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Logged errors seen in books
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 30, 2012 12:16 am    Post subject: Logged errors seen in books Reply with quote

I canít help noticing typos, poor grammar, inappropriate word choices, homophone errors, continuity errors, and some classes of scientific and historical errors. Some I assume to be from the author and some from a copy-editor [yes, editing CAN add errors], but I blame the publisher for ALL errors in a published work. Some writers are better able to proofread than others, but it is harder for the original writer to spot problems in text than it is for any other reader because we tend to see what we intended rather than what we actually created. Permanent mindos (mental errors instead of typographical errors) are a whole class of errors that writers can NEVER spot because what is written is what the author believes to be correct. (Transient mindos, momentary mental errors, can be spotted by the author later.) Supplying other eyes and minds to ensure a clean text is one of the all-too-often-shirked responsibilities of publishers.
I have joined periodic discussions of errors ever since I've participated in online discussions of what I read. In 2005, after encountering a book with more errors than usual, I started keeping a record of errors I noticed during my recreational reading. This is not deliberate proofreading, just what I can't help noticing. (I obviously don't record any errors that I don't notice when I don't know a particular usage any better than the author and publisher.) I like discussions to be based on objective data when possible, so my error tracking is an attempt to bring a little objectivity to this topic. My sample isn't randomized or controlled in a way suitable for scientific statistics, since most of my reading is in the romance & F&SF genres, but it is a reasonably large sample recorded by a single reader. Even the single reader aspect doesn't make the data completely consistent, since I started reading ebooks in 2006, changing from 100% printed books in 2005 to 20% printed books so far this year. I also encountered enough formatting problems (extra or missing spaces, bad hyphenation, broken paragraphs, etc.) in ebooks that in 2010 I stopped treating them the same as other errors and just started counting them (or estimating them in really bad cases). The ebook formatting issues could also have been affected by a change from lrf (Sony proprietary) ebooks to epub (more widely used standard) ebooks a couple years ago.

I now have over 1,900 books with logged counts of copy-edits I noticed during recreational reading.
When I sort by copyright year, there is little difference in error rates of printed books over several decades, despite complaints about declining text quality.
One way of looking at text quality is that 370 of 1,977 books (18.7%) had zero copy-edits that I noticed and logged, 303 had one, 256 had two, 177 had three, 115 had four, 288 had 5-10, 116 had 11 or more, and the rest had notations more complicated than a single number. Of the more complex counts, a few were cases where the same error was repeated so many times I logged a separate unique error count. Several others had so many problems I stopped recording specific typos or formatting problems and just estimated total errors (estimating over 1,000 errors in four ebooks, over 1,500 in another ebook, and over 4,000 in still another ebook). For one ebook, I just recorded "bad scan".
Formatting errors crop up in so many ebooks that I started counting them separately from typos and mindos in my log. The simple counts at the start of this paragraph predate this log change, which can produce compound entries in my copy edit column. Of the books with both text and format errors, 65 had one non-format text error, 59 had two, 42 had three, 35 had four, 65 had 5-10, and 21 had 11 or more.
Of the worst 231 books with over 10 errors each (adding format errors to typos & mindos), 188 were ebooks & 43 were printed books. None of these books were ARCs, so supposedly they had all been edited.
The absolutely worst-formatted purchased book I've read to date was the ebook of Once Upon Stilettos by Shanna Swendson (Ballantine Books ebook 2006). This is the one I estimated at over 4,000 formatting problems (many per page): it was missing all apostrophes, all quotes, all em & en dashes, and all accented letters. It was so bad it was a real challenge to read and I reported it to the Sony eBook Store I bought it from, and they eventually made a repaired copy available months after I reported the problem. At a quick glance, the new copy looked much more readable.
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 30, 2012 12:17 am    Post subject: Word substitutions Reply with quote

This is a summary from over 7,000 errors recorded from over 1,900 books read since early 2005. I usually don't record nonstandard English in dialogue as errors when I can tell it is intentional (like dialect). Many errors involve spelling, punctuation, capitalization, formatting, word order, extra words, repeated words, or omitted words, and I won't go into detail about them here. This is mostly about word substitution errors where an incorrect real word is used (over 1,900 in my sample). I will use slashed word pairs to indicate incorrect/correct words.

