Defective Books

R. writes:

I have a couple of questions that you may or may not know the answer to. :)

When books are sent out to different retailers.. or perhaps even before then, are there any sort of Quality Assurance procedures that are done to the novel?

I’m merely asking because a couple of days ago, I got an unhappy surprise when I purchased an omnibus edition of an authors book only to find that 6 chapters within the 2nd book were missing. It was a pretty nice chunk of the story (about 34 pages I believe).. but to make things even jazzier, they had inserted previously printed chapters where the missing chapters belonged.  Before sending a foamy email to the publisher, I went back to name of retailer redacted and asked to look at whatever copies they had left to see if it was just my copy or if every copy was the same. Every single copy I looked at ( 5+), they all had the exact same issue. I also told name of retailer redacted they might want to temporarily shelf the book til they get better copies.. but when I last checked, they still have it up and available apparently.

I’ve run across typos and misnumbered pages before, but this seems to be an entirely different level of “oops.”  I also emailed the author and let them know what was going on.. and to their credit, they responded promptly.

It wasn’t an error that would be visible had you been briefly scanning the book.  It was deep into the 2nd book that you ran into this. The author replied that it was a manufacturing error and that I can believe..  but I guess I’m a little puzzled. Do you know if there are any steps to prevent things like this from happening?  I mean I’ve been reading for 25+ years and have never seen an error of this magnitude occur in any book I’ve ever read.

This is most likely a printer error.  Something happened in the printing process and things went awry.  Let’s say you have a print run of 50,000 books.  The printer will print them in chunks and spot-check each chunk, but if the error isn’t glaringly obvious, they may not notice it.  Minor typographic errors are common – we have a pi symbol in one of our books that’s just randomly there.  That’s not grounds for a recall, but something as major as misprinted chapters is definitely cause to have the affected copies pulled off the shelf.

I’ve asked our editor, Anne Sowards, for more information and here is what she said.

Books are printed in batches, and errors can occur in one that don’t occur in another (missing signatures, or a repeated signature, or even a signature from a different book getting bound in).

I’ll see if I can find out more about this, but off the top of my head, I think they do a quality spot check at the printer. Obviously they can’t check every single copy of a print run (which can be thousands and thousands of copies), so defective books sometimes make it out to the stores anyway. I always hate it when this happens! Generally, if a printing error occurs, it’s isolated to a couple hundred copies. But that’s small comfort to whichever reader ended up getting one of the defective books.

Readers should be able to exchange a defective copy of the book at the store where they bought it–has the reader with the omnibus that’s missing pages tried this?

Since it’s not one of our books, I can’t speak to the other publisher’s return policy. But from my end, if this ever happens with one of your Ace books and the reader is unable to return the defective copy to the store where they bought it for some reason, they can send me the messed up copy and we’ll send them a replacement.

Typo in Charlotte Observer

My suggestion would be that if the store is unable to replace the copy, try to contact the author directly and ask if you can exchange the book through the publisher.  The store should have pulled the damaged copies from the shelves.  Unfortunately, the retailer  in question is a large chain and each individual store is only as good as its management and staff.  Some of these stores are outstanding, some less so.  Perhaps that decision had to be made at a manager level and the manager is unaware that the books are damaged.

If you’re ever in a situation of this sort with one of our books, let me know, and Gordon or I will make sure you’ll get a replacement.  If the error occurs in the e-copy and is significant, please let me know and I will bring it to the attention of the publisher.




  1. KatieC says

    That’s one of the reasons your readers love you guys: You totally care about us and our reading experience. 😀

    The book thing bites. I had this happen once. I bought a book and after the title page and acknowledgements, the book started on page 27 in the middle of chapter 3. Hope it all works out for the reader.

  2. Charity says

    I have to say that I’m shocked to read that about any book retailer! I used to be management at a bookstore for the Borders group and we always ensured that defective books were pulled immediately! We also made notes to check the new books that would come in of that title to be sure it didn’t happen again as well as calling any customers that may have pre-ordered a copy. That’s not just bad management on that chain’s part, it is bad customer service.

    I suggest the person who bought the book attempt to take it to a different store and see if they will trade a new (correct) copy for the defective one. Just because one store isn’t doing what they should doesn’t mean that they will all do that.

