In the world of self-publishing, ebooks have probably truncated the time between saving your final draft and having a sellable copy more than anything ever seen before. Let’s assume that authors take the time to have their books edited, the content has been perfected, and the manuscript was proofread for typos and lingering errors. The book is truly ready to be published. However, when the book is finally available in Kindle Edition on Amazon, it’s full of typos! What happened?
Many people don’t understand (and unless you’re a tech person you most likely wouldn’t) that the final files (Microsoft Word doc, PDF, Adobe Indesign, Quark, xml files, html files, printed pages, etc.) that are sent through conversion software are subject to introduced errors during the conversion process. Files can be converted for Kindles, IPads, mobile devices, MS Reader, and epub formats(the standard ebook). Each conversion process is different with its own sets of codes to make the files read on a specific device. The codes are supposed to be invisible, and in a perfect world, no one would ever know the difference. But with every system, flaws occur and codes pop up in the text or previous formatting is mangled. When printed books are scanned and converted to ebooks using an OCR (optical character recognition) software, even more errors can be introduced. Some of the most common errors are:
• Periods become commas ; commas become periods
• Quotes and apostrophes face the wrong way
• Hyphens, en dashes, and em dashes become interchangeable
• Em dashes will appear where they shouldn’t
• Ellipses will be replaced by underscores
• Hyphen will be dropped or randomly and incorrectly occur
• Paragraphs breaks can appear midsentence
• Line spaces will appear or disappear haphazardly
• rn will become m
Running a find and replace won’t actually fix the problem since the occurrence of errors is random and not always an error. Replacing all instances of m with rn will create a mess of your book. The best rule is that any time the book is changed, whether new text is added or the files are converted (except when converted from Word to PDF), the manuscript needs to be proofread again. Since most people are not aware of the wizard behind the curtain, the readers of ebooks might just assume that poor editing and author laziness are to blame for the errors, making ebooks appear to be of lower quality than printed books. In the world of printed books, once the manuscript has been laid out and formatted, usually having been converted from a Word document to an Indesign file, it’s proofread. Anything can happen in this process, and ebooks carry the same risk, even when working with the most skilled typesetter or reputable conversion house. When converting from one file format to another, don’t let your work fall before the eyes of a consumer before it’s passed through the hands of a professional proofreader.