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Amazon Wants You to Know They’re Cleaning Up the Kindle Store

Joanna Cabot, writing over at Teleread, was browsing the Amazon website the other day when she came across a notice that was new to her (and me).

kindle type warning message

The above notice showed up on the listing page for an ebook which wasn’t available at the time. As the notice explains, the ebook was not available because it was under review for some less than specific reason.

Now, the notice is new to me but I’m mainly surprised to see Amazon announce that an ebook as been removed (or other non-ebook items). I’m also surprised that Amazon has apparently been using it for over a year before it showed up in the news.

While I’ve never seen this notice before, I do know that Amazon has responded in the past to customer complaints and forced publishers to fix their ebooks.

The most likely explanation for the notice above is that the ebook had formatting errors and Amazon pulled it in order to make the author to fix them. That is not new; I recall a similar situation where Amazon made a publisher fix an ebook under the threat of the ebook being pulled.

If you’re a publisher and never heard of this, well, I got it from someone who makes ebooks and had to fix the broken one. This dates back to Fall 2010, and I’m sure there were plenty of other incidents both before and after.

If you’ve ever returned an ebook and complained about errors, Amazon noticed. I don’t know what the threshold is for them to act, but I know they have responded before. And now with this notice, they are making sure you know that they are cleaning up the Kindle Store.

First it was junk and PD ebooks, then it was ebooks copied from Wikipedia, and now there’s a visible effort to remove badly formatted ebooks. (It’s a pity Amazon won’t extend the same effort to audiobooks.) With each step Amazon is showing that they aim to be better than the small fry which is their competition.

In case you’re wondering, Amazon is not the only ebookstore to make this effort.

Smashwords has been removing junk ebooks for years. And while I’m sure Smashwords would like to remove badly formatted ebooks, their MeatGrinder book converter tends to create them (shudder). B&N, on the other hand, doesn’t even validate Epub files submitted to PubI (but Apple does). Apple is obsessively picky about the content they will allow into iBooks; I doubt we will ever see this kind of notice in iBooks because Apple would regard it as a sign of failure.

But I am glad to see it in Amazon.

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Skip Lombardi October 23, 2012 um 10:17 am

This happened to me and my co-author several weeks ago for a different reason.

It seems Amazon had been "surfing the web"–they must have some automated algorithm for doing this–and found some remarkably similar content in a blog about the same topic as the Kindle book we have listed there.

They promptly removed our book from their site and put it "under review." Fortunately they were good enough to notify us so we could investigate their claims from our end.

Well, it turns out that the content was not "remarkably similar," it was nearly identical. We’ve had a blog since 2007 called "Almost Italian: An online book-in-progress." In June of this year, we decided we had written enough material to publish an ebook and did so.

We wrote back to them apprising them of our findings, and they had us back up within 24 hours.

We too are grateful for Amazon’s diligence–in this case watching out for plagiarized work on their site.

Best regards,
Skip Lombardi

Robin Lenz October 23, 2012 um 10:47 am

Not sure this is an indication of "cleaning up" the Kindle store; the page for Zadie Smith’s NW displayed the same message for a couple of days recently.

Brian October 23, 2012 um 11:09 am

I first remember seeing that under review message (for the book Those Who Hunt the Night by Barbara Hambly) on June 12th 2011.

Different Brian October 23, 2012 um 11:39 am

Could some of this be the result of the "Report Content Error" option that appears under "More" when you long press a word on your Touch? (I’m not sure how/if this works on other models.)

Deanna October 23, 2012 um 3:31 pm

Upon reading Joanna’s article I had just finished reading a New York Review of Books Kindle ed. that had a paragraph from a chapter near the beginning of the book put in a chapter near the end, so of course I decided to give this "new" (to me) service a try.

Received a long, detailed reply telling me to how to delete the copy from my reader and re-download it; if that didn’t work more instructions on how to contact Amazon via phone, thru Support, My Account, Chat, w/a closing blurb: Your feedback is helping us build Earth’s Most Customer-Centric Company. Undoubtedly a form letter!

Just now replied I was not complaining, did not want a refund…just thought they may wish to correct it for future customers. Seems to me to be not worth the effort.

Deanna October 23, 2012 um 5:48 pm

Well, "eat humble pie, Deanna!"

"…apologies for inconvenience…appreciate feedback…email notification on how to download the corrected copy at no charge…" A surprisingly prompt, personal, courteous response.

Apparently Amazon is indeed aiming "…to build Earth’s Most Customer-Centric Company." Or maybe someone over there is Twittering your blog, Nate!

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