Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Amazon formating update #4: What are they doing to our words?

Well, I spent another 90+ minutes on chat with someone from Amazon trying to fix this problem with how Kindle books display on the Kindle for PC app.  This is the third such chat, and it yielded no solutions, but more problems.

To recap and bring the situation up to date.  As of today -- Wednesday, 25 July 2012 -- I have at least three Kindle books that display with sufficient problems to make them unreadable.

Danger at Mellin Cove by Rena George
Embrace the Wild Dawn by S.K. McClafferty
A Bride for the Highwayman by Bridgett Farrell

In addition, Norma Beishir's Angels at Midnight displays in an awkward arial font with indented block paragraphs that makes it difficult, though not impossible, to read.  The "Look Inside" version looks just fine, and per one of the chats I had with Amazon, that's because all of the "Look Inside" previews are done in Times Roman font, regardless what font is used in the document.

I had been told several times, both in chats and in emails from Amazon, that the solution to all these problems was to uninstall my Kindle for PC application and reinstall using the latest version.  I resisted doing this because I did not want to lose the content I had already downloaded, nor did I want to go through the hassle of redownloading the 636 books and samples of books I had in my Kindle library.

But I did not want the problem to continue, so I backed up my files and, when I finally had the free time, contacted Amazon through chat again to go through the process of installing a current and correct version of Kindle for PC.

The process actually takes about ten minutes.  First, the existing applications (at one time there were six active on this computer; more about that later) have to be deregistered with Amazon.  That didn't take but a few seconds.  Then the application itself had to be uninstalled through my computer's control panel.  This took a minute or two.  Once it was removed, the current version had to be downloaded from Amazon, installed on my computer, and then registered again.  I did this while I was logged in and chatting with the Amazon service rep.

At the time, I had 635 files in my Kindle library, a combination of books and free samples.  When the reinstalled, reregistered Kindle for PC app booted up, my library showed 982 items!  Almost every item I had downloaded was now duplicated, and there appeared to be no rhyme nor reason as to which ones weren't duplicated.  Needless to say, the service rep I was chatting with had no idea how this happened, and he/she quickly transferred me to someone who was supposedly specially trained to deal with that problem.

The first thing the next person told me to do was deregister, uninstall, reinstall, and reregister the Kindle for PC app.  Even though I told this person I had just done that not two minutes earlier, she/he insisted I do it again.  Thus, I spent another 10 minutes or so repeating the procedure.  And it did no good.  In fact, there were now more duplicates than before, with the total now reaching 999 items.  During the course of the ensuing chat, one of those items disappeared, but I do not know which one or why.  The service rep insisted he had done nothing to remove it.

 I cropped this screen to make the numbers more readable and to show the duplication of Embrace the Wild Dawn but that necessarily leaves off the rest of the duplications.

At this point, the chat became rather heated, with the service rep now insisting the problem was more than he/she could handle and it would have to be turned over to a specialist, who would then get back to the rep in "2 to 3 business days" after which I would be contacted in "3 to 4 business days."  Of course, none of that addressed the original problems, which had to do with the way the books were displaying!  Frustrated and angry, I then gave the service rep a brief rundown of all the problems, which were then supposed to be passed along to the specialist, blah, blah, blah.

After spending well more than 90 minutes and accomplishing nothing, I walked away from the laptop and went back to my day job on the desktop computer in the other room.  It wasn't until three or four hours later that I came back to the laptop to shut it down.  I shut down the Kindle application and the other programs I was running preparatory to turning off the computer.  But at the last minute I wanted to grab one more screen shot so I rebooted the Kindle for PC app.

And all the duplicates were gone!

As of this morning, they remain gone. 

Obviously, these screen shots do not show date and time and you will simply have to trust me (or not, if you so desire) that what I'm telling you actually happened the way I'm reporting.

So, this morning I check the Kindle freebies at and I see a few things I'd like to download.  I do the OneClick thing for one of the books and I get a message that I've already downloaded it.  But in fact I hadn't.  The book's page, which would normally have shown that I had downloaded it and on what date I had done so, showed nothing.  However, when I went to my Kindle for PC app, there it was, and eventually I would discover that I had only purchased it today.  So I have no idea what's going on with that.

When I went to try reading the book, I discovered whole chunks of words were missing.  Whole lines.  Not whole sentences, just lines.  Or something. So of course I checked the "Look Inside" feature and all the words were there just the way they're supposed to be.  Apparently it's the Kindle for PC app that's screwing up again.  So I sent an alert to Amazon, and I got back the usual 'bot reply:  Delete and redownload the book, and if that doesn't work, make sure I have the latest version of the app installed.  We know this routine by now.  I haven't replied to them on that.

Frustrated with that particular book, I went to one that I had downloaded just a few days ago, Secrets of Seacliff House by Stacey Coverstone.  What I opened was all in an unpleasant -- but not really "ugly" courier font.  Double-spaced courier font.  Could I read it?  Oh, yeah, I can read it, but ever since the complaints about Firefly, I find that font really does matter.  I want my Kindle reading experience to be as close to reading a paper-and-ink printed book as possible; I don't want to feel I'm reading someone's type-written manuscript.

Of course, the next thing I did was to go to the "Look Inside" preview, fully expecting to see everything converted to a nice neat professional Times Roman font.  WRONG. 

So, now, what was it that Amazon chat-person said to me?  All "Look Inside" previews are converted to Times Roman?  NOT.  NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT.

Okay, I have to take a break.  My day job is calling and it still pays the bills so I have to give it my full attention at least for a while.

But before I go, I just want to impress on all you self-published authors, or those who are thinking about maybe self-publishing with Amazon:  This is all about US.  Not me, not you, but all of us, and about our readers.  We know Amazon is the 800 pound gorilla.  We know they dominate the market.  What we don't know is what's happening to our material between the time we upload it and the time it reaches our customers.  Our customers, not just Amazon's.  We don't know how many readers gave up on a book and an author because of formatting problems she/he knew nothing about.  We don't know how many readers complained about problems, and how many just shrugged it off and put that author in the "Do Not Buy Again" category.

Is it a problem solely with my Kindle for PC app?  Is it a problem because there's some exclusive glitch in my HP laptop's software?  Do you really believe that? 

I didn't think so.  Neither do I.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Linda,
    I'm the author of Secrets of Seacliff House, which you use as an example here in your blog. I'm sorry you felt the font was unpleasant. I agree with your assessment and have re-published the book in Times New Roman font. Hopefully this will make the experience more pleasant for future readers. Thank you for pointing out how important the font is to Kindle readers.