Publishing Perspectives has a brief piece on the error-ridden nature of many e-books, especially those of older pre-digital-publication titles. It explains why and how these errors manage to creep in—the different number of digital formats that all need to be corrected, and the age of the source material are often prime factors—as is the rush to get pre-digital works into electronic print as soon as possible so as to sell more copies.

I found amusing this passage, from a spokesman for a publishing company that produced a book so riddled with errors the author of the article got a refund from Amazon for it.

“Open Road recognizes that this is a challenge and therefore has a stringent process in place and puts in a lot of resources to produce quality e-books. The books go through a thorough proofread and at least two subsequent levels of quality assurance before being finalized. While the technology is certainly new and there will always be some mistakes when you publish hundreds to thousands of e-books a year, we are proud of our track record and will continue to invest in and improve our already thorough process.”

Get the feeling that butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths?

When you get right down to it, the article concludes, software can only go so far, and in order to weed out errors humans have to be involved at the end of the process—and that costs money that publishers aren’t willing to throw at every backlist title they convert. And as long as that is the case, e-books are simply going to have more typos.

I still say that if the publishing industry can produce (mostly) error-free print books, it should be able to do the same for e-books. But perhaps this is an unrealistic hope.