Sorry, But the Proofreader’s Out to Lunch

Anyone who’s been reading my reviews for long enough will know that I’m not in the habit of being extremely negative toward any aspect of a book. Even if I dislike something, I don’t sit around ragging on it for ages.

Well, this is going to be the exception.

When I purchase a book from what is considered to be a reputable publisher–particularly one that’s been in business for at least a decade–I do so with certain expectations. One of those expectations is that the errors in the book will be kept to a minimum.

Now, typographical errors happen. The fact of the matter is that editors, proofreaders, typesetters, and the rest of the production crew are human. Humans make mistakes, which means that it isn’t worth my time to get annoyed at one or two misspellings or misplaced words.

But take note of that–one or two. A few. Not five or ten or fifteen. Not so many that I’m utterly shocked and dismayed by what I’m reading.

I’ve been noticing this problem more and more of late. In fact, I noticed it when I was reading Edge by Thomas Blackthorne last month, though I didn’t mention it in the review. At first I thought my editor’s brain was just on overdrive. After all, I’ve been editing five to ten papers a week and doing some serious grammar review as part of my editing workshop. That I noticed errors when they popped up in Edge wasn’t a big surprise until I realized how frequently they were occurring.

But that book has nothing–and I do mean nothing–on the book I finished reading today. I finally got my copy of Pet Shop of Horrors: Tokyo, vol. 8 in the mail; naturally, I decided to read it immediately. As with Edge, I noticed an error or two early in the text, but I shrugged it off. No big deal.

But then…oh, but then….

To expound upon my previous statement about expectations, let me say that when I go out of my way to buy a book, especially when I’ve been reading the series for years and giving a particular company my money for even longer than that, I most definitely expect those books to go through a quality check. Not to mention the fact that the price of this manga has gone up a couple of dollars since I first started reading it back in–my god–2002? 2003? So what this means is that the price is going up while quality is going down. Way down. I have never seen so many typographical errors in a book from a known publisher. In addition to that, the layout editor must have been sleeping on the job or drunkenly operating the computer software, because the dialogue bubbles are extremely untidy. Not to mention…not to mention…that I think there’s an entire page set incorrectly (look behind the cut to see it). Either that or there are pages missing. Or maybe Matsuri Akino just didn’t care if the story skipped from one frame to the next without explanation, but I have a hard time believing that. She’s been better than most mangaka about that kind of thing for as long as I’ve been reading Pet Shop of Horrors.

And before you try to call me out with “Well, what do you know about layouts and type?” the answer is, I know quite a bit. I might not work for Tokyopop, but graphics and typesetting are part of my job.

So, I’m sorry, but selling something with this kind of poor quality is not a very nice way to treat people who are willing to keep paying you for a product, even when it’s getting more expensive.

I don’t know what’s causing this prevalence for typos. Before last year, the only time I had a huge issue with typesetting and typographical errors from a well-known publishing house had been while reading the Alastair Reynolds paperbacks put out by Gollancz. For whatever reason, there was some insanity happening in those books, but I rarely if ever had that problem with other novels.

But I’ve noticed it happening more and more. Edge is not the first novel that I’ve seen with this problem, nor is volume eight of Pet Shop of Horrors: Tokyo the only manga–it’s merely the worst so far. God forbid the problem escalate anymore than it has. If it does, nothing about the next volume I read will make any sense whatsoever.

This problem suggests a couple of things, and I don’t know which of them is most likely to be true. Hopefully none of them. Hopefully this is a fluke and will never happen again.

So, which is it?

  • The proofreader was on vacation the day it passed over his or her desk.
  • The proofreader is on strike.
  • The proofreader was laid-off and, therefore, there is no proofreader.
  • The production crew no longer cares about the quality of the book. They just want to get it out the door.
  • The publisher no longer cares about its reputation, and therefore has taken an anything goes attitude.
  • Someone thought it would be funny to make a bad issue, so they did it on purpose.

Like I said before, I don’t normally make pointed complaints. But I’ll be honest–I’m upset about this. Truly upset. I feel like I ought to demand a new, corrected copy from the publisher. I do follow this series and have for many years. I did go out of my way to order it online because, for whatever reason, my local Borders is not stocking it. Pet Shop of Horrors is one of my favorite series, and I’ve always appreciated Tokyopop for bringing me Matsuri Akino’s work, but this is ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous. This lack of quality feels like I’m being insulted as a reader and as a customer, and I take issue with that. I’m sure I’m not the only one who will.

I don’t know what’s behind this, but I don’t want to hear any silliness about market decline or e-books or anything like that. Most of these mistakes should be obvious to anyone who’s even slightly conscientious about their job.  Besides, if you’re going to publish a book, then find a way to get your quality control done. If you expect someone to pay you for what you produce, you can manage that much at least. And for that matter, have a little more respect for your authors. Represent them well or not at all. Because the sad part of all this is that volume eight is a really good volume in every other respect, and this almost killed it for me.

To illustrate the problem, I have, as you can see, dotted some of the offending examples around this post. I’m adding a few more below the cut, just in case you’re not convinced. And keep in mind, these are only the errors I could find on a quick second skim. There are more. 


4 responses to “Sorry, But the Proofreader’s Out to Lunch

  1. @April – It’s not really the translation. Most of the book is done reasonably well. It’s just that someone wasn’t paying attention to the mistakes that were made when inserting the text. This has been happening to lesser degrees in the last couple of volumes but NEVER as bad as this.

  2. Pingback: Three Reasons Tokopop's Closure was Inevitable: Observations from a Non-fan | Japanese Pop Culture for Filipino Fans·

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