Did you buy any e-books this Cyber Monday? All the major bookstores had big sales going on, with Amazon offering 1,000 books at huge discounts. I was tempted. But ultimately, I did not buy.

Why not? Because I’m tired of how much work reading e-books has become for me.

I bought from Fictionwise for years in the pre-agency days and never had a single book with a typo. But this year, I don’t think I have read a single book from a Big Six publisher that hasn’t had at least a dozen. I do go through and mark them for correction because I like to re-read my favorites (and perhaps because I have so many children in my life these days that I have some hope they might want to read them someday).

So, this means it isn’t just reading anymore. Now I am an unpaid copyeditor, too. If I’m going to go to all that trouble, it has to be a book I really want to read and keep. If it’s an author I’m only half-heartedly interested in, I simply can’t be bothered anymore.

There were three authors who interested me when I perused the Amazon listings. Here is why I didn’t buy each one:

Author A: Two omnibus works of the sci-fi trilogies she is known for. I have heard good things about this author, but sci-fi can be hit or miss for me, and trilogies are long. I figured if I did wind up enjoying the books, that might be nice—but they’d be a lot of work to fix. Since I still have unread books in my Calibre library, I can wait on these. They aren’t must-haves.

Author B: A mystery series that looked intriguing. Alas, it was incomplete. When I checked the list at Fantastic Fiction, I found that the Amazon selections accounted for about two-thirds of the series. I’m a little crazy about reading series books in order, so I passed on these. If I can’t have the whole set, I’ll just read a different series. I have a few series books in my Calibre library that I haven’t even touched yet.

Author C: An author whose work I know I enjoy, with several titles listed I didn’t have yet. The problem with this author? I bought my favorite of his works from Amazon in the past, and it was riddled with mistakes. Once burned, twice shy. Given that the other book was glitchy, I am not trusting these ones to be error-free and I don’t want to buy more stuff that needs fixing when I have so many choices now for books with a lower error ratio …

So my total for Cyber Monday? $0.00. Wait … make that $10—I did treat myself to a used paper book off eBay. It was a poetry anthology for which the Kindle version was retailing for almost double the paper cost, and for which the Kindle sample showed at least five formatting errors. When I thought of the work it would take to get the book readable—and at that price!—and in a genre that relies so heavily on formatting anyway!—I went for the paper.

All hail Cyber Monday!


  1. I’ve seen some typos from major publishers, but nothing overwhelmingly bad. Or at least not for some time; I got the Winds of War in 2008 and it was chock full of errors. Others have not been as bad. Your milage may vary.

    On the other hand, I’ve seen indie and self-pub works that clearly lacked any sort of editing or OCR correction. And then there was the purest art of incompetence in a self-pub science fiction novel that began with the worst description of a space battle I’ve ever read and the misuse of grizzly for grisly. The author even wrote his own introduction saying how happy he was finally living his dream of becoming a “real” writer. How sad.

    That said, I bought about dozen ebooks yesterday. They were on sale at Amazon, so probably not from major publishers. Too soon to tell about typos.

  2. I did not buy any ebooks because none of the ones that interest me were on sale in any of the major stores. Too bad, a blanket 50%off of ANY book would have been nice.

    Also, Frank, not sure about other readers, but on the Paperwhite, you can highlight text and select to have it sent to the publisher for correction. I do it, but don’t bother explaining in the notes section why that is a typo, missing comma, whatever. They better figure this out on their own. It’s three touches for me, so I don’t mind.

    I like the idea of receiving credit for corrections sent in. Hear that, MACMILLAN?! Yes, I am talking to YOU!

  3. It made my day to see that another person is comparably compulsive. If only there were simple ways to correct e-books! Couldn’t such a capability be built into e-reader software? I know that I’d read more e-books if, when necessary, I had an opportunity to correct their spelling and sometimes even their grammar.
    As far as completing series is concerned, I keep a list of my incomplete series and every few months check if any of the missing volumes have become available.

  4. I did purchase a few ebooks, but none were from the Big 6. I mostly only buy from indies since I’m mostly against DRM and I’m against ebooks that are more expensive than their dead tree counterparts. I save Big 6 books for Audible. It’s a bit hypocritical I know, but Audible’s DRM scheme has never bitten me in the butt before. Anywho, I had better luck with indies.. Don’t get me wrong there’s a lot of crap out there, but I buy from professional indies. Indies who know that having an editor is essential. I also chose indies who are semi well established. My method of choosing indies has rarely backfired on me. I’m also lucky to have friends who are indie authors. Indies are really good about promoting each other. So it’s easier for me to take a risk on purchasing an ebook from an author I’m not familiar with. Professional indies always hate when you find errors in their books, but they’re always appreciative when errors are brought to their attention.

    My indie method won’t work for everyone, but it works for me. I’ve been burned too many times by Big 6 books post Kindle to continue wasting my money and, more importantly, my time on them. I miss the glory days Peanut Press/eReader/Fictionwise. Sure the selection wasn’t vast like it is today, but at least every book you purchased was high quality.

  5. I have several dozen Open Road books (and bought several dozen more yesterday), and I’ve found them to be in pretty good shape, mostly as good as print books nowadays. I can tolerate a few typos. And I spent 30 years as an editor, so I seldom miss one. I have, however, acquired some backlist pre-digital books from other, Big 6, publishers that were in poor shape (I consider more than a dozen minor typos in a 75,000 word book to be excessive), but what’s really intolerable is missing or out of position sentences, paragraphs, pages, chapters. Some e-books achieve notoriety for such problems; in most cases, the publisher fixes the problems (because of poor sales, I’ll bet, not out of shame).

The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail newteleread@gmail.com.