It’s a no-brainer. If you had a cook book coming out (or any kind of book for that matter), the last thing you would want would be embarrassing errors, either with the recipes themselves or the ingredients.
Imagine the surprise then, (sic: embarrassment, anger, disbelief) of publishing house, Penguin Group Australia when they discovered their “Pasta Bible” contained a recipe that included “adding freshly ground black people”. What it should have said, of course, was “black pepper”.
The error resulted in seven thousand books having to be pulped and reprinted.
Penguin has said the cost of fixing the gaffe cost them around $20,000 (AUD), which SkyNews also adds would cost $2,000 a letter. I’m not sure if that’s been correctly divided by seven thousand books (another typo?), but there you go.
I spoke to John Dixon, Service Director for translation and proofreading at Applied Language Solutions, who was shocked at the scale of the gaffe:
“While this may be only one error, it isn’t like “pepper” has been misspelled – the context of the mistake is very interesting indeed. I mean who was doing the proofreading? What recipes, this side of a zombie film of course, could ever include the word ‘people’?! It pays to get professional proofreading done by experienced individuals who have worked in your industry – that way you can eliminate embarrassing and costly mistakes like this one.”
Speaking to John made me think of what errors the original proofreader did find in the Pasta Bible – instances of “boiling waiter” and “stuff olive”, somehow spring to mind.
All joking aside, the obvious criticism Penguin has received in relation to the context of the mistake is, of course, quite understandable (if not being ironically hilarious for some). However, what that will cost the publishers in terms of damaged reputation is, as yet, unknown.
Penguin’s head of publishing, Robert Sessions, also labelled anyone who found the error offensive as “small minded” – whether that will leave a sour taste in the mouth (sorry, couldn’t help it) of customers is also anyone’s guess.
Anyway, if you’re interested I’ll bet you can pick a copy up on an online auction, as copies that have already been distributed are “extremely hard” to recall, according to the publishers. However, Penguin are offering replacements for anyone who feels uncomfortable having one of the original prints in their possession.
If you do want to hold on to yours, just be sure take the recipes with a pinch of salt!