Thursday, July 02, 2015

Book publishers start fact-checking; could this affect self-publishers?

Slate (and Vulture) has an interesting article by Boris Kachka, “Will book publishers ever start fact-checking? They’re already starting”, link here.

One imprint, Duggan (belonging to Crown) will offer a fact-checking service that it pays for to authors whom it publishes. 
In practice, book publishers haven’t considered fact checking their business, the way magazines do.  (This blog has reviewed a few magazine issues, like NatGeo, as if they were “books” because of important subject matter and depth of substance.)  The downfall of NBC news anchor Brian Williams illustrates the ease of fabrication and the seriousness of it. 
Ironically, Salon (David Zweig) has reported a serious inaccuracy in David Brooks’s “The Road to Character” (reviewed here June 16).  Random House will correct it in future editions.
The concern from publishers goes against a grain, where authors indemnify publishers for liability claims, although these clauses are rarely enforced in practice (there have been a few egregious incidents however, some of them author fraud). 
The issue also reminds one of the possibility of a tort of “negligent publication”.  Because of low-cost self-publishing and because of the Internet and searchable WWW, we have come to value the ability to self-publish without gatekeepers, which would mean there would naturally be less opportunity for third-party fact checking.  Will this come to the self-publishing world?  Since my own books are largely personal narrative, it would seem less relevant to me than to some others, but there is still considerable research material in my books (like the legal cases around DADT or free speech).  

Take a look at this piece from the Guardian, "The Crisis in Non-Fiction Publishing", by Sam Leith, link

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