  3. Cerulean says

    Many years ago I bought a book that had a similar problem in that it was either missing several chapters or they were misplaced in the book. I brought it back to Borders, where I’d bought it, and they replaced it.

  4. says

    I remember once reading an arc and somehow the last chapter replaced the 1st chapter. I read the spoiler before I realized it was the spoiler. lol I checked an my arc and it was the only one like that.

  5. says

    I experienced an issue similar to this a few years back. I had purchased the book on Amazon and rather than contact Amazon I contacted the publisher. I explained what had happened and that in truth I just wanted to let them know. That publisher responded quickly and said they would happily send me another copy of the book. Sadly the copy they sent me had the exact same problem. I let them know again and they apologized and sent me another copy…and yes you guessed it…same problem again. At that point I gave up. I appreciated that the publisher was trying, really hard actually, to do something but in the end I never did get to read those missing pages. Ah well…nothing is perfect.
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  6. says

    I’ve had this happen once, and a few times with books falling apart, but never had a problem where the retailer wouldn’t take it back. Hope R. can get a fixed copy.

    Thanks for the insight (and I’m not surprised that you and Anne would help to get it fixed).
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  7. says

    In the days before Amazon, my only way of getting english books was the “English Book Store” (living in Europe, official language in Austria is german). In those days I quite often got books that had missing pages, totally smeared pages, books where the pages just fluttered out … and the stores replacement policy was to tell me they’d have to send it in and I’d get my replacement when they got it from their wholesale retailer …
    Sooo glad I’m able to get ebooks now, as there are a lot less errors / misplaced pages or chapters and NEVER fluttering pages :-)

  8. Hurog_Kate says

    Just as a note, the “signature” that Anne is referring to above is a publishing/printing term. It refers to a number of pages that are batched together. If you’ve ever had a book come undone, you have likely seen signatures in action: those groups of folded-together pages are a signature. If you’ve never worked in publishing, this might be confusing, if you’re thinking of someone signing a book or something. :)

    (Definition from online dictionary explains better than I can: 4. Printing: Sheet of printed paper that is folded one or more times to become a single unit of several pages in multiples of 4, such as an 8-page, 12-page, 16-page signature. Signatures are collected in their proper sequence (called ‘gathering’), bound or sewn, and trimmed to produce the finished publication. Its name comes from the old practice of placing a mark on the first (top) page to guide the gatherer.Read more:

    • Tammi G. says

      I was sitting here trying to recall if I had ever seen a signature in my books (outside of plot). I appreciate your rescue!

  9. says

    I had a problem like this a few years ago. I was replacing my copies of books for a whole series. One book I had picked up had a few pages missing out of it, enough for the story not to make sense. I took it back to the book store with my receipt, told them what was wrong and showed them the pages and they replaced my book straight away, even checking to make sure the new copy was all there.
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  10. Vinity says

    I’ve had a fair amount of printing issues with books. I’ve never had a retailer NOT replace or refund for the book. I have had the mixed up chapter thing be pretty distressing spoiler wise. Another favorite is the upside down chapters.

  11. Faith V says

    Having worked in the printing industry for more years than I’d like to admit…
    It sounds like a classic printer issue of either:
    a ‘signature’ being placed incorrectly in the set up of the presses
    (a signature on offset printing: A printed and folded section of a publication, usually four to forty-eight pages, ready for binding or insertion)
    In the folding of the ‘signatures’ before it being cut to be bound, they where placed in the binding equipment incorrectly – resulting in the pages being in the wrong spot.
    Most likely it was a group of books (most likely) – or the whole print job (unlikely)
    As to why they are all the same in the store:
    The group of books bound/printed incorrectly where all together on the production line. The boxes get filled, and shipped to the stores. – Make sense?

    If the bookstore is still refusing – based on if the book was really to be printed like that as a ‘joke’ or a ‘style’ (unlikely) I’d contact the publisher directly taking a snapshot or video of your book.
    Telling them where you bought it (location of said store too will help publisher help other readers)
    They will replace it.

  12. Cwalker says

    What a strange experience!

    Also, I am unfamiliar with the term, “omnibus”. Can you explain?


