The last thing we do on a project is production, whether it be making sure that the electronic version is ready for distribution (golden master) or working with a printer on page proofs (golden oldie). Today, as one-stop information producers, we usually do the production ourselves, and we’re usually anxious to skip a formal production cycle. The project is waiting, you know? But it’s an area of practice in technical communication certification, and it’s still important.
How important? You can readily purchase examples of pre-production books that have gone straight from author to market. They are called e-books. And as Karen Dionne in The Huffington Post writes, “E” Stands for “Errors”. I’ve noticed myself that the results are not pretty.
For their print editions, book publishers still go through the production cycle, which catches most of the errors prevalent in e-books. (Way back when I proofread a few books for the Dummies Press.) So the printed edition is more accurate and has added value in the print edition. Unfortunately, the relative pricing doesn’t reflect this.
I don’t intend for this to be a screed against e-books. They are here to stay, and as a content creator I’m happy to see my work in the hands of consumers in any medium. However, I worry that publishers will drop production in print editions too, when what they should be doing is adding it to e-book editions. It is in our interest both as consumers and as technical communicators to speak up when we see errors in e-books, especially if we happen to have access to the print editions and can verify that the error isn’t in the printed version.
(And back at the office, it’s not a bad idea to resist the urge to send that golden master without going through a production checklist!)