Here we go again…
There’s a change coming at Amazon. You know what that means.
Panic! Share the first poorly-researched blog post you can find! Scream! Rage at Amazon’s cruelty until your fury is spent and you’re left crying into your ice-cold coffee.
And now that we’ve gotten that out of our systems, let’s breathe calmly into our paper bags while we examine the facts.
This week, the Good E-Reader blog announced that “Kindle e-Books will have a warning message if they have spelling mistakes.”
Some authors have taken that headline at face value and assumed the worst: that Amazon will brand any books deemed to have typographic errors — no matter how minor — with a sinister warning label.
First, only ebooks that have received specific complaints from readers will be examined. I once filed a complaint like this when an ebook I purchased turned out to be an unreadable mess. Literally unreadable. Gibberish and random characters in place of the headings, line breaks in the middle of sentences, hyphens interrupting every third word.
This is the kind of situation KDP’s new proofing initiative is designed to combat, not the isolated typo that inevitably slips through the most diligent of editing.
Second, complaints are reviewed by actual humanoids at Amazon. The process is not automated, and there will be an opportunity to contest or correct a problem if your book is determined to have issues.
What will Amazon look for?
The errors Amazon will flag include:
- missing content
- duplicated content
- numbers inadvertently substituted for letters, or vice versa (“typ0gr4phic”, “the year 2o12”)
- punctuation used in place of letters (e.g., “I read bo%ks”)
- visible or malformed HTML code
- discretional hyphens (“bad hy-phenation”)
- missing letters (“m ghty pecul ar”)
- unsupported characters (e.g., emoticons)
- incorrect content (as when the publisher uploads the interior file for a different book)
- blurry or excessively compressed images
- body text rendered entirely as underlined, bold, or hyperlinked
- page numbers embedded in the text
- nonfunctional table of contents or internal links
As you can see from the list, these issues are largely due to formatting problems or OCR errors. Amazon will also remove works that violate Amazon rules or don’t meet basic standards, such as a book designed solely to advertise, or a poor translation obtained through Google Translate.
What will Amazon ignore?
Amazon will not flag:
- minor typographical errors (“What have you got to loose?”)
- regional spelling differences (e.g., “favourite” vs. “favorite”)
- dialogue, accents, or dialects (“I doan’ budge a step out’n dis place ‘dout a doctor”)
- foreign languages, archaic speech (“leet his sheep encombred in the myre”)
- proper names (“The Dothraki called that land Rhaesh Andahli”)
What are the consequences?
If Amazon’s screeners confirm that a book has issues, there are two possible actions.
For errors prominent or numerous enough to detract from the reader’s enjoyment, Amazon will place a warning banner on the product’s page alerting customers that the item is under review. Authors and publishers will then have an opportunity to correct the issue and promptly remove the warning banner. (Amazon has already been doing this for years; they’re just expanding the conditions that can trigger an alert.)
Errors that render the book unusable or incomplete or books that violate Amazon’s Terms of Service will be removed from sale.
That’s it, friends. Nothing malign, nothing alarming. Just an improvement to quality control that won’t affect any professionally edited and formatted book.
Update 1/23/2016: Some authors are reporting flags for a small number of typos. This is inconsistent with what Amazon has previously said, and the enforcement appears to be erratic. It is possible that Amazon’s employees are confused about how strict they should be in cracking down on issues. Stay tuned for further updates.
Update 1/24/2016: A KDP representative has informed me that the warning labels will be referred to as CFQIs, Customer Facing Quality Indicators. The first CFQIs will appear on January 27, 2016. The CFQI will read “Quality issues reported”. Hovering over this indicator will display a list of the types of defects reported by customers (and verified by Amazon). The CFQI will also contain a message stating that the publisher has been notified of the issues. Follow-up questions are in the pipeline, and I will report here when (or if) I receive clarifications.
Update 1/28/2016: KDP has provided additional information about the number of typos that will trigger a CFQI.
Our Quality team uses a formula based on how many defects it contains out of the total allowable defects for a book of its length. Longer titles are allowed more defects than shorter ones because the overall impact is distributed. Note that “locations” below refers to the internal divisions of an ebook, not pages or chapters.
While we are not able to disclose this specific formula, please be informed that an average sized novel with around 3000 locations will trigger the quality warning with 10-15 typos.
So there you have it, folks, straight from the horse’s mouth: 10-15 typos will trigger a CFQI in a typical, full-length novel.