of the errors contained in the text. It is impossible to remove these reviews. They remain forever and it is the responsibility of the author in the first instance to correct them. It should not take a reader to inform an author of these errors. Self-publishing is an emerging market and it is being let down by those people who are refusing to use common sense. You would not expect to buy a faulty product. Why do you expect readers to buy a book that contains errors?

It's a very simple principle and it applies across the very fabric of the literary industry. By taking heed of this warning, authors, publishers and distributors can very easily make themselves aware of this problem and correct it. Failure to do so is tantamount to ignorance and the blind decision to ignore the will of readers on this issue. Failure to do so will result in the collapse of this market and leave readers feeling frustrated and disillusioned with their purchases.

You can read the letter here and check out some of the comments as they are equally important. It's an engaging debate and one that isn't likely to fall quiet.