(Disclaimer: the following column is a rant about grammar and spelling mistakes. Because of this, there is a high ironic likelihood that there will be mistakes in it. Please forgive and move on if you find any.)
I digress momentarily from my self-publishing saga to discuss something I’ve noticed lately. It will apply to my own work when it’s formatted for ebook, but I’m curious about whether any of you Scribs have noticed this, or if I’m just cursed with an over-observant grammar gene.
I’m talking about the tendency for ebooks to be fraught with grammatical and spelling errors. Now, my experience is limited, I’ll admit. I was a staunch opponent of ebooks for many years, clinging to the old smell of paper and the feel of a solid object in my hand. Lately, though, my nine-year-old son discovered the Nook, the Barnes and Noble ereader. Suddenly, he is a voracious reader. He always dabbled with printed books, but didn’t really love reading them. Once he got a taste of ebooks, though, he was hooked.
I bought the Nook as a gift to my mother-in-law, but she found it too difficult to operate, and so it ended up back at our house. It sat in its little box for nearly six months before I decided to resurrect it so I could take it on a plane trip to Ohio. I downloaded a couple of books I knew my son would read, and to get him used to it, I let him read a bit at home first.
He devoured the first two books I bought within two hours. Who can argue with that kind of success? So I gave in. I’ve purchased almost 20 titles for him now, and he plows through them with great enthusiasm.
Here’s the problem: sometimes he still likes me to read to him, which is great, but I’ve noticed many, many mistakes in the text. Missing apostrophes seem to be the biggest problem. Presidents, for example, in one book, was misspelled seven times . It was supposed to be the possessive, as in “the president’s book” or “the president’s bodyguard.” But in the book we were reading, it read “the presidents book.”
When I found the first mistake, it tripped me as I read, but I skipped over it. After all, when read aloud the punctuation hardly matters. But the more I read, the more upset I became (which just tells you that I really need to do some stress-relieving exercises.) After the fifth time I found the same mistake, I started to wonder if somehow I had the apostrophe thing backwards. But no! I’m an English teacher!
I mentioned the mistakes to my son. He said the writer left out all that annoying punctuation so kids would have an easier time of reading the books. I guess this is why my high school students come to class unable to tell a their from a they’re from a there.
I know this probably bothers very few people. I see mistakes in the newspaper all the time (and yes, I still read the newspaper! In print! I can spill my coffee on it and it doesn’t spark or explode!) I’m the type of annoying person whose blood pressure rises when she sees a 50’s sign or a Pet’s For Sale. I can almost forgive the masses; they have, after all, seen mistakes in newspapers and novels.
But I can’t forgive writers and editors, especially of books. Books are supposedly (or supposeably, as my students write) edited and edited again. I believe authors have an obligation to try and get the grammar right. If not us, who? Or whom? Or which?
What are your observations, Scribs? Have you noticed a lack of grammar in ebooks, or am I just crazy, or both?