im-yours_276I had thought that I wouldn’t find an e-book typo more hilarious than “the next Jew chapters” or “arroz con polio” from the Young Wizards series. But The Guardian Books blog has found what may very well be one of the greatest typos of all time, in Susan Andersen’s novel Baby, I’m Yours.

The passage in question in the e-book was supposed to read, “He stiffened for a moment but then she felt his muscles loosen as he shifted on the ground.” [emphasis mine] However, the accidental change of a “f” to a “t” (presumably in the OCR process; the book dates from 1995, which means it probably had to be scanned to produce an e-copy) altered a certain word to one describing defecation. Writes a chagrined Andersen:

"Shifted – he SHIFTED! I just cringe when I think of the readers who have read this. Hopefully, it’s only in the iBook version that I bought, but if it’s in yours as well, please let me know. I’ve contacted the editor and pray this will be promptly fixed. Too late for us…but for Gawd’s sake."

I certainly feel for Andersen, but can’t help being delighted at yet more evidence of publisher inattention to detail in e-book quality control. Perhaps if a few more embarrassing incidents like this come to light, publishers will be persuaded to put more effort into their proofing processes.

Probably not, but a reader can dream.


  1. In the print ecosystem, there is a ‘galley proof’ stage where the author gets a complete printed copy to check. Why don’t they institute a galley proof system for ebooks and let the author check them? After all, the author’s name is going on it; surely, they want it to be correct.

  2. One problem is that ebooksellers don’t allow you to update versions easily to fix these kinds of typos which are noticed after sale. I remember the kerfluffle with Amazon making changes without telling us, but frankly I think consumers would benefit from limited ability for publishers to update manuscripts. That definitely helps consumers.

  3. Well, I won’t be reading it anyway. Any publisher who thinks that $7.99 is a good price for a backlist title that’s 16 years old loses me as a customer. There are far too many other authors and small publishers out there who provide quality reads for a reasonable price.

  4. I’m with you CS…no way I’d pay that much for an ebook that my public library has available in both paper and hardback right now, error free. I would prefer the convenience of e-, but just like I won’t pay $5 for a gallon of milk at the gas station, I won’t pay more for an e- version just because it’s there. This is why I don’t think ebooks will ever be the dominate medium for reading – they are being priced like luxury items, and only a certain percentage of the population will ever pay luxury prices.

  5. Haha! That’s a pretty good one. I encountered a similar typo in my former job as a book designer for the educational publishing industry. In a children’s textbook, the word “its” had a “t” inadvertently placed in front of it.

    You can imagine the ire that raised when it slipped passed the QA team… Thankfully the client caught it and it didn’t get published.

  6. It’s obvious to me that publishers do proofread OCR’d e-books, or there would be a LOT more errors, believe me. But it’s also obvious that they rely much too heavily on spell checkers rather than human proofers, and spell checkers have limitations because they aren’t context-sensitive. It is possible to tailor a spell checker to flag certain words (those regarded as vulgar or insensitive, for example) for a human to double check. At least errors that slip thru would be less embarrassing.

    In the last year amazon has sent me at least half a dozen corrected e-books (after asking my permission to do so), so some publishers are responding. But good customers (it’s a two-way street, people) should document the errors and report them thru amazon’s feedback (there’s a link on the Kindle book’s Web page for reporting typos and formatting errors). Imagine being able to do that with a printed book.

    As for the pricing issue: Publishers are experimenting with pricing of backlist titles. For most titles, I suspect demand is still very low and publishers may not yet have recouped their investment–relatively small though it may be–on the e-book conversion. It’s a new world to them too.

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