zappos-logoI’ve talked about scan-induced typo problems in e-books before. For whatever reason, a lot of publishers don’t seem to have the manpower to devote to making sure their scanned e-books properly mirror the quality of their printed books. But they could take a lesson from on-line retailer Zappos, who determined that having higher-quality reviews of products on their site led to more sales of those products.

So Zappos used Amazon’s Mechanical Turk system of distributed low-cost labor to examine and edit five million reviews on their site, having the Turk workers correct spelling and grammar errors they found while otherwise leaving the editorial content intact. Writes NYU Stern School of Business Associate Professor Panos Ipeirotis:

While I do not know the exact revenue improvement, I was told that it was substantial. Given that Zappos spent at least 10 cents per review, and that they examined approximately 5 million reviews, this is an expense of a few hundred thousand dollars. (My archive on MTurk-Tracker kind of confirms these numbers.) So, the expected revenue improvement should have been at least a few million dollars for this exercise to make sense.

In the same vein, perhaps publishers could feed their book scans to the Mechanical Turk. If they paid a dime a page, then the cost to proof an entire book-length manuscript would be only $30 to $40. While it might not be as high-quality a job as a “professional” proofread, it would be better than the nothing they seem to have now. For that amount of money, they could even afford to have each page proofed twice, just to be safe.

(Found via BoingBoing.)


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