Amazon removing books for formatting issues

I have a bestselling book (Free Books for Your Kindle) in the Kindle store…or at least I did until a few minutes ago, when it was removed (without warning) by Amazon for formatting issues.

I will not be allowed to fix the error and reload, but if I resubmit it, it will be as a different title.

As you can imagine, this is very dismaying to me. Something on the order of 5000 people have bought the book, and it has good reviews.

It can no longer be purchased. I don’t know how this will affect the archives for people who have already purchased it, although my guess is that they will be okay. I’ll check that later.

What was the problem? This was the first title I put into the Kindle store, and apparently, some of the quotation marks that I used (I assume they were “smartquotes” put in by Microsoft Word) weren’t rendering, and were showing up as squares. I actually had been alerted to this issue not too long ago (not by Amazon, by a reader), and was planning to fix it. I just hadn’t gotten to it. EDIT: The particular concern on Amazon’s part appears to have been apostrophes, rather than quotation marks. I was able to fix both problems easily, although I can not now update the same listing on Amazon.

So, warning to everybody with books in the Kindle store through the Digital Text Platform: fix any errors now. It was removed without warning: if I’d been alerted first, I could have fixed it right away.

Now, is this overall a good thing? Certainly, there have been a lot of books with bad formatting in the Kindle store, and that has been a source of complaints. Is it Amazon’s place to police that? As I often say, that’s a complex issue. Clearly, Amazon is taking on a much more powerful role with the digital text platform in recent times. They have started to reject public domain titles as well.

I do intend to get some version of the book back into the store, and I may update this post later, but I wanted to get the information out now, to alert other independent authors.

This is an excerpt of the e-mail I received:

“Thank you for your submission of “Free Books for Your Kindle” to the Kindle Store through Amazon DTP. Unfortunately during a quality assurance review of your title, we have found that the apostrophes are replaced by a small box with a question mark inside throughout the book. As a result it has been removed from sale in the Amazon store.

In order to resolve this problem, I would suggest you to upload (as a new submission) a DOC file instead of HTML and publish it. It will not go live in the Amazon store if you re-publish content over the original submission.”

I have asked for additional clarification.

UPDATE: I corrected the file (it just take a few minutes) and uploaded it as a new book. Unfortunately, you will not be able to buy it for five days, I think. I’m hoping to get a redirect from the old version to the new, but I think that’s unlikely. I’ll post more when I have more information.

UPDATE: I have also escalated the issue at Amazon. I appreciate the kind words that other people have been saying about me in conjunction with the situation, in particular the post by Stephen Windwalker in his The Kindle Nation blog post  , and the comment by Andrys of  A Kindle World.

UPDATE: Amazon apologized and restored access, and I uploaded a corrected file.  For more information, see this later post: http://ilmk.wordpress.com/2009/09/16/amazon-restores-free-books-for-your-kindle/

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

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3 Responses to “Amazon removing books for formatting issues”

  1. Windwalker Says:

    This isn’t right, Bufo.

    I just posted on the situation at Kindle nation, fwiw:

    Amazon Uses Heavy-Handed Approach to Remove Some Kindle Editions from Circulation
    Bufo Calvin is a fellow Kindle blogger and author who has been a valuable contributor the Kindle community.

    Today, he reports here in his Kindle blog, Amazon acted without warning to remove his book, Free Books for the Kindle, from the Kindle Store. The book in question has been in the Kindle Store for over 18 months and, according to Bufo, has sold about 5,000 copies. It has a 4-star average customer review rating. It was priced at $2.85.

    Amazon’s reason has to do with a relatively minor formatting issue caused by the way in which Amazon’s DTP publishing platform for the Kindle turns Microsoft Word “smartquotes” into digital gobbledygook.

    It would be so easy for Amazon to give an author or indie publisher fair warning so that an issue like this could be resolved smoothly. There is plenty of crap in the Kindle Store, from what I have seen, but Bufo’s book is not crap. There are plenty of books in the Kindle Store that are challenged when it comes to formatting. For instance, a book I was reading just this morning, under the title The Lost Symbol, has numerous internal headings that have floated all the way to the right of the Kindle display. They create an unsightly appearance unintended by the publisher. But I suspect that it will not be removed from the Kindle Store.

    Meanwhile, there is simply no excuse for the lack of respect and professionalism with which Amazon has treated Bufo Calvin.

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks, Stephen!

      I don’t think any disrespect was intended, and I’m not saying I should be treated differently than anybody else. I think everybody would benefit if Amazon gave independent publishers a chance to correct formatting problems before blocking them. I don’t think it helps Amazon for people to follow a link or do a search and find an unavailable product.

      I have elevated the situation at Amazon, but I think the biggest problem was the lack of warning. If I had been asked to fix it, I could have. In fact, I have fixed the file now (at least according to the preview Amazon gives independent publishers), but can’t re-post it as the same title/ASIN. Hopefully, your post will warn some other independent authors, and regardless of the ultimate outcome in my case, they’ll be forewarned, fix their files, and avoid the same situation.

      Thanks again!

  2. Pat Hawn Says:

    Great minds think alike, Stephen. Iwas just coming here to report The Lost Symbol’s formatting errors. But you guys are eloquent than I.

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