• Shame on You, Amazon

    Posted on August 7, 2012 by in Publishing

    I got an email this morning from a very nice woman named Josie.  She has been a real sweetheart about my writing, even going so far as to send me a picture of Redemption in print, so I would know that the book had turned out okay.  She wanted to let me know that something is very much not okay with the ebook versions Amazon was selling of both Out of the Ashes and Redemption.

    Josie noticed that on the Kindle Touch there is a font problem.  On other Kindle readers (the original keyboard version, the Kindle 3, the Kindle app for iPad and other devices), there isn’t an issue (Josie was kind enough to look into this on her iPad and with her husband’s Kindle 3, and I checked on my keyboard reader).  But on the Touch and quite possibly the Kindle 4 (based on this information), the font (Josie likes to read on size 4) is teeny-tiny, and when you try to enlarge the size, funky things begin happening to the spacing, rendering the book almost impossible to read.

    I was really surprised by this.  I’d taken great care to test my books prior to uploading on Amazon’s Kindle Previewer software, which allows you to see how your files will look on various readers and with various fonts and sizes.  I even shared with Josie the screen capture below to illustrate what the file looks like on the previewer (the example is at font size 3 on a Kindle Touch).  As you can see, it’s a very legible size.

    Josie is a keen detective and she was able to point me to some discussions about this issue on a couple of online boards.  One is here; the other is here.  She also emailed Kindle Support to tell them about the problem.  They told her they were aware of the issue but “don’t have a timescale to fix it”.  Here is what Josie wrote to me later in the day, regarding all she’d learned:

    From all I have read about this issue on both Kindle forums and elsewhere it’s definitely an issue with the AZW3 format (this is the new KF8) and both the Kindle 4 and the Kindle Touch only, but if Amazon releases more Kindles later this year then no doubt it will be an issue with those as well, and of course if Amazon provides a software update to the K3 to give them the AZW3 format (at present they can’t read it, so K3′s get an AZW format ebook) then the issue will affect the K3 as well.

    For what it’s worth, Josie downloaded Redemption’s preview file off of Smashwords and had no problem with the mobi.  So Amazon is definitely at fault.

    She informed me this afternoon that she’d decided she needed to return not one but both of my books (though she still has Redemption in print).  I told her I completely understood.

    I’m unclear if this is an issue only with files uploaded by indie writers or if this is something publishers are facing as well (I’ve just gotten home from work and haven’t had time to read through the message threads yet). I’ll be frank, I’d seen a higher number of returns on Out of the Ashes than I’d like to see. I don’t know if that’s a reaction to my writing, to the fact that I mention in the frontispiece the novel began life as a fic, or because people are literally having trouble reading the file. But it’s frustrating in the extreme.

    Not only does this font problem impact my profits, but it makes me look like I’m a careless indie writer, that I don’t do the quality checks I need to do before sharing my work.  Indie writers have enough trouble combating such biases.  I hate that this issue feeds into them.

    I also hate that this is something I’m locked into for 90 days.  I signed up Out of the Ashes for KDP Select because of the high (100+/month) “borrow” numbers Redemption had enjoyed.  In fact, if you read many of my posts on the Goodreads Author Feedback Group, you’ll see I’ve been an outspoken advocate for Select.  But no more.  Approximately 98% of my sales come from Amazon and, as I’d mentioned, I’m a Kindle owner myself.  But if people are buying my ebooks only to find they can’t read them, how is that helping any of us?  Shame on you, Amazon, for making readers unhappy and for costing your authors sales.

    If you read this post and feel similarly frustrated and/or annoyed, please retweet.  I wonder how many authors are unaware of this problem.  I wouldn’t have known about it if it hadn’t been for Josie.

    Thanks, Josie.  I owe you one.

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5 Responsesso far.

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  2. LR21 says:

    I have run across this on non indie author books where the font spacing is off. I was wondering what that was all about. I have a basic Kindle. I don’t think the formatting issues are just on indie author books, but yes; I do think indie authors will always bear the brunt of the negative comments on something they have no control over.

    • OliviaDCraig says:

      It doesn’t make sense that only indies would experience these issues–not unless there is some kind of additional conversion step that established publishing houses go through with their uploads. But I’d wondered. I can’t help but think the Big 6 wouldn’t put up with their product being altered in such a way that consumers were complaining about it. You know they have more sway than the indies do.

  3. Ryan Field says:

    I have three indie books out on Amazon, and a lot of other digital books with publishers. I haven’t heard of any problems yet. But I always buy my indie books with my amazon account just like a reader would, and then I download them to several different e-reading devices to see how they look.

    I also opted out of select this time because of the 90 day exclusive. I have a lot of readers on Kobo and ARe and readers were e-mailing me about it.

    • OliviaDCraig says:

      I always test books on my Kindle. But I don’t own multiple versions. That’s why I’ve relied on the previewer software. I’d thought that would be enough to catch any problems. Looks like I was wrong. :-(

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