Did educators lie down on the job? Lay/lie errors are far and away the most common. My list includes 794: 319 lay/laid + 201 lay/lie + 151 laid/lay + 83 laying/lying + 27 laid/lain + 7 lying/laying + 6 lays/lies. There is much more past tense than present tense or other verb forms in most fiction I read, and these error counts reflect that. They also show that people mess this up in both directions, though not equally.
The intransitive verb (action by subject) is lie, lying, lay, had lain (rest, be prone).
The transitive verb (action of subject on object) is lay, laying, laid, had laid (place, put down).
The confusion of "lie" and "lay" came up years ago on a romance novel discussion list I'm on, with a list member from Germany having a better understanding than most of the American members (including me). If I had ever clearly learned the proper usage in school I had long forgotten it, so I pulled a few dictionaries and style books (which I tend to collect) and made sure I understood the correct usage. I had to look in several books. Even though this is easy to keep straight when you know it, it is not always clearly taught or written about. IIRC, the best explanations were in books from Oxford University Press, not American books. I graduated from college in 1976, so I'm sure a lot has changed since I took any English classes, but I suspect that this is still a problem in many American schools.

All other errors were an order of magnitude less frequent than lay/lie errors.

The next most common error makes me grit my teeth. I counted 89 instances of "grit" instead of "gritted" for the past tense, usually in "gritted his/her teeth". None of the references I checked say that "grit" is a valid past tense. None even mention "grit" or "gritted" as a problem, so I guess most writers dealing with usage consider the correct past tense too obvious to mention.

Reluctant dislike: I counted 52 instances of "loathe" instead of "loath" in descriptions of reluctance ("loath to").

Don't tread on me: I counted 48 problems with "tread" (tread, trod, had trodden): 31 tread/trod, 12 trod/tread, 3 tread/trodden, 1 tred/tread, and 1 trounced that I think was supposed to be trod.

Don't subject me to this! I counted 47 subject/object pronoun problems: 20 I/me, 11 she/her, 8 he/him, 4 me/I, 2 her/she, and 2 him/he. I would count another 9 me/I errors from the book I read recently, except it was clear from the text that the first-person narrator is supposed to think he knows correct usage. These problems are already written about in many places. Most instances happen with x and y constructions. Just use the test of removing the "and y" to test your usage.

Next is another of my pet peeves that I haven't seen mentioned in the usage books I've checked. Between requires two or more objects, yet I counted 49 instances of between with singular objects. Most of these errors are in love scenes (cleavage, cleft, crevice, gap, gown, juncture, seam, slit, valley, vee and zipper are all singular).

Into every life . . . . I counted 48 confusions of "in to" for "into" (34 into/in to, 14 in to/into). Many incorrect instances of "into" were after forms of "give": "give into" instead of "give in to" (yield to). If you include a pause when you say it, include a space when you write it.

Next were 42 instances of one of the old standards everyone is warned about: its vs. it's. I saw 32 it's/its, 4 its/it's, 4 it/its, 1 it/it's, and 1 it'd/it's--definitely unbalanced toward extra apostrophes. Always mentally expand "it's" to "it is" if you aren't sure what to write.

Whatever you say: I counted 38 "what ever" instead of "whatever". I'm not sure why there are so many of these, since the two-word version is much rarer than the one-word version. It is possible that these are all formatting failures in ebooks, since some publishers really make a mess of syllable breaks in ebooks.

Heavy metal: I saw 34 led/lead problems (1 led/lead, 1 let/led, and 32 lead/led). The present-tense verb is a homograph with the metal (lead) and the metal is a homophone with the past-tense verb (led), but the two tenses of the verb are neither homophones nor homographs (lead/led: EE sound/EH sound), yet this clearly gives people trouble.

