Thursday, May 20, 2021

Books with Missing Pages - How Big a Problem Is It?

I just got an unpleasant surprise after finishing up Chapter 8 of Blake Bailey's controversial Philip Roth biography. It seems that Norton, the publisher of the bio, has some quality control issues when it comes to bookbinding. Pages 115 through 146 are missing, and the missing pages include all of chapters 9 and 10, and a portion of chapter 11. Making it even worse, this seems to be the chapters during which Roth wrote Portnoy's Complaint and faced a backlash from the Jewish community for doing so - a part of his life I was particularly interested in learning more about. (It's hard to know exactly what's missing, but that's my best guess of the contents of the missing section.)

Now the question is do I bother asking for an exchange of the book or not? It's a hassle to get to a UPS store to mail the book back to Amazon and there are no guarantees that I'll receive a complete book the second time around. We have a large Amazon warehouse facility about 35 miles from us here, and I'm willing to bet that a replacement copy would come from the same "tainted" batch of books sitting in that warehouse. So, this could turn into a chain of returned books...and I don't think I'm up to that. 

Too, I spotted a review of the book on Amazon that said that the reviewer's copy was missing a 32-page section beginning with page 433, so this does not appear to be a particularly isolated problem with the way that Norton bound Philip Roth: The Biography. I've had this kind of thing happen to me only three or four times despite having handled and read thousands of books over the years, but I can't believe that it happened here in what is otherwise such a high-quality book. I don't know what kind of quality control problems Norton had, or has, during its printing process, but this is particularly frustrating in a book that has already officially been yanked from publication by its publisher in an attempt to avoid conflict with all the Cancel Culture hypocrites out there. 

Luckily, I got to page 115 before the return-window on the book closed for this purchase, but I could easily have not noticed the problem before the return-option was closed to me. Oh, well. I suppose some would say that, because Blake Bailey's personal reputation is in tatters right now, there is a little bit of poetic justice here for all involved. 

I'll decide in a couple of days whether I want to fool with the whole return-process or not, but now I'm wondering how often you guys have run into this kind of thing. (I do remember getting duplicated pages in a book one time, too, by the way.)

18 comments:

  1. It has happened to me at least twice. A book I read recently was missing about thirty pages- and it was sections I particularly wanted to read, too! Seems an entire signature was simply left out of the binding. Years ago I bought an expensive (for me) illustrated edition of Frankenstein from Powell's- and didn't read it for months, but when I did, found it was missing some final pages. I notified the seller and they promptly sent me a new copy- I didn't find the process to make a return too difficult. I was just glad they would do so quite a while after my purchase! And I've had the opposite- a few books have come my way which have duplicated sections- I still have one, the first thirty pages are repeated (frontispiece, copyright page, table of contents and all). I kept that one as a novelty, found it rather amusing actually. Whereas books with missing pages really irritate me, because I can't read the whole thing!

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    1. I realize this kind of error - at the speed at which books are printed today - is difficult, if not impossible, to catch. I just wish that I didn't have to lug it all the way to a UPS shop to get them to make it good. Luckily, this doesn't seem to happen too often.

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  2. How annoying! And such a big chunk of the book to be missing. Ugh. I've checked out library books with pages that had fallen out from being handled so much, but I've never bought one that had missing pages. Irritating.

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    1. It's doubly frustrating, Susan, because this one is already officially out of print pending the virtual tar-and-feathering of its author. Apparently, though, Norton hasn't recalled copies that had already been shipped - at least from Amazon.

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  3. I can't recall that I've ever had this happen but it would be extremely annoying. Since I read mostly on Kindle now missing pages probably would never be an issue.

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    1. I thought about asking Amazon just to give me an e-book replacement copy - but then I realized I'd still have to make a trip the UPS, so that doesn't help much.

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  4. I've never had this happen to me with a book I've ordered but I've borrowed old library books with a few pages ripped out. It's upsetting then so I imagine it's worse when you paid for the book!

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    1. Very frustrating, Carrie. I'll probably go through the hassle to get a replacement copy, but I'm betting right now that I'll get a duplicate of the same problem because my shipments all come from the same big warehouse not far from me.

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  5. I've gotten duplicate pages in a book once, and I remember reading a book where just one of the pages was missing, but never a big chunk like that! How frustrating.

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    1. I think extra pages would annoy me almost as much as missing ones, Lark. It doesn't seem like a lot to ask from a publisher that we receive the number of pages we paid for...nothing more, nothing less.

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  6. If that's the 'so called' controversial section is there a possibility the publisher pulled that section on purpose? No, surely not. Just seems 'really' odd to me, given all that you said in your former post abut the book and its author.

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    1. Cath, it's an important part of Roth's story but it's not the reason that the book has been pulled by Norton. The publisher pulled it because the author has been accused of rape of underage students of his when he was teaching in New Orleans aa couple of decades ago. I haven't heard anything new about the charges or potential criminal charges that could be filed.

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  7. Sam, I've been able, on occasion to have UPS pick up at my house and they even slap the label on. Another option is printing the UPS label and dropping it in one of those UPS boxes around town - we have 2-3 close by in our small town? Still awful that you need to deal with this. I'd email Norton as well to let them know how disappointed you were?

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    1. We do have one relatively nearby, Diane. My real frustration comes from the strong possibility that I will receive a replacement book with the exact same problem.

      We have an Amazon warehouse in the area that I get a lot of shipments from, including the book. I worry now that a whole batch of the books may have been bound with the same error and shipped in batches so that I may just be spinning my wheels. I've tweeted Norton about the problem, but haven't had a response...doubt that I'll hear anything.

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    2. I dropped off the bad copy at the UPS Store a few minutes ago. The staff there got a laugh out of the reason I was returning the book to Amazon.

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  8. It's only happened to me once. A rather expensive hardcover biography of one of the more famous mistresses of one of the French kings. It was missing almost three chapters, like your book. I took it back to Brentano's, and they exchanged it for me. Fortunately that was the only book in their stock of that title that had missing pages.

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    1. I've got a replacement book coming now that should arrive on Monday, and I'll drop the copy I have off at the UPS store on Tuesday if all goes as planned.

      I don't even know how these major publishers work things...do they have their own presses or do they subcontract that part of the work to other companies, etc.? And at the speed that I imagine the process to happen, I wonder if it's even possible to catch this kind of error before dozens of misprinted books slip through the crack.

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