A reader writes:
Re: your complaints about the publishing industry. I've worked in publishing for more than 25 years. I've done a little bit of everything, from copyediting, to acquisitions work, to typesetting, to book design, to software development. (OK, so it's not your normal career path.)
In my last job, the production editors were instructed never to let me see a new book - I had a nasty habit of finding an error within the first few seconds of handling a copy.
But the problem is that good copy-editing is expensive -- at least, as modern accounting rules in publishing count expense. Everyone knows that publishing books is not like manufacturing widgets, but it's the widget model that prevails among the bean counters.
And then there's the current American education system. How many people notice flaws in other people's prose (much less their own)? I do, and I'd hazard a guess that most readers of your blog can (and maybe even some of the writers!), but we make a small minority of the reading public. So, why should a rational businessman worry about such a minor issue as prose quality when hardly anyone cares?
Finally, I must say that many of those who do care work in the lower echelons of the publishing business, and publishers like Talese rely upon -- or take advantage of -- their devotion to the printed word. But their number is diminishing, and current college graduates lack both the skills and the will to carry on the tradition, especially at the salaries being offered.
Soon, print-on-demand may put the publishing houses out of business. It can't happen soon enough. The first print-run of my last book was published with an indeterminate number of copies with the pages in the wrong order. I was the only person who noticed. No one at Harper Collins or the printer was able to tell me how many books had been misprinted, or shipped with misprints. They had no idea; and no way to find out.
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