I object: I counted 32 adverse/averse errors, all in the same direction. Adverse usually refers to hostile or unfavorable situations or conditions. Averse (usually "averse to" in the U.S.) refers to dislike or opposition. Most appearances of averse are variations of "not averse to" (not opposed to). I think many people mess this one up just because there is almost no other use of averse in modern English.

Damp manuscripts: I saw 32 pour/pore errors (30 pore over, 2 pore through), all in the same direction. I think this is another rarity effect, since "pore" has no other modern uses as a verb. Unfortunately, every time I see these errors I think of the damage of applying liquid to books instead of studying them intently.

Better than then. Years ago I thought this error was just an ESL problem, but I have 28 instances (12 then/than, 9 that/than, and 7 than/then). I honestly have no idea why this happens, though it might just be a common word typo problem.

Horse & buggy rulers: I counted 24 reign/rein errors, all in the same direction. Maybe our culture is simply too far from horsemanship as a common skill for writers to remember the spelling of those straps for steering horses.

Spreading the bomb? I saw 23 diffuse/defuse errors, all in the same direction. Diffuse means spread or disperse. Defuse means remove a fuse (reduce danger). Figurative uses with situations, temper, tension, etc. should all be defused, not diffused.

Past time passed: I counted 21 errors with passed (11 passed/past, 9 past/passed, and 1 paned/passed). Passed and past are closely linked words, but past is an adjective and passed is the past tense of a verb. They really can't validly trade places.

Censor that! I saw 20 cens. . . errors: 13 censor/censure, 2 censure/censor, 2 censorship/censure, 2 censor/censer, and 1 stricture/censure. A censer is a container in which incense is burned. To censor is to cut or suppress. To censure is to criticize. People often censure the creators of material they censor, but there really is a difference.

Not one whit: I counted 17 wit/whit errors, all in one direction. Wit is intelligence. A whit is a very small amount. I suspect this is another rarity problem.

Not to be borne: I saw 16 borne errors (10 born/borne, 4 bore/borne, and 2 borne/born). These are all forms of bear, so some confusion is understandable. Bore is the past tense and shouldn't be used after had. Born and borne are both past participles, but born is restricted to references to birth and borne covers all other meanings.

Too much to drink? I counted 15 bad conjugations of drink, all of the form "had drank". Drank is the past tense of drink. Drunk is the past participle of drink. Don't use the simple past tense form after had.

A noisy climb: I saw 15 clamor/clamber errors (12 clamor/clamber and 3 clamber/clamor). To clamber is to climb, usually awkwardly or laboriously. Clamor is loud noise. I assume there are so many of these errors because neither word is in everyday use.

Being careful about to/too/two is another standard warning, but I still counted 15: 11 to/too, 2 so/too, 1 more/too, and 1 two/too.

Ring the wringer? I saw 11 forms of ring/wring, 4 ringer/wringer, and 1 wrung/rung. To ring is to surround or to make a sound. To wring is to squeeze and twist (usually to force out liquid). They really are different.

Sight the site or site the sight? I counted 10 site/sight errors and 3 sight/site errors. This is another standard warning.

I saw 9 clinch/clench errors (all verbs) and 4 clench/clinch errors (all nouns). To clench is to press tightly together. A clench is a tightening of part of the body. To clinch is to grapple or embrace. A clinch is a close scuffle or an embrace. Jaws clench. Couples on covers are often in clinches.

Clamp down: I saw 12 vice/vise errors, all in the same direction. Vice is immoral behavior or characteristics. In American English, a vise is a tool with jaws to hold objects. (In English English both are spelled vice, so I don't list this as an error when I know a book is using English English.)

Annoying tease: I counted 11 chaff/chafe errors, all in one direction. To chafe is to rub or annoy. To chaff is to tease.

Smile when you say that! I encountered 8 errors with smiled (verb past tense) used where smile (noun) should have been used, and 3 smile/smiled (wrong verb tense) errors.

