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Yesterday’s News, and Tomorrow’s: Badly-Formatted Kindle eBooks Will (Continue to) Display an Error Message

4126266273_1a61f772ff_bAn old story cropped up yesterday as "new" news when it may be anything but. According to one of my competitors:

Starting February 3, 2016 Amazon will begin showing customers a warning message on the Kindle store detail pages of books that contain several validated quality issues. The warning message will be removed as soon as Amazon received an updated file from self-published authors or publishing companies.

Amazon has two stages of the warning system that will go live within a few short weeks. If an e-book only contains a few spelling mistakes, but is still readable, a simple warning message will appear on the details page of that specific title. It will make the average book buyer aware that there are some issues. If the book has bad formatting issues, and basically renders it unreadable Amazon will suppress it and the book listing will be removed.

At least half of this story is old news, and I am still waiting on confirmation of the other half.

Amazon has been pulling ebooks for egregious errors for over four years now, and replacing the listings with warning messages like the following:

kindle type warning message

I reported on this story in October 2012, and cited a discussion from 2011, so it’s not exactly a new story in 2016. In fact, it wasn’t exactly news in 2012; I had heard reports going back as early as 2010 that Amazon would pull ebooks for serious errors.

Amazon has continued to pull ebooks in response to reader complaints since then, so the only possible new news today is that Amazon might be adding a second error message.

But I am still waiting for confirmation.

I want that confirmation because because I don’t see it as very likely that Amazon would post a notice  over "a few spelling mistakes" when those mistakes could just as easily be valid alternate spellings or words which aren’t listed in the dictionary used by Amazon’s bot.

False positives are even more likely now that the Kindle Store stocks ebooks in several dozen languages, but it is still possible that Amazon will warn readers about minor issues.

Have you seen one of those warning messages? What did it say?

Update: And now I have confirmation. Over on KBoards an author has posted the email he received from Amazon:

Our shared goal is to provide the best digital reading experience for customers on Kindle. When customers contact us with quality issues in a book you published, we validate the issues and send them immediately to you to fix.

Starting February 3, 2016 we will begin showing customers a warning message on the Kindle store detail pages of books that contain several validated quality issues. We will remove this message for a book as soon as we receive the fixed file from you and verify the corrections — typically within 2 business days.

We understand that even with the best quality controls, defects sometimes make it through. That’s why we’ve limited this messaging to books with several issues. Books with more serious quality issues will continue to be suppressed from sale.

So the new two-tier warning system is real.

image by JuditK

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carmen webster buxton January 21, 2016 um 10:38 pm

Interesting. I recently bought a Dorothy L Sayers book, and the formatting was so incredibly bad, I asked for my 99 cents back. Oddly, it turned out I already had the same book from a different publisher, but Amazon didn’t display the "You bought this item on …" message at the top, I guess because it was from a different publisher. Sayers must have gone out of copyright. So, Amazon has a different ASIN for the two versions, but they lump the reviews together and now all versions are getting one star reviews. I even blogged about the problem.

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That is interesting, yes. If Amazon is conflating the reviews then why not the making a connection between purchases (at least a suggested connection).

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I have not seen this "warning" once despite reading multiple reviews on a single book alerting potential buyers/readers of horrible grammatical/spelling/editing/formatting errors – reviews I heed despite having no warning from Amazon

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Thank you. You are the Snopes of the publishing world. 🙂

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Thanks! I do try my best!

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