Okay, folks, this saga just goes on and on and on, with no resolution in sight. And yes, this is in progress and will be updated as I get more information.
A second lengthy online chat with an Amazon service representative on Friday, 13 July 2012, yielded more misinformation, but it did not provide a workable solution to the problem.
Amazon is still saying that the problem with the formatting of Norma Beishir's Angels at Midnight as it appears on my Kindle for PC is caused by my Kindle for PC and that the only way to fix it is to de-register all the various Kindle for PC apps that have somehow appeared on my laptop computer, uninstall them, delete all of my Kindle content, and start from scratch. This would involve redownloading 628 books.
When I tried actually installing the Kindle for PC app on my desktop computer, guess what happened? ALL THE OTHER KINDLE FOR PC APPS also appeared. Worse, however, was that some 54 of my downloaded books DISappeared. Or so it seemed. The suggestion I made to Amazon -- and documented in the chat log -- was that it looked like the 54 missing books could very well be free samples that I had downloaded, and some of them were for books that were no longer available on Amazon. I had no desire to lose those free samples, at which point the Amazon rep told me there was nothing they could do about it.
In fact, she had no clue what she was talking about, because it turned out those missing books were NOT the free samples. I still have no idea why there is a discrepancy of 54 books between my Kindle library as it shows for the Kindle for PC that I downloaded to my desktop computer and the Kindle for PC app on my laptop.
So I spent a good portion of yesterday -- Saturday, 14 July 2012 -- making sure I had back-ups of all my Kindle content. Don't ask me how I did it. You don't want to know. At least not right now. I finished that project this morning, which involved deleting and redownloading approximately 25 of the 627 books already on the device.
No one seems to know why that was necessary.
Sidebar update: It appears, but it is not confirmed, that an update to the Kindle for PC app was made sometime in March 2012 and this may have caused all existing Kindle content to require the delete-and-redownload process. Again, this is what appears to have happened, but I have no confirmation. For some reason or other approximately 25 of my Kindle books had not been redownloaded at that time, and they required that process in order to facilitate the back-up process. All of my Kindle content has now been backed up.
But with everything backed up as securely as I could make it, I decided to try downloading a new book. On today's free list was Danger at Mellin Cove by Rena George. I downloaded it and opened it in my Kindle for PC. And the formatting was screwed up.
Although it's not easy to see on this screen shot, the problem is so bad that I cannot read the book: At the beginning of each line of text on the left margin, about half of the first letter is missing. The first letters of indented lines are fine; only the very left edge is affected. And this goes through the entire book, making it unreadable. One has to stop at the beginning of each line to figure out what the missing letter should be.
Here's the "Look Inside" version:
As you can see, this version has indented paragraphs, and all the letters are clearly visible. Not at all like the version that showed up on my Kindle for PC with its indented block paragraphs and chopped off letters.
The first thing I did was report this to Amazon via the book's page. I explained what the problem was and that it was through the entire book. About an hour later, I received a stock message from Amazon asking me where in the book the problem was and what the problem was. As you can imagine, I was not particularly polite in my reply, since that is exactly what I had already told them.
About two hours later, I received another canned reply from Amazon informing me that due to the formatting error, Danger at Mellin Cove was being pulled until the problem could be fixed. As far as I've been able to determine, the book has not been pulled and the problem has not been fixed. Again, the problem doesn't show up on the "Look Inside" preview.
Update: 16 July 2012: Danger at Mellin Cove was briefly unavailable in the Kindle edition. It is currently available for $1.54, which may be a conversion of the UK price. I don't know.
In the space of a week now, I've discovered two self-published books that are not showing up correctly on the Amazon Kindle for PC application. I already know about the problems that cropped up with Firefly and which I now have no real way of verifying if all is well. There was a huge and very nasty brouhaha in the Amazon "Badly Behaving Authors" thread a week or so ago because of another book that didn't show correctly on all devices; it was actually removed from circulation and some changes made, but that book, Wisteria Falls, remains not-quite-right on my Kindle for PC.
Self-published authors should not have to purchase every single variety of Kindle device in order to be sure their product is being published correctly.