(I wrote this letter to my public library system tonight.)

I never thought I'd write this kind of letter, but there's a book I'd like to see removed from the library. My complaint is not about Smut or Profanity or any of the usual candidates, though: it's atrocious editing that has given me a case of the fantods. The publishers deserve 40 lashes with a wet noodle.

Title: The Smart Home Buyer's Handbook
Author: David Keating
ISBN: 188332372X

Let's studiously avoid the weirdest problems, like the fact that page 187 inexplicably appears to the left of page 186. No, what troubles me is that this book wastes the reader's time due to poor copyediting and poor illustrations. Witness the first new paragraph on page 206:

"Therefore, weigh carefully his assurance of a well built and suitable product? Likewise, a real estate broker doesn't make money unless he closes a deal, so don't be swayed by his advice and assurances? And, since the compensation and job security of most bankers is based on the number of loans they close, don't be duped by their friendly willingness to lend you money, lots of money?"

Someone is addicted to question marks at Open Road Publishing, and they've clearly sold all the labels from their illustrations in order to finance their punctuation habit. Look at page 97, if you think your stomach is strong enough. It's fine that the photo (however unnecessarily wide the angle) is labeled "Wood Frame Construction", but the diagram above it is simply labeled "Diagram". Worse yet, the parts in that cutaway drawing of a wall aren't labeled. I'm tempted to grab a pen and start drawing arrows to point out the studs, the sill, the drywall, the insulation, the sheathing, and the exterior wall.

Even if you were to charitably overlook all this, the author's writing style is enough to drive the Optimist Club to thoughts of mass suicide. I don't want to hazard a guess as to how many times I read: "The pros of X are: it is cheap and it is easy to install. The cons are: it is unreliable." I suggest that the author had a crush on his composition teacher in ninth grade and never deigned to learn how to write anything but a five-paragraph essay.

Please, for the good of my fellow readers, deselect this book at the first opportunity. Use it for a roof shingle, throw darts at it, or keep it on hand in case the restroom supplies run low, but please don't allow anyone else's time to be wasted.

Ben Ostrowsky
(my then-current mailing address)

UPDATE: The book is still available at three libraries in the county. There's no accounting for taste.

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