Okay, everybody, raise your hand and wave it wildly if you love proofreading your ebook!
Yeah, me, too. Nonetheless, proofreading your ebook is essential. By that I mean, actually opening the ebook on your Kindle or Nook or iPad or phone or magic toaster, and going over it word by word, character by character. You’re not just looking at the text. Funny things can happen during conversion. You need to find the goofs and glitches and fix them.
If you don’t have an ereader? Download Calibre onto your computer. It’s free, the display is attractive, and while it doesn’t give you the exact display you’d find on a handheld ereader, it is good enough you should be able to spot the worst problems.
When I proofread an ebook I’ve produced, I load it onto one of my Kindles, run it through its paces (make sure all the links work, and that it responds properly to all the user-interface commands, and that the navigation guide is properly displayed), then I go through the text. I pull up the actual file on my computer and make corrections as I find them. No biggie.
Where the process gets sticky is when someone else proofreads. I prefer the author proof the text. Not just because it’s time-consuming and not much fun, but because the author is the most deeply invested in their work and the final proof is their opportunity to tweak and polish. Plus, they can actually see how graphical elements look in “real time” and see if text effects look good on the screen.
You can’t mark up an ebook. Oh, you can use bookmarks and notes, but it’s ridiculously difficult transferring those to another device, especially when working with “document” as opposed to “book” files. And because such things as “percentage of book read” and “location” depend on the device and the user font and spacing preferences, those are not reliable markers either. What I’ve been doing is asking writers to type out their notes with enough text for me to search and to note which chapter or section the goof/change is in. There are inherent problems with this method. One is typos (the writer’s and mine). Another is fatigue. If you’re tired, the temptation is there to think, Ah, a backward quote mark doesn’t really matter, or What difference does this not-quite right word make?
I stumbled onto a method with a book that required two proofreaders. The key is Square Brackets.
In the books I produce, there is usually no reason to use square brackets. That makes them, for search purposes, unique characters. What I did was copy the ebook file(s) and turn them into text files. Windows and Mac users have a basic text editor included (under Accessories in Windows–mine is called Notepad). It will open a text file. So the writer opens the text file and while they are proofreading the ebook on their device or in Calibre, if they find a goof or want a change, they can mark up the file. All they have to do is enclose any changes in square brackets. It looks like this:
When the author is done, they send the entire file back to me. I open it side by side with the ebook file, search for square brackets and voila! I can see the author’s notes in “real time.” If there are text changes, I can copy the author’s exact text and paste it into the ebook file. No typos. (watch those quote marks and apostrophes–make sure you don’t accidentally use straight quotes instead of curly) Last night I keyed in the corrections from the above example. What would have been a two to three hour job using the old method, took me instead about 30 minutes. That included going back through and double-checking my work. The writer reports that after she got over her shock over how weird the text file looks, the job was much, much easier on her end, too.
What about the rest of you? Has anyone else found simpler or more effective ways for proofreading ebooks when two or more people are involved in the process?