Wash that cut! I counted 10 lathe/lave errors, all in one direction. A lathe is a machine for turning an object for shaped cutting. To lathe is to use a lathe. To lave is to wash. This error produces a disturbing mental image, since every instance is in a love scene where an author intended to use lave as an approximate synonym for lick and instead produced an image of cutting.

Break the brakes? I saw 9 break/brake errors and 1 brake/break error. A break is a pause or interruption. The meaning of brake intended in these cases is a device for stopping a moving vehicle.

What are you implying? I don't know why imply would be difficult, but I saw 7 infer/imply errors and 3 belie/imply errors. To belie is to disguise or contradict, to infer is to deduce or conclude, and to imply is to suggest, so mixing these up reverses meanings. These mistakes are apparently common enough to get a usage note in the OAD.
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 30, 2012 12:21 am    Post subject: More word substitutions Reply with quote

The above notes were getting pretty long, so I will just give brief counts and spotty definitions for everything with under 10 instances.

9 fair/fare
9 ravage/ravish (severely damage/force sex)
6 roll/role + 3 role/roll
6 sunk/sank + 3 sank/sunk

8 illusive/elusive (deceptive/hard to find)
7 loose/lose + 1 lost/lose
8 worse/worst
7 phase/faze + 1 faze/phase

7 anymore/any more
7 bare/bear
7 Here, here!/Hear, hear!
7 ran/run
7 secret/secrete (noun/verb)
6 with out/without + 1 with/without

6 cache/cachet (collection or storage place/prestige)
6 lull/loll (calm/sit-stand-lie in relaxed way)
6 slather/slaver (spread liberally/let saliva run)
4 straightened/straitened + 1 straights/straits + 1 strait/straight
5 thing/think + 1 think/thing
6 whet/whetted

5 all together/altogether
5 bows/boughs (front of ship & other meanings/tree branches)
5 grinded/ground
5 peddle/pedal (sell/foot-operated lever)
4 sprung/sprang + 1 sprang/sprung
5 waiver/waver (instance of surrendering a claim/shake or quiver)
3 with in/within + 2 with/within

4 bath/bathe (noun/verb)
4 canvass/canvas (get opinions or solicit votes/course cloth)
3 dose/doze + 1 douse/doze
3 ate/eaten + 1 eat/eaten
2 floundered/foundered + 2 floundering/foundering (flounder=struggle clumsily/founder=sink)
3 proceed/precede + 1 preclude/precede
3 wrack/rack + 1 rack/wrack
4 stripped/striped (removed coverings/marked with stripes)
3 threw/through + 1 though/through
3 wreck/wreak + 1 reek/wreak

3 awhile/a while
3 an other/another
3 baited / bated (taunted or prepared lures/in great suspense)
2 beared/bore + 1 bored/bore
3 corroborate/collaborate (confirm/work jointly)
3 ancestors/descendents
3 eek/eke
3 epitaph/epithet (tombstone inscription/descriptive phrase or term of abuse)
3 her's/hers
3 lea/lee (open grassy area/shelter from wind)
3 onto/on to
3 peel/peal (remove skin/loud sound)
3 peak/peek (reach a high point/look quickly)
3 rang/rung
3 rouge/rogue (red cosmetic/unprincipled man)
3 sexton/sextant (person who looks after a church/navigation instrument)
3 tact/tack
3 throws/throes
3 Wig/Whig

2 back/aback
1 adjured/abjured + 1 abjured/adjured
2 protagonist/antagonist
2 any thing/anything
2 breath/breathe (noun/verb)
2 crackled/cackled
2 challis/chalice (a fabric/a goblet)
2 content/contentment
2 duel/dual (deadly contest/two-part)
2 solstice/equinox (in summer & winter/in spring & fall)
2 flaunt/flout (display ostentatiously/openly disregard)
2 honor/horror
2 incredulous/incredible (skeptical or unwilling to believe/unbelievable)
2 muzzle/nuzzle (put a guard over the face/rub gently with nose & mouth)
2 or/nor
2 parish/perish (church administrative district/suffer death)
1 cue/queue + 1 quay/queue
2 their/there
2 tortuous/torturous (twisty/causing extreme suffering)
2 thrice/trice (three times/moment)
2 want/wont (desire or lack/accustomed)

I won't list any of the word substitutions that I have only once in my log.
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 30, 2012 4:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is amazing.

