Erica's Reviews > The Subversive Copy Editor: Advice from Chicago

The Subversive Copy Editor by Carol Fisher Saller
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Jul 29, 09

bookshelves: nerdy-nonfiction
Read in July, 2009

Review of book: great book if you work with editing the writing of others for publication, even if it's not formally in publishing. The author privides common-sense (yet difficult to enact, sometimes) advice for issues like dealing with cranky authors (or just people who think they don't need to be edited) to overly pedantic copyeditors. The big picture advice is (a) remember that you are editing for the reader (not for yourself or even for the author), and (b) you can never make a manuscript perfect. Good advice.

Review of reading on the Kindle: On the one hand, reading is reading, right? Once you get into the book, it doesn't really make any difference what format you are reading on, and that holds true for the Kindle.

However, the interface is a little clunky and slow. You can't really "flip through" the book if you are looking for a passage you saw earlier (though you can make notes). Because you can increase/decrease the font size to your liking (good) there isn't really any typographical composition, per se; I frequently came across lines that were awkwardly spaced, or works that were missing spaces, or other distracting inconsistencies that are usually fixed by a proofreader in a traditional book (bad, but makes me feel better about my job). I get the feeling the the next version of the Kindle (or maybe the one after that) will be really great, but it's not there yet.

On the positive side, you can scroll to any word to get a definition from the dictionary or Wikipedia, and clicking on endnotes brings them up easily. This would be good for a book like Infinite Jest Infinite Jest, but maybe not for everyday reading.

Basically, this reaffirmed my belief that ereaders like the Kindle would be perfect for college students. I would much rather spend the $300 as a freshman and then pay a subscription fee (that is bundled in with other school fees) that covers the cost of the texts for the duration of college. No carrying around huge textbooks for all your classes; you can read notes, make notes, make bookmarks, etc; no surprises each semester if you have a particularly expensive book to buy. And eventually publishers should offer books by chapter, so those clunky photocopied readers created for specific classes would be a thing of the past, and you wouldn't have to spend $90 on a book you are only going to read 2 chapters of.
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message 1: by Holly (new)

Holly So, I must say that I disagree with you on the Kindle. I own one of the 1st round ones and I really love it. I was a little skeptical. Being an avid reader and loving the whole "book experience" I wondered if that would be lost in the electronics. I found that it really wasn't. I do agree with you on the "flipping through" point. As you said, you can make notes and you can also bookmark pages as well but sometimes you just need to flip.

What I have found is that there are all different types of readers. I happen to be someone who reads mostly for enjoyment (ie. not work or research) so I tend towards fiction and you don't usually need to do much flipping back and forth. I can see that it may not serve others quite as well.

As for the awkward spacing and other inconsistencies, I can see why they would drive someone in your profession crazy but they don't really bother me. I have also noticed that it is not all the time so I wonder if it is the way the files are set up as opposed to how the Kindle works.

Last, I will say, one of my very favorite features is the "buy it anywhere" feature. It doesn't require anything other than to sign up and buy as you go and you can literally get a book anywhere/anytime. It does not require Wi-Fi. Just switch the "whispernet" on and browse or search for a specific title and purchase right there. It ususally takes less than two minutes and you have the complete book.

So anyway, I just happened to see your post and thought I would share my opinion on the matter.


Erica Yay! I knew you got the Kindle, and was wondering what you thought using it all the time rather than just once like me. And yes, I realize that the group of people who will lament the death of typography are small, and that I am in there nerdular minority. :( Also I don't want my job to be obsolete too soon, because I like my job.

The getting your book instantly is nice, but do you find that there are books you want that aren't available? I feel like that would be frustrating once you commit to the Kindle. And the proprietary software from Amazon gives me pause. For example, if you keep all of your music on your computer and it crashes, you lose your whole music collection--but there is the possibility of backing it up on another drive or something. As far as I know (and please correct me if I am wrong) you can't make an extra copy of a Kindle book, or save it on your computer, or something. So if/when the Kindle crashes, do you lose all of your books?

There is a good (buy obviously biased) review of the Kindle in the New Yorker this week (http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/20...) where the author makes the point that you aren't really buying a book, you "buy the right to display a grouping of words in front of your eyes for your private use with the aid of an electronic display device approved by Amazon." Which, hey, maybe not the end of the world. But it gives me pause.


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