Friday, January 31, 2014

On second thought...

I posted earlier that I didn't have much to say after a busy day.

I've had second thoughts about that, because there's something that is bothering me a lot the past few days.

In the past week, maybe week and a half, I've read not one but two books that I checked out of the library that both had the same problem - someone who checked them out before me felt the need to go through and edit the text of the books.

Now, I can sympathize with this urge. I've noticed in the past, oh, five or ten years that books, including some published by very big mainstream publishing houses, seem not to have the editing and proofreading attention that they should have. Typographical errors abound, weird grammatical constructions that I would have thought would be eliminated in proofreading have become more common, and the books just generally don't seem as professionally presented as they used to be. And as they should be, considering what the publishing houses charge for their product these days.

However, and above and beyond the fact that library books are not the property of the people reading them and the readers should therefore not write in them, whoever did the home "editing" in these two books clearly had no idea what they were doing. Not only that, they had no idea what they were doing in the very same way in both cases. If it weren't for the fact that these two books were in different subject areas - one was about the coming of age of the Baby Boomers, and the other was a memoir by singer Eric Burdon - and that they were from two different libraries in two different counties (I picked up one in a local branch and got the other through interlibrary loan), I would suspect that the same person was responsible for the markings in both books.

Whoever did it, they had issues with punctuation. There were commas crossed out, other commas added, and some commas replaced by semicolons. And none of the alterations made any grammatical sense at all. I'm not talking about the dispute over the Oxford comma here. My roommate kept laughing at me because I kept complaining this free-form editing and threatening to throw the books against the wall. In the case of the Baby Boomer book, I got so frustrated at one point that if I hadn't been close to the end of the book I probably would have just given up and returned it to the library before I finished it. It wasn't really that good a book, anyway.

I guess all of this is a long and roundabout way of saying that I don't care what you do with the books you own. I write in my own books all the time (as I think I've mentioned here before); that's my way of having a dialogue with the book and the writer. But, please, please, please...don't write in library books.

That's what God invented sticky-notes for, isn't it?

1 comment:

Jess said...

That's nothing more than vandalism in my mind. Library books belong to all of us and we should all respect that.