Sunday, May 6, 2012

Does Amazon KDP want to engage authors or commoditize them?

We just released a new version of  on May 1, 2012.

As we promised our alpha-edition buyers, we fixed hundreds of errata and added two new chapters.

(UPDATE: we’ve deleted the spreadsheet rows corresponding to the fixed errata, which numbered over 200.  So if you look at this list now you’ll find only newer errata reported in last couple of weeks.  You can use Google Spreadsheets’ versioning feature to see an older version of the spreadsheet showing all the errata we fixed.)

Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) had told us that when we did this, all we had to do was:

(a) email Amazon and have them notify readers of the changes, and that they could receive a free re-download

(b) email our readers (if we knew who they were) and tell them to contact Amazon customer support and request a free re-download

We have done (b), so Amazon can expect to hear from a lot of readers, especially given that I tried to do (a) two days ago and finally got a robot response from KDP saying “Send us a detailed list of your changes. If we agree they’re major, we’ll notify people.  If they cause formatting issues, we’ll pull your ebook” (as they did without telling us in January).

I tried to reply to this email, as instructed, with a description of the changes and a link to the errata page on which the problems were reported.  Indeed, Amazon itself emailed us a number of haphazard complaints about content (some of which were factually wrong or themselves contained speling errerrs) about the ebook during the 3 months since it was first released.

My reply email bounced.

If I was an Amazon customer having this experience trying to buy a book, someone would likely get fired.  Yet the only reason our previous author problems got any attention is because we used out-of-band research relationships to escalate it through an organization that until then had shown not the slightest sign of giving a shit about the concerns of authors.

Perhaps Amazon will become one more faceless channel for companies like BookLocker or Vook, competing against Google Books and iBooks in a race-to-the-bottom business.  Publishers may take 85 cents on the dollar, but at least they don’t respond with robot emails.  Amazon KDP should decide if it wants to positively engage authors, or commoditize them.  It can’t do both.

Look for  on Google Books in the next week or so.

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