The error was a misspelling: “Parodox.” The author had called from his hotel in a panic and couldn’t sell the books. The conference opportunity was lost. We went over options, such as putting stickers on the spine, but this was much more costly than you’d think, and very labour-intensive—and would not have looked good. We investigated the possibility of tearing off the covers and rebinding all the books with new covers, but this was even more expensive, and would have also wasted a percentage of the copies that couldn’t be rebound. Both options would have also taken more time than simply reprinting. So the publisher decided to scrap the entire print run to reprint the book, which cost $30,000. Glad I didn’t have to pay for that! At least the old copies were sold for pulp paper, but that generated mere pennies on the dollar, and even that process required the labourious removal of a disk insert in a plastic sleeve at the back of each book. The book was also one of two companion books, as mentioned, with the second one already planned to follow two months later, Paradox Queries: A Developer’s Reference, so they were both printed and marketed together, and both came out in June of 1993.
What happened, as you might have guessed, is that all of us were dutifully reviewing the text, but none of us happened to turn our heads sideways to check the spine carefully, and we all missed the error. After the decision was made to reprint, and with the conference deadline no longer hanging over our heads, we were able to refine the cover in other ways. The author also ended up proposing a few minor revisions for the interior, and the book finally appeared with a correct spine two months later, with its companion book. Luckily for the designer, all of us had signed off on the error, so the error was not just on his head, but it was a hard pill for the publisher to swallow. Check your spines, folks!
One other work-related typo I recall was even more embarrassing because of the context, but never fixed. It happened around 1990 or 1991 at the Seybold Desktop Publishing conference at Moscone Center in San Francisco (where I staffed a conference booth and was also fortunate enough to meet Bill Gates). Fortunately, this typo wasn’t my fault, and was no doubt not noticed in time to reprint, or a reprint was deemed too costly. Thousands of conference attendees were given a glossy folder with the conference logo in the middle, with “San Francisco, California” printed in large letters in a circle around the logo. However, the city was misspelled as “San Fransico.” For such an error to happen at a desktop publishing conference, of all places, was particularly ironic. I wish I had saved my copy of that folder.
—29 March 2020