    • Ilona says

      Several novels or novellas by the same author bound together into one volume. Like Kate Daniels Omnibus that will come out next year: Magic Bites and Magic Burns in a single trade paperback volume.

  13. Ann says

    Typos are very different from print production errors.

    The latter are out-and-out defects, and should be replaced by the bookseller, publisher, etc. A flaw like shuffling signatures would be very hard to spot unless it was part of the final proof (blue line) which someone like the author checked page-by-page before approving.

    Unfortunately typos are the downside of the lovely surge in eBooks. Many are self-published, often without the aid of a professional editor–especially bargain reads. I’m tolerant of the occasional “oops,” but when authors completely skip their dictionary or grammar-retentive beta readers it gets distracting, and I start deducting stars.

  14. Susan says

    So, did the injury that Mr. Davis suffered occur as a direct result of him enthusiastically following the injunction in the first visual?

    * * * * * *

    Unfortunately, I’ve come across defective books like the one described on a numerous occasions. Sometimes the pages are missing, sometimes whole sections are duplicated, and sometimes pages are all present but out of order. In the first instance, I’ve been able to return the defective book for a replacement and/or refund with no problems. I can’t imagine a merchant not wanting to rectify a problem like that for a customer.

    Typos and grammatical errors are a whole ‘nother issue. They’re EVERYWHERE–not just in books. (Heck, there are probably some here in this post.) :-( And don’t even get me started on the problems with ebooks. Some of them are just a disgrace.

    • Ann says

      “Disgrace” is just the word! Read one a couple months ago where I kept mentally ranting “A rock is a ‘boUlder’!” Just ’cause Word doesn’t put a red squiggly under something, doesn’t mean it’s the right word.

  15. jreads says

    Once I bought a book for our school library that came with the right cover but a completely different book inside. The cover was the YA adventure book I’d ordered – the inside was an adult business advice non-fiction title. Definitely the printer, but I’ve always wondered how they got the entire book in the wrong place in the assembly process.

    • Faith V says

      Most likely reason in the binding process, the incorrect cover (which is printed separately from the rest of the book) was placed in the binding equipment.
      – you could think of it as you hit the lottery, just didn’t win any $$ – O_O

  16. says

    I worked for a publisher for ten years and we had something like that happen maybe four times. It’s pretty rare, but printers are people, too, and they make mistakes. The problem that then happens is that if they don’t catch it onsite and the books get shipped out, it’s very hard to know how extensive the problem is and even harder to get all the bad copies destroyed. If you’ve printed 20,000 books, you really don’t want to destroy them all if only a batch of 1000 or so have the problem, but looking at all of them by hand means opening boxes scattered across the country in lots of 20 to 100. If all the books are still in a single warehouse, you can make the fix, but if not, you wind up dealing with the problem copies for months. One time, the problem we had was with the glue on the binding. Three separate print runs and the problem persisted before they finally decided that the glue they were using–which was fine for hundreds of books–was not strong enough for a book of that page count and trim size. Ugh, it was a nightmare. There were definitely readers who returned the same book multiple times and the author was furious. Not fun.
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  17. says

    I’m a librarian, and we occasionally get flawed copies. We contact the book jobber or publisher for a replacement. Often we don’t catch them until we are in the process of cataloging them and they have property stamps or other work done on them which sometimes prevents us from returning them. Sometimes we put a local note in the cataloging record, so that the library user understands that that is how the book was received.

  18. Tomekeeper says

    There was a book like this in my high school library. It had one chapter a little over halfway through the book that repeated and it replaced the next chapter that should have been there. It was kinda ironic because the repeated chapter was called “Mirror Image” or something like that. The library had five or six copies of said book that were just fine, so the defective one was just taken off the shelves.

  19. Gillian says

    I LOLed in the middle of my office at the herniated dick. I’m crying. Seriously.

    • KatieC says

      I was seriously proctoring an exam when I read that and I had the same problem.

  20. Hannah says

    Actually, something similar happened to me a while ago with one of your books -Magic Burns. Can’t remember which pages now, it was about 30 pages and it was pretty significant (Julie got kidnapped, Curran tried to trade the lid, I missed ALL that). I remember telling the seller (I bought it online, probably off Amazon Marketplace) about it and they sent me a replacement copy…but it was the wrong book.

