What It Is (posts below left; rate sheet, client list, other stuff below right)

My name is Bob Land. I am a full-time freelance editor, indexer, and proofreader. This blog is my website.

You'll find my rate sheet and client list here, as well as musings on the life of a freelancer; editing, proofreading, and indexing concerns and issues; my ongoing battles with books and production; and the occasional personal revelation.

Feel free to contact me directly with additional questions: landondemand@gmail.com.

Thanks for visiting. Leave me a comment. Come back often.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

scanning

My memory being what it is, I'm not sure if I'm exactly right about this, but I don't think I initially had a computer for writing or editing at my first writing/editing job. I know we each had computers for internal office email (this was 1984), but it seems like it was a big deal when one of the writers on staff actually got his own computer for composing textbooks.

One of the first pieces I was asked to edit was a student guide for a life insurance law textbook (and you think the stuff I read now is tedious). The person who had the technology was the department secretary/AA. You'd give her the manuscript (handwritten?) and she would key it in using an OCR (optical character recognition) ball on an IBM Selectric. OCR = the kinds of numbers you see at the bottoms of checks. That output would get scanned by a data processing (later information services) department, and thus would the file be saved.

And OCR wasn't too bad back then. If there were errors going in, there would be errors coming out. Often not too many errors resulting from the scanning itself.

I've received recently a little (66-page) book from one of my publishers, thinking it was going to be an easy job.

Wrong.

The job appears to have been scanned in from what is probably an existing out-of-print book. The easiest ways to tell are missing punctuation, certain letter pairs always being wrong; probably the most common is seeing modem for modern. You can see how a scanner would get that wrong.

But from a proofreader's perspective, so much can go bad with scanned-in copy. While it seems like an easy way to produce a book (I really don't know how fast page proofs scan), to me the task is fraught with peril. Do publishers increase the size of the originals so that the scanner has better input with which to work? I don't know whether they do or not. Is my job as a proofreader to catch mistakes? Of course, but . . .

. . . but what I end up with, especially with documentation (footnotes and bibliography), is ultimately a copyediting task, because the print was usually so small on the pages to begin with. And as I've mentioned before, being paid for proofreading but essentially delivering copyediting gets my goat.

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