Monday, October 13, 2014
When Will Books Get Recalled The Way Cars Do?
Imagine if books are recalled and publishers tell people NOT to buy their books?
It has happened on rare occasion, but publishers will pull a book from the shelves if they learn the book has serious problems, such as when a book was exposed as a hoax or the author a fraud. But short of such extreme cases, the average book, with sloppy editing or incorrect facts, is allowed to sell as if nothing is wrong.
My wife’s car lease, a Buick Enclave, has issued no fewer than three recall notices. Now, granted, the stakes are higher with authors – lives are at stake – as well as millions in damages. But when you see so many recalls from so many cars this past year, you have to wonder why there aren’t more book recalls.
Many books make unsubstantiated claims, dish opinions as facts, and get facts incorrect accidentally. Once publishers and authors are told of their shortcoming they promise to correct them in the next edition or printing or they at least correct the digital version. Some just ignore the criticism – unless called out in court or exposed on social media to the point they are shamed into action. But many books are furthering a history that’s not accurate to a degree or downright false in a major way. Where’s the recall?
We don’t need a censorship board, but society would benefit from some type of review board that examines how accurate, fair, or even grammatically correct books are. I’m sure one can find something wrong with almost every book. No one’s perfect, but books, because they play a key role in shaping society, need to hold themselves to a higher standard.
Books are like medicine – they can heal or hurt us if the dose isn’t right.
All other forms of media make errors. Magazines and newspapers constantly issue retractions and present misspelled or poorly edited content as polished works. Books are no better. Any time you have to string 50,000 – 100,000 words to have everything fall in line with spelling, punctuation, syntax, and facts, you are asking for a lot.
Books, of course, should be recalled when a big mistake has been made, but publishers and authors should work harder at making sure the books that get published are truly in good shape. A life doesn’t have to be on the line to recall a product – one’s brand, integrity, and pride is on the line as well. Libel laws shouldn’t be the only thing keeping authors and publishers in line. To want to serve the public good should be all the motivation needed to make sure a book is published without errors.