    I gave up and just bought from the next bookstore I went to.

  21. Janet says

    I had it happen where half the book was upside down. I took it back to Barnes and Noble and they replaced it. Luckily I could still read it as it wasn’t missing the pages. I just looked goofy reading it upside down until I had time to get back to the store.

  22. Ansley says

    That sounds so frustrating! It would be horrible to be in the middle of a good story and suddenly get cut off.

    I have to say, the random pi symbol in your book makes me laugh every time I see it, but it is so easy to miss and I don’t think I even noticed it until I reread the book. Nothing at all like a glaring error of missing chapters!

    • Susan says

      Where’s the random pi symbol?

      It’s probably not random at all. I’m sure it’s some kind of secret message from Ilona–probably something to do with Freemasons. :-)

  23. Readsalot81 says

    Well since I’m the “R” in question.. I can let you know the retailer definitely DID give me my money back. I showed the error to several people within the store.. and they refunded my money no problem. Replacing the book was a problem as every single copy had this particular affliction.

    I let the retailer, publisher and author know. Getting another copy was a problem since there were no “good” ones to be had. (I tried this before emailing anyone) So I ended up buying the author’s books separately because I truly loved the books and want to support authors efforts.. but I’m not wasting my time & money trying to get a fixed omnibus version. I bought the book as a gift for a family member only to have them come to me rather confused as to why they couldn’t finish the book.

  24. says

    I bought a book not so long ago where the cover (hardcover) was upside down. The book was fine and it wasn’t enough of a bother to take it back. I’ve also had books with chapters missing and so on. Happens. Aggravating though. Specially when you come to the good part and then the pages are missing. At that point I just want to kill someone. KILL!!
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  25. Tine says

    Ow. I am sure that most guys are cringing if they read the article about the Hornet player.

  26. Tammie says

    I bought a book like that once through Amazon. It was almost at the end of the book and since I didn’t like the book much anyway, I decided not to bother with getting a replacement. And LOL at the typo in the Charlotte Observer!

  27. Tammie says

    I bought a book like that once through Amazon. It was almost at the end of the book and since I didn’t like the book much anyway, I decided not to bother with getting a replacement. And LOL at the typos in the Charlotte Observer and the Bible!

  28. Nicole says

    I love when I am reading a book (usually paperback) and the print on one page is fine, and the next it is so light you can hardly see the pages. This will go on only on the left or right side pages through part of the book. Nothing like the ink running out on the book I purchased. This is not a random thing anymore, it happens so often I make sure I have very good lighting when reading.

    Typo’s are what editors are for, and spell correct on many computers change things without them realizing.

  29. Nick Z says

    Some publishers I used to read always had poorly made books. Their hardcovers were never trimmed well. They were all ragged and sometimes they would cut of part of the words on some pages but all the books were like that. If I wanted to read them that was my only choice. Now I’d most likely just get an electronic copy if I was buying from them again. It drove me nuts though. Even the library’s copies were like that.

    I’ve gotten in the habit of flipping though a book before I buy it to make sure no pages fall out and that it seems to be trimmed okay. I don’t think I would have caught a missing chapter though.

    I have seen lots of typos in things that really shouldn’t have them like engineering design codes. Those always scare me a bit.

  30. dsolo says

    That’s why I like ebooks now. Plus I don’t have to drive to the store or wait for the mail. I do notice more typos though, especially any time a foreign word is used. I’ve seen ?? used around a word, and I’m assuming that it’s a substitute for an accent mark or umlaut, or maybe not understanding the word.

    • says

      It’s really hard to get symbols formatted in a source file to work on all possible ebook formats. I spent about two hours trying to do “senora” correctly (the n) and then decided it wasn’t worth it. The question marks probably mean that the author or formatter had the symbol correct in one format but it didn’t translate properly to another format.
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  31. says

    That’s really unfortunate when it happens – but it does happen sometimes. It’s impossible to check every book to be sure that there are nothing wrong because the printing batches are so huge nowadays. And a cursory view won’t show something like wrong chapters printed on a book if the page count etc. are correct.

