Thursday, January 22, 2015

Loving / Hating E-Books

I spend a lot of time on my Kindle. So much that over 200 books each are in both my read-me list and my archive list. Think of the archive list as I-have-rights-to-the-book, have-read-the-book-unless-it's-complete-crap, and have-tucked-it-out-of-the-way-to-keep-room-for-lots-more-books list. It's storage, where only titles are stored along with whatever piece of code allows me to re-access the book/s when I'm near a wi-fi signal if I wish to reread.

Obviously with something approaching 500 books there, I mostly love my e-books. With the upcoming task of organizing our library, the one where three walls are covered in what are lately referred to as hard copy books, my appreciation for my e-books library grows even more.

But I also have a growing annoyance with what seems to be an increasing sloppiness in the medium. I still purchase the very occasional paperback, and do not see the same issue there. So I can only assume it's a side-effect of not needing to invest the money into paper publishing where errors are fixed as much as possible ahead of time, with publishing making any needed fixes very expensive. Nobody seems to bother with that process when publishing happens (only?) on line.

Or in short, e-books need proofreaders and are not getting them.

I just finished what could have been a damn good series, the Black Douglas Trilogy by J.R.Tomlin. It's got everything I could want in historical fiction: good plotting, well-developed main characters, apparently good research into events, landscape, clothing, food, attitudes: everything needed to put the reader into the time and place. There's a heft to the books that's often missing in trilogies. Many of them seem to be a single book divided into three in order to garner more revenues, a tendency which annoys me enough in many case to never read past the first part. This set was well worth sticking with.

Add my own interest in the subject matter here. The setting of the trilogy is the 20+ years past the brutal death of William Wallace, better known to movie fans as "Braveheart". The trilogy starts with his death, and follows Robert the Bruce and more particularly his knight James Douglas until their deaths. My ancestors came from there, at least the ones whose stories have been passed down in even minor parts to the present. Fighting with Wallace became the reason for them needing to flee Scotland, changing names, and eventually winding up in America. So a good story that picks up where the movie leaves off is just the thing to appeal.

However... (You knew that was coming, right?)

Without exaggeration, nearly every 2nd or third page contained a major editing, i.e., lack of editing, error. She joins the ranks of modern authors that have little awareness of the proper usage of commas. These days they get inserted between nouns and verbs in the same sentence with no reason for one, as well as plenty of other inappropriate places, or left out altogether even though needed for clarity. Truthfully, she's not anywhere as bad as many. But that's not my major gripe.

Using a word processor, it's very easy to add and delete words or recombine phrases to make your text better. Cut, copy, paste, add, delete, proof.  One hopes proof is the final step, with proper corrections, but even that is not - pardon - foolproof. When you proofread your own stuff, it's common to see what you know you meant to say rather than what's actually on the page. Ask me: I know from experience. I make it a practice to go back to the very start of a posting and reread the entire thing. Sometimes several times are necessary. I pick up a lot of mistakes that way. Just not all. A fresh pair of eyes can be extremely helpful.

Unfortunately, many different authors these days seem content to leave me, the reader, to be their second pair of eyes. When I have to come to a screeching halt every couple pages in order to figure out what the author thought they were saying, I get annoyed. I could claim it is because I'm doing the work without getting the royalties. But really, the gripe is much more immediate. My enjoyment of the book is interrupted when I want to go galloping ahead to see what happens next, assuming, of course, that whatever I'm reading is worth that.

If not, my irritation gets that book kicked right into the archives, not even a memory, author or title.

This trilogy is too good a read to consign to forgetfulness. That doesn't make the irritation any less. If this were a book report, I'd recommend you read it anyway, sitting hard on your irritation. And in my case, I whipped off an email to the author this morning requesting her to please please please get a good proofreader. After all, she has another book out, a prequel to the trilogy.

I'd like to enjoy reading it.

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