Re: Errata Site? Re: The growing problem of erroneous captions

Bob <rjb@...>

I have the book you're discussing and do read captions and enjoyed them. Some people buy them for pictures only some captions and pictures . Nothing is perfect and if some one wants it to be perfect why did they not do it. I have more of your and others books and do enjoy them thanks to all the authors that took the time as I for one have benefited greatly.

Robert J. Birkholz

----- Original Message -----
From: Gene Green
To: STMFC@...
Sent: Thursday, May 21, 2009 8:07 PM
Subject: [STMFC] Errata Site? Re: The growing problem of erroneous captions

--- In STMFC@..., Tim O'Connor <timboconnor@...> wrote:
> And who will correct the corrections?

Tim is exactly correct. I have written 4 books for Morning Sun. My experience with captions has been a bit different than the complaints here about "the growing problem of erroneous captions."

The following is intended simply to add information to the discussion. I feel no need to defend myself or any other author nor do I feel insulted or even criticized by any of the comments. I merely hope to give a different viewpoint for those few who might be interested.

I busted my butt on the first book (M&StL in Color) for Morning Sun. I kept pretty careful account of all my expenses, too, and when all was said and done my cost was 150% of my remuneration. I'm not faulting Bob but merely trying to indicate the effort to which I went.

Some of the photos used in the book were sequences taken at the scene of events. I had the good fortune to interview supervisory employees directly involved and had some pretty good stories (in my opinion) in those captions. I would often ask folks what they thought of what I wrote about one or another of those events. The response was always the same, "Oh, I never read the captions. I just look at the pictures." That response has been nearly universal about all 4 books. Granted, I haven't spoken with every reader but ... How important are captions if no one reads them. OK! OK! They still have to be correct.

So far as I know of only two people have ever read anything in M&StL in Color. These two persons - who I knew would attempt to find as much fault as they could - wrote letters pointing out errors which letters arrived before I ever saw a copy of the book myself. One pointed out one error; the other two. Of those two, he was wrong about one although I must admit that it was my awkward wording that caused him to misunderstand the caption and consider it an error.

I can state flatly, without fear on contradiction, that there are 3 errors in M&StL in Color. And I'll bet coffee and doughnuts on me at our next meeting that no one can find more than one. (Hint: The M&StL depot in Des Moines is actually the Des Moine Union depot. Mea culpa!) In spite of that, I recall walking into a hobby shop in the Midwest just in time to hear a fellow say, "Now you take Gene Green's books. They are full of errors." There's more to the story but suffice it to say that he ended up more embarrassed than I. And everyone else in the store had a good laugh.

My second book was the CGW Color Guide which I put together hastily when the original author quit abruptly near the publication deadline. I knew nothing about the CGW at the beginning although I surely know a lot now. I've never heard about an error in that book which is a great disappointment to me. I guess no one has read any of it.

The third book was also a "pull the fat out of the fire" job done in haste. One reader sent me about 20 typewritten pages of corrections or should I say "corrections" since he was right on some; wrong on others. He actually expected me to incorporate all his "corrections" into a revised volume which he expected the publisher would then print and distribute to original purchasers. As you might guess, he is in science, not business.

I think my points are as follows:
1. Each author does his best but his "best" might not be good enough and he himself defines best. That last is the worst part.
2. The pictures never contain errors, just the captions do, so half every book is error free.
3. Apparently very few have ever read any of my captions so why did I bother?
4. In every book there is more that is correct than in error. You spent your money so try to see the book in a positive light and maybe you won't feel so bad about the purchase.
5. Like the fellow in the Midwest hobby shop, many "critics" overstate their case. He was referring to one error in one book but what he said was, "Now you take Gene Green's books. They are full of errors."
6. Frankly, you guys are NOT the target audience for these picture books whether by Morning Sun or other publishers.
7. Most of what I have read this evening is reasonable and correct. Some captions are terrible; others better. Caution is advised.
8. Unfortunately it is incumbent upon the purchaser to know the author's reputation, attention to detail and propensity to make errors. In this group most of us can do that fairly easily. The more casual modelers and railfans can't do that very well and that is a real pity.

Gene Green

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