    Fortunately, when it have happened to me, it’s always been very simple to have a new book (without the defects) to replace the one with something wrong – usually just by going to the store and asking for a new copy.

    Once I called straight to the publisher and got a new book from there. I did this because it was over a year after I had bought the book, I was on a different city and I didn’t have my receipt etc. left…I had bought the book and put it on my shelf and after I finally got to reading it I noticed that after 36 pages the book began from the page 1 again, and then (36 pages later) continued from page 73 onward, so the pages 37-72 were missing totally. :) But it only took one phone call to the publisher, and mailing the defective book (cost free) to them and on return mail I got a brand new book without defects (and actually I got two extra same genre paperbacks to apologize the inconvenience, even though I didn’t ask anything of the kind.)
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  32. Stephanie says

    I bought a hardback LE Modesitt book from Barnes and Noble a few years ago that had the wrong world map on the end papers (both ends). The map they used belonged to a different series by the same author! I pointed it out to the store, but they didn’t care. Bought it anyway, needed to read the next book in the series.

  33. Debra L. says

    I still have my messed up copy of Cronin’s “The Passage” mostly because I didn’t know it was messed up until I got to that part. By then I’d owned the book for awhile (took me some time to get around to reading it) and I didn’t even remember where I’d bought it.

    Instead I went to the store and picked up a good copy and read the part that was mixed up there. (It was about 10 or so pages where paragraphs repeated or were cut off.)

  34. Bill G says

    I’ve run into this several times. (The book problem, not the injury.) The most recent was a book ordered online through Barnes and Noble, and through circumstance it was well over a month later that I got to reading the book. It was some time later that I got to the nearest store.
    With the relevant pages bookmarked, I showed it to one of the tellers, as that was how I was told to have the issue addressed.
    No problem whatsoever. I did not even need to show them the original order form.

  35. Marsha says

    It’s particularly irritating when this happens near the end of a book when things are getting intense. I had a paperback once where I turned the page to read chapter 22 and there was a duplicate of chapter 3! I had to buy another copy to find out what happened to the characters.

  36. Laura says

    I love that “respons(pi)bility. I did a double take and had a good laugh. There was another typo somewhere when someone “cake” into the room. My memory frequently supplies Curran when I play that scence in my head, though it may have been in a whole ‘nother series.

  37. Tashady says

    ^_^ I’ve had this happen to me probably more than twice, but just two stick in my head.

    When Harry Potter IV came out, I ran out, stood in line and bought the hardcover fresh off the press as it was. When I got home, the middle half of the book started playing ‘flip flop’ as in, they started alternating being right side up and upside down (& those pages were from later in the chapter). Took it back and they had to get me a book from the back to replace it as their display copies had the same issue.

    The second was in a popular PR author’s first book. The words started vanishing mid-scene…and it was an important scene… pages and pages of just 10-12 words scattered about. Took it back to the store and got a refund because ALL of their copies had the same error. Checked again a year later and new print run (price had gone up on cover), same error…

  38. CheeseBK says

    I came across some printing errors too:

    I have one book that is complete, but the cover is glued on upside down…. that means, to everyone observing me read the book, it looks as if I was reading upside down 😀 not a big problem, since the whole book is still readable, but a funny one.
    Can’t remember now which book it is, will have to look.

    I once bought a book that had a big chunk of it missing, but instead a previous chapter was repeated, just as the reader who e-mailed you. It was a german book, if I remember correctly it was by Wolfgang Hohlbein. I went back to the store and showed them the problem, they exchanged it without any fuss (the other copies they had were okay)

    And there is one book I ordered a few years ago that had a few pages printed in a wrong angle, so that the bottom few lines were lost. I sent it back and got a spotless copy soon afterwards.

    I really think it is horrible that the bookstore did not remove the copies as soon as they were aware of them being faulty! They are knowingly selling goods that are damaged!

  39. Jenn says

    I remember having one of those kind of mistakes, I never brought it back because the chapter was there. just backwards. I ended up reading the upside down section of the book, going to the end of that section and turning the book upside down and reading ‘backwards’ through the book and continuing. though there was about two pages missing and instead there was two pages from a different novel. Can’t remember which book it was though