Copyeditors are essential to quality publishing, yet the economy and advances in technology have made them vulnerable. Many organizations' management philosophy is that the advent of online publishing offers the opportunity for errors to be corrected post-publication. Those copyeditors who remain in the industry often prioritize stories that are destined for print editions, which do not have that luxury.
The ability to improve something even after its mass market distribution has both pros and cons. On the positive side, there is no longer a deadline to a product's evolution; it can be improved indefinitely, eliminating a penalty against early adopters. It is also affordable for the publisher, who can issue updates without a costly reprinting.
However, it also lowers the standard at which a product ships. Does it have a few typos or unchecked facts? That's no longer a reason to miss a shipping deadline; such trivial details can be attended to once sales warrant it.
We've already seen this trend with video games. Twenty years ago, games shipped on physical, immutable cartridges; any defects would require an expensive recall, which was a powerful incentive to get it right the first time. By contrast in today's age of digital media, consumers don't think twice about their Xbox asking them, "Would you like to download the update to your purchase?"
I expect something similar will happen with books. Once these publications move to an electronic format, readers will become copyeditors, reporting typos to the publisher, who can then correct them remotely. It won't be long before Stephenie Meyer fans have to update their e-books to Twilight v1.1.
What do you think? Does the transition from a static medium to a dynamic one bode well or ill for the quality of our literature? And is that because e-books may eliminate more than just the retailer and distributor from the publication process?