Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Those Stupid Smart Phones

They've Changed the Business: Yesterday, I was trying to explain to a customer why I wanted him to send his manuscript alterations in a single batchor at least in batchesinstead of one at a time. He didn't understand. "How hard can it be to add a comma?" I patiently explained that it wasn't that hard. All I had to do was to locate the Word or InDesign file, open the file, wait for it to load, locate the correct page, insert the comma, save the file, and close the file. It might take three or four minutes. Not long, I admit, but the thing is: In that same three or four minutes, I could have made five corrections. But he didn't send me five corrections at a time. He sent me one. He sent the other four on four different occasionswhich meant that I was going to have to spend twenty minutes of my time instead of three or four.

He is not alone. He is not even the worst. Not even close. Most of my customers now send me alterations on page proofs or manuscripts one at a time, and it doesn't matter if they are bipolar poets, therapists, academics, storytellers, novelists, or children's book writers. They almost all do it, and excuse me if I feel like I am being nibbled to death by minnows.

The thing is, this is a new phenomenon. After stewing about this yesterday, I figured it out. 

It's those stupid smart phones.

In the good old days (a year ago), I'd send out a set of page proofs. The proofreader would read the page, note corrections, and return the set of page proofs to me. I'd go through the marked up proof and make corrections at a singleor, at any rate, a longsitting. The method is very efficient. It's still the best way to go. Today most people, except apparent Luddites like me, have smart phones. Sometimes, they read the proof (as a PDF) on their smart phone (a lousy way to catch mistakes, by the way). As soon as they find a problem, they send me an email or a text. "Missing comma on p57." If they read or send emails, they do so from their smart phone rather than from a computer. Millennials, I'm told (by them) don't even send emails if they can help it. They text. In any case, smart phones are not conducive to long messages. They are conducive to frequent messages, which give senders the illusion that they are communicating effectively.

Mostly they are just making trouble.

Now that I've figured out the source of the problem, what's the solution?  Maybe I need to create an app.

What's an app?

--The Publishing Pro