Partly I am amazed at your incredible records. !!

Partly I am amazed at your amazing knowledge of grammar and the English language.

I am stunned you are able to get through a book with more than 3 errors, though. Three is my limit. If I see 3 errors, especially if they are all errors of comma placement, I have to stop reading. I can't enjoy the story after that because I am terrified I will see another error.

If I run across an error, I spend way too much time sitting there trying to puzzle out various aspects of the error:
what it should have been instead
what the author might have meant
why anyone would use that option instead of the correct option
and finally
why some editor or proofreader would leave it there
-did they know what the author meant?
-did they not know and leave it anyway?
-or did they just miss it altogether?

If I did this for more than 3 errors per book, I would never have time to read at all.

Thank you for this:
The intransitive verb (action by subject) is lie, lying, lay, had lain (rest, be prone).
The transitive verb (action of subject on object) is lay, laying, laid, had laid (place, put down).

I have always wondered about this. I do not remember learning this in school or college - either did not pay attention or I was gone that day.
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 30, 2012 5:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here's another to add to that impressive data. I've encountered "peeked" and "peaked" in error for "piqued," but I've never before, until today, encountered "piqued" in error for "peaked."
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 30, 2012 8:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Salaisuus, I've always been a record keeper. I keep careful track of all books I buy, and have kept some form of reading log since 1975, so logging errors was not a big step for me.
I copy-edited a small quarterly journal for over 20 years. My day job is computer programming, which requires very careful attention to exact spelling. I can't turn the mental circuits off for recreational reading. I looked into some speed reading material many years ago, but the techniques were pretty contrary to my work needs, so I never practiced them.

I've always been interested in language and I read a lot, so some linguistic skill is inevitable. Despite the topic of this thread, the vast majority of published text does demonstrate good English, so nonstandard usage tends to stand out. I also have quite a few dictionaries and books on style and English usage in my personal library, so I can pull references when I'm not sure of something. The ebook Readers I use also have built-in dictionaries, so I can just double-tap a word while reading. The dictionaries in the Readers aren't as good as my large printed dictionaries, but they aren't bad.

I can enjoy a book despite errors. Errors irritate me without stopping me from reading. If I stopped reading at 3 errors, I would have to abandon more than half of my reading, while my actual DNF rate is about 1 book in 1,000.
My most reread book, A Rakeís Reform by Cindy Holbrook, currently stands at 25 times read and 73 errors logged, proof that for me errors don't prevent enjoying a book.
I tend to make a mental distinction between the great story the author created and the lousy production job by the publisher.
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 30, 2012 11:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I generally read pretty quickly and probably skim a bit more than authors would appreciate. ;) I'm sure I don't catch every error (lucky for me, or I'd have nothing to read).

I like this idea of thinking it's the publisher's fault and not the author's fault. I will try that and see if it helps as I am reading. Maybe I should be making a note of the publishers with errors for my list to avoid, instead of authors.

I just get so DISTRACTED, by all these little questions when I see some random, comma stuck somewhere, it does not belong.

