NB: Updated for clarity on June 14, 2022
The Essential Errata
An errata or corrigendum is a corrections list, a paper or web page noting and correcting errors in a publication, typically a large academic work. The errata fills the gap between the next edition of a book, when any errors are formally corrected. You’ll often find an errata slipped into the back of a work, a page or two inserted before the title leaves the printer.
A great example of an online errata is that for the Jepson Manual (external link). This serves as the update page for the Manual, a 1,600 page hardcopy tome. Erratas note mistakes and keep people current on new findings in a field which change the publication. It’s no shame to have an errata as no thousand page book is perfect, anymore than the humans who write and review them.
My geology textbook, though, all 836 pages of it, does not have an errata sheet. A little discouraging for a $170 text. In one chapter alone I discovered five errors or oddities, blemishes that carried over to the online materials supporting the work. The book is Dynamic Earth: An Introduction to Physical Geology by Christiansen and Hamblin (2015).
The publisher remains silent on this despite my e-mails. Although I am enjoying the course, I am now worried over what is correct and what is not. 99% of the book must be accurate, I just can’t tell. Unless I have an errata sheet.
We all make mistakes, it’s how we handle those mistakes that counts. Right now, I am counting the moments until I get an errata, as I go further and further into the book. As I struggle with new words and new ideas, I hope I am on the right side of all of them. Let me be very clear about this.
The book has mistakes. A logical concern and question, therefore, is whether those mistakes are reflected in the tests. If the book, for example, states that a certain granitic rock is metamorphic, and not igneous, what do I put down as an answer to that question in a test? A test must be utterly consistent with the text of a book but what if that book has mistakes which the student doesn’t know about?
The instructor eventually e-mailed me to say that no errata sheet exists but that I seem to be compiling one. Thanks for the sarcasam, Professor. I was only looking out for my grade and in a small way trying to help. I thought better of BYU before this course.
A single web page noting mistakes costs nothing. Only sloth and indiference prevents an errata, two characteristics BYU does not accept from its students. Their students, in turn, should not tolerate this conduct from their teachers.
Update: I later dropped the class since I found it impossible to effectively complete the labs outside of the traditional setting in which students, TAs, and professors meet face to face. Much online testing relied on correctly telling the difference between colors in a photograph. I couldn’t judge those nuances. And the book continued to be a minefield of mistakes.
FYI: At the time I wrote this I was working as an editor in The Law. I wasn’t looking for mistakes, they just appeared. Anyone who has been a professional editor knows what I mean.