If you have a reasonably full life, from time to time you have to look a temptation in the face and say “no”. For example Tor.com.

No, not Tor the private-Internet thing, but Tor the sci-fi publisher of Charlie Stross among many others, excellent and otherwise. Specifically, Tor’s Web site.

It’s seductive — overly so. They feature fiendishly-clever “rewatch” (e.g. Deep Space Nine, which every discerning person knows is the only Star Trek series that matters) and “reread” series (currently including Zelazny’s Amber).

And of course, they sell books. With thoughtful, appreciative, beautifully-written essay-length appreciations. Which is to say, with fiendish effectiveness. And since it’s so easy to buy ’em these days, I did, a couple of times.

For example, Living With Ghosts by Kari Sperring, of whom I know nothing. It has charms, in particular the characters’ names: Gracielis, Thiercelin, Yvelliane, Amalie, Miraude, Quenfrida, Joyain, Urien, Valdarrien, Iareth. Gotta love those. And I finished it, all 496 pages. Many will like it; there’s loads of intrigue and anguish and statecraft and sorcery, against technicolor backdrops. But for me, the players were too obviously pushed round the stage by authorial whim; the outcomes felt neither inevitable nor surprising and I want at least one of the two.

[Update: The author tweets that the book is published by DAW not Tor. Oops, sorry.]

But worse than that: The for-Kindle typesetting and production is atrociously amateurish. This is a multi-POV book and one gathers that on the page there are white-space gaps alerting you of the leap from one stream of consciousness to the next. Not here. On top of which are outright botches; sentences with all the words run together, weird line-breaks. Shoddy, shoddy work.

So I have to ask: What is a publisher for, if at the end of the day they can’t freaking well publish a book competently?

Anyhow, I unsubscribed from Tor’s feed, to save time and dodge temptation. But I bet a lot of people here who read this would really enjoy it.



Contributions

Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Marcus (Aug 31 2013, at 05:29)

If only Tor was the only publisher to blame. There are *a lot* of great publishers doing very shoddy work for Kindle. Penguin, McMillian, Harper, Ace… I've read great books with awful conversion from them all.

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From: Andrew Ducker (Aug 31 2013, at 15:30)

Kari points out that her book is published by DAW, not Tor:

https://twitter.com/KariSperring/status/373929898408022016

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From: J. King (Aug 31 2013, at 19:50)

I'd have to agree with Marcus: bad electronic typesetting is par for the course. Good typesetting is very rare, and OCR errors are not unknown, either; more than once I've experienced OCR errors on books I've paid more than 15$ for.

And of course, bootleg copies will often be cleaned up, in better shape than legitimate copies. Terry Jones' Medieval Lives, which I purchased from Kobo, was sent to me without any images whatsoever: no cover, no pretty chapter headings, and a long series of blank squares in the book's two picture sections where images should be. I had to go to The Pirate Bay to get what I actually paid for. Bootleggers, at least, take pride in their work.

It's a sorry state of affairs.

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From: Don Fitch (Sep 01 2013, at 10:02)

Yup, it's important to proofead and make sure all the spellings and facts are Correct. And it's dreadfully embarrassing to make a misteak when reproving someone else... but it also almost always happens. *sigh*

I note that TOR has long had high standards for editing & proofreading of on-paper books (though I don't know if this has carried-over to digital presentations), and that DAW has long been notorious for typos.

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From: Nathan (Sep 10 2013, at 10:09)

I recently bought a Kindle Paperwhite due to an impending trans-Atlantic plane trip. While I love the tech, I cannot stand the typesetting--specifically, the lack of auto-hyphenation. It tries to display text as justified, but if a line consists of few, long words it will just give up and wrap the line without justifying the right edge. I'd almost rather have ragged-right-edge syndrome than justified edge interspersed with the occasional too-short line.

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