Sir Alex Ferguson, long-term and now retired manager of Manchester United football club sold over 115,000 copies in the first week of his second autobiography, excitingly called “My Autobiography”. And yes it was written with a ghost writer and no doubt to coincide with the shock of his sudden retirement, that fans would lap it up anyway and the upcoming Christmas market. His first autobiography came out to coincide with the time man Utd won the coveted “treble”, three top trophies in the same year. I haven’t read this latest book but clearly many football/Man Utd fans have.
One keen and very knowledgeable fan read it and spotted numerous errors. The said fan had spotted 45 factual errors in the 402-page book. He wasn’t happy and so he wrote to the publisher, Hodder and Stoughton. They actually agreed with the fan’s complaints, apologised, explained their proof-reading procedure and actually offered a refund in return for his copy (so I suppose H&S did the refund, not Sir Alex).
Another autobiography by “My Life” by David Jason (who should be knighted for services to laughter!) was recalled en masse due to printing issues (a mixture of two books in one I think). No doubt there have been others.
It got me thinking that in general we tend to accept that books might have the odd typo and continuity problem. We may even spot a factual error if we are more knowledgeable of the subject than the author. And I guess a proof-reader will check for grammar and spelling, rather than the facts. And just maybe quite a few ‘in trend’ books get rushed to market and in the haste some quality control goes amiss.
Personally, I think a few writing errors or typos are forgiveable as humans make mistakes (yes writers and proof readers are human!). I know I have made many typing errors. For sure if you have ever written anything yourself and gone back to it later you tend to spot some of your own errors and invariable want to change it which could introduce more errors. Hopefully they get picked up in the quality control process (if there is one).
But have we ever taken a book back as “faulty goods” due to such errors? I certainly have spotted typos, incorrect facts or plot inconsistencies but didn’t think I would be able to take a book back for a refund. I clearly remember a tutorial book about 15 years ago I read that had countless grammar/spelling and bits missing, almost on every other page! Clearly this book had NEVER been checked and was rushed out. It was the early days of the Internet and I emailed the author who had a website. He never replied. It was the most shoddiest book production I have ever come across to the point I just could finish it as it was just annoying. £25 wasted!
“Blitz and Pieces”.
Power to this fan as really a book is a consumer item like any other product and if faulty then we are entitled to a refund or exchange.
» Related: “Blitz and Pieces” An autobiography by Percy Chattey (warts, errors and all!)
Winner in the Pinnacle Award for Best Autobiography 2013