“Why can’t the idiots get it right the first time?” Corrections are a pain: always have been; probably always will be.

But things are changing.  In the days of letterpress corrections were rarer, because reprints were relatively uncommon.  We’d collect them, hoping that the book might one day reprint, but not with any real conviction.  Now because we have all drunk the Kool-Aid of limiting inventory investment, reprinting is so common that very few books can’t expect an opportunity for correction sooner of later. It’s a paradise for the forgetful author.

If we’ve been smart and archived our application files along with our PDFs, we can fairly easily get the files updated, and send them out to the printer to swap for the old version.  The trigger for doing this is more than likely to be the decision to do a reprint — so someone has to scurry around getting the corrections made as fast as possible so the reprint can complete on the new super-short schedule we all now work with (for the same inventory minimization reasons).

Now that we are leaving the familiar world of offset reprinting and bravely going into the digital universe, we have to rethink this process.  You can’t wait for a “reprint decision” in a world where people are constantly ordering e-books or print-on-demand books.  There’s never a moment at which you can stop and decide it’s time to get the corrections done.  Correction has to be a continuous process, so that your files are always up to date.

I can’t tell you how to do this, as we haven’t yet got there yet, but it does seem unlikely that we will want to correct the spelling of that name on page 12 today, and then next week this date in the bibliography, and so on.  We’ll have to come up with some way of checking periodically what corrections we have accumulated, and making them right away.  It’s self discipline, something of which we have always had a serious deficit in the world of correction.  It probably also means abandoning our current  jury-rigged methodolgy and spending the money to hire someone to do it properly.

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