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2012 12:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mark, thank you so much for illustrating the difference between lay/lie. I never did get that in school. I copied your example and filed it away for future reference. I feel confident I need never again wonder which is correct.
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2012 1:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

When I catch an error it stops me in my tracks and I am pulled out of the story for a moment. I came across passed for past recently.
"As you wish"
~The Princess Bride
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 02, 2012 7:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am dyslectic, so when I see certain errors I always have to stop and figure out if it is me, missing something or an editing mistake. I can't tell you how often I find him, her, he, she mistakes. Rolling Eyes
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 02, 2012 11:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Subject/object pronoun errors were only the fifth most frequent item on my list, but they could easily be more common than that suggests. I worked up the list by sorting several years of records in this format:
[page/paragraph/line #s on Sony Reader with 207 epub pages]
51/2/2 at the edge [of] her
120/2/3-4 yet it was [as] if she
150-151/3/5 braised [raised] his sword
154-155/3/2 he laid [lay] there
(I include the text location so I can see the full context if I ever need to check anything or if I give someone the errata, which lets me use short snippets to record the errors. The [] braces can show an omitted word to add or a replacement for the word before. The example above shows 2 of each.)
It is quite possible that I missed some subject/object problems due to the way I sorted and then narrowed down the results. There were other errors involving these pronouns, but they were typos, verb problems, gender flips (e.g., she for he), omitted words, etc. In fact, I can see that I probably should have defined another category of word substitutions: 8 she/he, 4 her/he, 1 it/he, 1 they/he, 5 him/her, 9 his/her, 3 he/her, 3 her/him, 1 them/him, 1 his/him, 22 her/his, 1 hers/his, 7 this/his, 1 its/his, 1 It/I, 1 you/me, 1 my/me, 3 the/she, 8 he/she, 2 he'd/she, 8 she'd/she, 2 she's/she, 5 he/the, 1 I/the, 1 they/the, 1 them/the, 2 her/their, 2 its/their, 1 his/their, 1 my/their, 3 him/them, 2 it/them, 1 it/they, 3 the/they, 1 we/you, 1 our/your, 1 I/you, 1 him/you, 4 you/your and 10 your/you're. Adding these 134 errors to the 47 subject/object errors I originally listed makes total pronoun errors a strong second place after lay/lie errors.
It is also likely that I read some errors without noticing them. I didn't spot the 73 errors in one book I mentioned above in one reading of the book--each reading added to the error list.
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 06, 2012 10:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thinking and hoping that all of you who posted here have a sense of humor, I thought you'd enjoy this cartoon in the paper this morning. BTW, I also totally dislike errors in spelling and wrong usages of words, but there are times when we can laugh about it, too. Very Happy

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 07, 2012 10:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

LOL Tee! I here you..er, hear you!
"As you wish"
~The Princess Bride
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 10:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I decided to go through older logged errors to separate format problems from copy-edits, which ended up taking a while, or I would have posted this sooner.
I confirmed that all the "what ever" for "whatever" errors were from ebook format problems. I also saw a few examples of a format problem I didn't mention in my initial post: missing ligatures. A few ebooks have problems with the display of ligatures, e.g., changing flower to ower.

