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Debunked: No, Amazon Isn’t Banning Short-Short Fiction From the Kindle Store

3446170224_b96f36178b[1]There is a report over on KBoards earlier this week that Amazon might be about to adopt a new minimum word count for ebooks sold in the Kindle Store.

According to the email that one author received, Amazon is going to remove ebooks that are less than 2,500 words long.

KBoards member MarlaB posted the email which says: "In the best interest of Kindle customers, we remove titles from sale that may create a poor customer experience. Content that is less than 2,500 words is often disappointing to our customers and does not provide an enjoyable reading experience."

But will this really happen? I’m not so sure.

Edit: Amazon KDP has denied the story. Scroll down for the proof.

Several authors have already commented on this topic on KBoards that their work might be affected, and that they have not received any emails from Amazon. The lack of notice from Amazon is leading some to wonder if this might be an isolated incident. In the words of one author:

I’m on several really big lists with authors all writing very short works, and no one else has ever gotten this. The guess is that it was triggered by a customer who decided to complain to just the right rep. Amazon has a habit of overreacting in cases like that.

This is probably true.

While Amazon is in the habit of suddenly enforcing new rules with little notice, they also make sure to tell everyone about it. In May 2012 Amazon got serious about banning public domain and junk ebooks from the Kindle Store, and they sent out an email to all KDP authors and publishers. The email highlighted Amazon’s content rules, which said in part:

Some types of content, such as public domain content, may be free to use by anyone, or may be licensed for use by more than one party. We will not accept content that is freely available on the web unless you are the copyright owner of that content. For example, if you received your book content from a source that allows you and others to re-distribute it, and the content is freely available on the web, we will not accept it for sale on the Kindle store. We do accept public domain content, however we may choose to not sell a public domain book if its content is undifferentiated or barely differentiated from one or more other books.

Amazon has not sent out an email announcing a shift in policy for short-short ebooks, so I’m not completely convinced that there is a new policy.

So how short is 2,500 words? To put it one way, it’s a really long blog post, and it’s also much shorter than what Amazon allows into the Kindle Single Store. But from a book perspective that length is not unusual.  A work that is less than 7,500 words is typically  defined as a short story, and a short-short  can be as short as a thousand words. Stories of this length used to be bundled into anthologies, but thanks to the rise of ebooks each story can be sold individually.

I have queried Amazon and will report back with their response.

Update: I never heard back from Amazon but another author did. This was posted in the comments over at The Passive Voice:


I can confirm that that information is not from Kindle Direct Publishing, therefore it is not true.

I hope this helps.

Thanks for using Amazon KDP.

It looks like I was right all along. Amazon hasn’t changed their policy, which means that this really was just a single incident.


image by D’oh Boy (Mark Holloway)

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Robert Nagle April 26, 2013 um 12:21 pm

It’s about time. It bothers me that these two to three page "ebooks" are mixed with the rest of them. Sure, if you’re writing poetry or flash fiction, exceptions can be made.

A kinder way to deal with this is to let searchers filter out titles less than 20,000 words.

Simon April 26, 2013 um 12:51 pm

This will be a serious problem for those who write poetry.

For example, I would bet an edition of Shakespeare’s Sonnets would come in at under 2,500 words. The same would probably be true of many, if not most, poetry books, with the exception of career collections or the epics.

fjtorres April 26, 2013 um 1:29 pm

Individually? Yes.
But the full set (Gutenberg edition minus boierplate) comes in at a satisfying 17,700 words as measured by MS Word. 😉

Amazon’s point about customer experience is on the money; Kindle is not (yet?) organized for micropayments. Consumers are used to thinking of books in term of substantial lengths or longer-than-novvella length so they find a bit of cognitive dissonance in an ebook that amounts to a handful of pages. And since Amazon tends to back customers whenever necessary…

Poets and short story authors would better serve themselves (and their customers) by collecting and anthologizing the very short material into more reasonable volumes.

Tony Hursh April 26, 2013 um 10:43 pm

I’m actually surprised that Amazon hasn’t created its own micropayment setup. A market for short stories at 25 cents (or whatever) would be excellent, as long as it was clear to the readers what they were purchasing. Some authors really shine in that format.

Nate Hoffelder April 26, 2013 um 10:58 pm

That would be a good idea. It would segregate the shortest works into a single category and make it clear that they’re not book length works.

Greg M. April 26, 2013 um 3:04 pm

Hemingway’s Hills Like White Elephants is a great short short story, but it probably best collected with other works and not sold as a stand alone, unless there were clear indication it was very short. The same would hold true for lessor authors.

Becca April 28, 2013 um 10:29 am

This has been debunked over at The Passive Voice

Nate Hoffelder April 28, 2013 um 10:35 am

That’s exactly what I thought would happen.


Bill Smith April 28, 2013 um 11:51 am

It would be helpful if Amazon had three standard categorizations on every book: Estimated page count (use 250-300 words per page), word count, and estimated reading time (rated at say, 15,000 words per hour, as uses).

Many–but not all–books list pages. Some, however, list only file size, which is about the most useless statistic of all since it appears to be zero relationship to length of the book.

These three datapoints in every listing would help clear up a lot of confusion and establish a useful standard.

It would be good for authors to list this info in their book descriptions.

I think it would be cool for authors who go without DRM to prominently list DRM-free as well, since I see that as a selling point…and it raises awareness of the DRM issue to those not in the know.

Finally, it would be great if Amazon would allow readers to sort by story length as Smashwords does — 40K).

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