BMCR 1992.01.17

Letter to the Editor

I wonder if I might (as someone who does too much reviewing) comment on one aspect of Ellen A. Bauerle’s recent review of BMCR and reviewing in general? It was very good to have her piece, and I hope there will be a continuing dialogue between publishers and academics to the mutual profit of both. But when she criticises reviewers for attacking features of books which she claims are not the fault of publishers, she lets herself off too lightly. A printing error is not the fault of the publisher: but they choose the printers they employ, and must take some responsibility for that choice. The reason we get so many badly-produced books is that publishers do not interest themselves enough in the production of their books: after the final draft they put all their energy into marketing. I once criticized the production of a book from a major US university press and received a letter from the editor saying that they were not at fault because the publisher was only responsible for the content of the book: its appearance was the responsibility of the author! I can see what this editor meant: they employed copy-editors but not proof-readers, the latter task being the job of the author. But I still think this is the wrong way round. One hears horror stories of the intrusive activities of some copy-editors: and an author will always make a lousy proof-reader of his own work. The only way to improve standards is to impress on publishers that the buck stops with them: whatever the circumstances of the production, they have to take responsibility, in the same way that authors have to accept responsibility for the content, whatever the excuses they might make.

But I found the rest of her piece excellent!