An open letter to publishers about the sale you lost today
May 25, 2011 | 12:35 pm
By Joanna Cabot
I want to start off by apologizing for the generic greeting; in spite of my best efforts to determine just who is actually responsible for the problem I’m having, nobody’s saying a word about whose job quality control of ebook editions actually is. I have asked authors when I have written to them about errors in their books. I have asked the president of Kobo himself, both in person and via email, to give me an email address, a contact number, a job title, anything. And everybody shrugs because it isn’t their problem; so I am addressing this generally in hopes that this letter goes as viral as it’s possible for these things to go and somebody out there in publishing land will read it, and care.
Anyway, I want to explain to you about the $9.99 that you lost today. It involves a purchase I made in good faith this morning from that stalwart (and lone) Canadian ebook seller, Kobo Books. They will shortly be refunding me this money—learning from the past experience of at least four previous complaints of a similar nature, I submitted fairly substantial documentation along with my customer service query—but for now, let’s still call it a purchase so that you can understand what’s happened here.
The short version, publishers, is this—somebody at your company is running a PDF or Word file or whatever through some kind of meatgrinder converter, and then failing to give it a final proof before slapping a full, non-discountable retail price on it. And what’s arriving in customer’s hot little e-hands are shoddy books with basic errors that are just appalling. As a customer, it is completely unacceptable to me to pay full sticker price and get an inferior product. And I don’t just mean inferior in the ‘I can’t re-sell it like I can with paper and it’s crippled by DRM’ sense. I mean ‘inferior’ as in my teenaged brother could spend twenty minutes reading it and run out of fingers on which to count the really obvious mistakes.
Some examples from today’s book—and, remember, this was with half an hour of reading during my lunch break, I am barely through the introduction of the book here—
‘if sugar created an opioid effect, it would en- hance self-esteem.’
’92 percent of the graduates were sdii clean and sober’
‘I want you to sue- ceed on this plan.’
‘Did you make a special trip to get a bigjar?
See what I mean? 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. If this was a book that you yourself had purchased, you’d be driving back to the store to return it—why should you pay your hard-earned money for something that’s so obviously not yet ready for sale? And…to bring it back to my little problem of this morning…why should I?
Somebody has to proofread this stuff, you guys. I have tried in vain to find out just which job title at each of your illustrious firms is the responsible party. But I do know whose job it should NOT be, and that’s mine, after I have already shelled out money. Get it together, people. Hire a college lit major for minimum wage or whatever and have them wade through your final output before you release it to your e-vendors. Or hire back the intern you fired when you got rid of the slushpile and have them do it. But somewhere between your ‘convert to epub now’ button and my wallet, there simply has to be another set of eyes, because—and this is the part that makes this so tragic, for both of us—I’ll happily take back the $9.99 that Kobo will refund to me. But I would have rather had the book.