Books I’m Reading

It was to be Adam Freedman’s The Party of the First Part: The Curious World of Legalese followed by Noah Feldman’s Divided by God: America’s Church-State Problem then. What a coincidence as both books lead me to talk about their ink.

Freedman’s book is in blue ink, a fact I’ve remarked about, while Feldman’s is in sporadic black. Sporadic? Yes. The sheets alternate between normal black ink and grey or too-little-inked-and-so-faded-to-grey ink.

This makes me wonder. Here is a book published by a big, commercial publisher (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux) by an author with a proven track record (Feldman has published three other books before his 2005 Divided by God), and yet a mistake in printing the final product not only happened but was allowed to reach the market.

Does this mean nobody in the publishing process saw the mistake? Or is it that they saw the mistake, but it was too costly to fix? Does it mean authors are not shown a final copy of what their book looks like before the copies are shipped (since I would think that authors are the least willing to countenance such a mistake and allow it to go ahead due to cost considerations)? I know that publishing houses use galley proofs to proofread the manuscripts and also to send out for advanced reviews. (In fact, whether these galley proofs can then be resold by reviewers is a minor controversy. They may also become highly sought after collectors’ items.) However, such mistakes in inking/printing would not be caught in a galley proof.

Of course, most books even printed in the tens of thousands do not suffer obvious defects, so whatever quality controls the publishing houses have in place must be working well most of the time. Perhaps it is simply too expensive to have them work so well that zero mistake reaches the consumer. Perhaps authors have other considerations than ensuring that only error-free copies go on the market. (For instance, they may want their book to launch by a certain date and reprinting the faulty copies would delay the book’s release.) What do you guys think?

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One Response to Books I’m Reading

  1. Jack Goldsmith’s The Terror Presidency has crummy, fading ink too. In this book’s case, however, I think this is intentional since other things about about the book also reflect shoddy construction (acidic, yellowing paper, flimsy binding, . . . etc.)

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