Someone elsewhere asked me about publishers, so I did a few sorts & calculations in my log spreadsheet to get these numbers:
Publisher Books w0Err % w>=10 % Mean Err MeanFmt
1632, Inc. 31 0 0% 30 97% 20.23 6.35
Ace 110 18 16% 16 15% 2.64 2.81
Avon 87 18 21% 5 6% 2.64 0.47
Baen 125 16 13% 28 22% 13.82 1.35
Ballantine 33 8 24% 6 18% 1.51 124.03
Bantam 44 12 27% 1 2% 1.95 0.52
Berkley 167 13 8% 31 19% 3.20 9.92
Carina Press 20 6 30% 1 5% 2.71 0.14
Del Rey 31 6 19% 3 10% 2.16 2.74
Ellora's Cave 62 12 19% 10 16% 4.63 0.53
Fawcett 15 3 20% 1 7% 2.93 0
Harlequin 184 45 24% 12 7% 2.63 1.51
Harper 13 6 46% 1 8% 2.23 0.15
HarperCollins 115 15 13% 14 12% 3.43 4.78
HQN 32 1 3% 0 0% 2.78 0.50
Jove 43 9 21% 3 7% 2.72 2.30
Kensington 32 1 3% 2 6% 3.57 0.60
Leisure 27 4 15% 3 11% 3.52 9.74
Love Spell 32 5 16% 1 3% 2.25 31.25
Luna 11 1 9% 3 27% 3.45 5.36
Mira 10 1 10% 1 10% 2.00 100.6
Onyx 10 1 10% 3 30% 1.40 12.5
Orbit 15 2 13% 2 13% 2.73 4.4
Pocket 71 14 20% 5 7% 2.42 1.28
Random House 12 8 67% 0 0% 0.33 0
Roc 16 4 25% 5 31% 1.38 7.13
Samhain 39 8 21% 5 13% 3.23 2.18
Signet 103 20 19% 15 15% 2.15 2.48
Silhouette 66 17 26% 0 0% 1.70 0.23
Smashwords 15 3 20% 2 13% 6.20 1.67
St. Martin's 71 13 18% 7 10% 1.96 4.90
Tor 27 6 22% 1 4% 2.04 8.33
Warner 24 4 17% 1 4% 2.83 0.04
Zebra 78 11 14% 18 23% 6.90 1.06
"w0Err" here means with zero copy-edits and zero format problems spotted & logged.
"w>=10" means with 10 or more problems logged.
1632, Inc. is a special case: all the books are issues of a bimonthly ebook called the Grantville Gazette which has stories and articles in the 1632 universe. Since someone gave me an address about four years ago, I've been sending the editor my copy-edits after I read each release. I may be reading these ebooks more carefully than others just because of that. Of course, it is also possible that a bimonthly publication isn't edited the same as other books.
I list separate means for copy-edits and format problems. I just found out a couple months ago that many format problems with accented letters and special characters are due to a display bug in my Readers rather than due to publisher errors, but I have no easy way to tell how many counted format errors were actually Reader display bugs.
You can see in the copy-edit mean for Baen (due to one book: Echoes of an Alien Sky, an unedited mess) and the format means for Ballantine, Love Spell and Mira how one or two books with really bad counts can greatly raise an average.

I also did a quick comparison of printed books to ebooks. Ebooks I've read have about 1.8 times the copy-edit error rate of printed books I've read, but when you add in formatting problems the ratio jumps to about 6.6 to 1.
Mean of copy-edit errors for 997 printed books is 2.72.
Mean of copy-edit errors for 1050 ebooks is 4.90.
Mean of combined copy-edit & formatting errors for 997 printed books is 2.77.
Mean of combined copy-edit & formatting errors for 1050 ebooks is 18.33.
Note: 129 of the ebooks in these counts are shorter works: novelettes, novellas, even short stories that are impractical for stand-alone printed publications but quite easy to create as stand-alone ebooks.

My initial post mentioned trends over time, so here is a quick breakdown by decades.
These numbers uses copyright years, so some are later reprints (including ebooks):
Years Books MeanEdits PrintBooks
1950s 16 3.19 15 3.20
1960s 26 4.19 23 3.83
1970s 31 2.97 27 2.93
1980s 81 2.65 76 2.39
1990s 209 3.43 199 3.42
2000s 1266 3.99 635 2.38
2010s 399 3.81 7 4.57
I've only read a few ebooks with copyrights in decades before 2000, but I counted two ways. First counts are all books (printed and electronic), then printed books only. The 2010s printed books mean edits value looks bad because of a single poorly edited book and a small sample size. Though the sample sizes for decades before the 1980s are a bit small, you can actually see a bit of a sine wave in the means, with editing getting worse in the 1960s, getting better again in the 1970s & 1980s, then getting worse again, then getting better again for printed books in the 2000s. All the variation is on a fairly small scale--the magnitude the mean edits of all decades is in a fairly narrow range.
These numbers are just for copy-edits. If you add in formatting problems, ebooks look much worse. I think it is reasonable to say that the quality of EDITING of books has not changed greatly over the last several decades, though ebooks don't get quite as good editing as printed books, but that with ebooks the quality of PRODUCTION has deteriorated due to some publishers' laziness or incompetence or deliberate devaluing of ebooks.
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 10:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Note: both tables in the above post are more readable in a font like Courier.
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