Ebooks

Helvetica, the World’s Most Popular Font, Gets a Face-Lift

22 April 2019

From Wired:

“Helvetica is like water,” says a recent video about the most popular typeface in the world. The 62-year-old font family, with its sans-serif shapes and clean corners, is ubiquitous. It is used on the signage in New York’s subway system. It is the brand identity of American Airlines, as well as American Apparel. It is on those unfortunate T-shirts that say things like “John & Paul & Ringo & George.”

“When something is constructed as well as Helvetica, it should last for a couple of hundred years, just like great architecture,” designer Danny van den Dungen told The New York Times in 2007, when the Museum of Modern Art held a retrospective in honor of the typeface.

But Charles Nix is not a fan. Nix is the director of Monotype, the world’s largest type company, which currently owns the licensing rights to Helvetica. He doesn’t like that the letters scrunch together at small sizes, that the kerning isn’t even across the board. Designers have gotten used to all sorts of magic tricks to make Helvetica look more legible, like changing the size of punctuation marks to balance the letters. “We jokingly refer to it as Helvetica Stockholm Syndrome,” says Nix.

A few years ago, Nix and others at Monotype decided a change was due. The whiff of Helvetica had begun to stink. Major companies, which had used Helvetica for years in branding and other materials, had begun to eschew the typeface. Google stopped using it in 2011, in lieu of a custom font that looks a lot like Helvetica, but better. Apple followed suit in 2013 with its own font. So did IBM. Ditto for Netflix.

Now, Monotype has given Helvetica a face-lift, in the hopes that it can restore some of the magic to the iconic typeface. The new version, Helvetica Now, updates each of Helvetica’s 40,000 characters to reflect the demands of the 21st century. It’s designed to be more legible in miniature, like on the tiny screen of an Apple Watch, and hold its own in large-scale applications like gigantic billboards.

. . . .

Before there was Helvetica, there was Neue Haas Grotesk. Created in 1957, the typeface sprung from the mind of Swiss designers Max Miedinger and Edouard Hoffman. Emblematic of Swiss design and midcentury modernism, it was meant to be simple and clean—a set of letters that would disappear to let the words speak for themselves. In 1961, typeface maker Haas rebranded it as Helvetica and introduced to the wider world.

. . . .

Helvetica Now seeks to remedy some of these issues. The family includes three versions: Helvetica Now Micro, designed for use on small screens, recasts the font with more open forms, open spacing, and larger accents. Helvetica Now Display evens out the kerning for larger type sizes. Helvetica Now Text, the workhorse of the three, is intended for visually crowded environments, so it incorporates more white space into the design for greater legibility.

Link to the rest at Wired

From Edition Guard:

The Best Fonts for E-Books – Ultimate Typography Guide

. . . .

It’s easy for readers to take the number of choices we take for granted.

In the age of digital content, customization has become so ubiquitous that most of us have forgotten a time where there was only one way to interact with written information: the way the publisher intended.

From simple tweaks, like setting your browser’s zoom-level, to more granular ones like your e-book reader’s text alignment and font, creating your “ideal” reading experience is just a view clicks or taps away.

However, with the number of options for customization that we have, often comes the temptation to customize simply for the sake of it. Collectively the team at Edition Guard have lost count of the number of times we selected a new font for our e-book readers, with the most popular justification for doing so being: “I remembered that I could.”

This made us wonder whether there is such a thing as an objectively “better” font for reading an e-book in.

. . . .

[F]rom notable typeface historian and designer Charles Bigelow:

“I recently read nearly every important book, and many of the important papers, on the study of legibility from 1905 to the present….nearly all the good ones say that it is very difficult or nearly impossible to find statistically significant differences in intrinsic legibility between common typefaces read at common sizes and normal distances,” he said in an academic text he published in 2012.

. . . .

Bookerly

Designed in 2015 by independent font foundry Dalton Maag exclusively for the Amazon Kindle, Bookerly is the youngest font on our list. So invested were Amazon in their creation that the font has replaced Caecilia as the default option in all their future devices.

Here’s what the company’s marketing people have to say about the font:

“Warm and contemporary, Bookerly is inspired by the artistry of the best fonts in modern print books but is hand-crafted for great readability at any size. It introduces a lighter, more graceful look and outperforms other digital reading fonts to help you read faster with less eyestrain.”

. . . .

Having been purpose-built for on-screen display, one would think that Bookerly is the easy choice for e-book enthusiasts.

Design writer John Brownlee certainly agrees. “Read Bookerly at much larger font sizes, and some of the fonts delicate touches are allowed to shine: for example, the delicate way the upper arm almost licks the stem of the lower case ‘k’,” he writes in Co.Design.

“Bookerly even includes some lovely ligatures that makes reading on the Kindle feel more like printed typography, like the way the terminal on a lowercase ‘f’ will replace the title on the lower case ‘i’, if they are right next to each other,” he adds. “…it’s a lovely font. And in my testing, I thought it was even more pleasant than Palatino, the typeface I previously used on my Kindle.”

Piotr Kowalczyk from E-bookfriendly.com praised more than the font’s visual appeal, citing Bookerly’s readability as one of its best features.

“The designers of Bookerly font have created a useful visual showing the organic structure of the font. Font serifs are not symmetric, like in Caecilia, the former default Kindle typeface,” he writes.

“What’s more, the serif for each letter is different from the others, what helps create a varied flow of the text,” he said . . . .

. . . .

Baskerville

Designed by lacquered-goods tycoon, John Baskerville (1706–1775), this typeface was created as part of an ambitious undertaking he described as follows:

“Having been an early admirer of the beauty of Letters, I became insensibly desirous of contributing to the perfection of them,” the former and calligraphy instructor wrote in his preface to Milton’s Paradise Lost.

. . . .

A notable difference between Baskerville and other fonts of the era was the increased difference between the letters’ thick and thin strokes, with serifs sharper than its contemporaries.

. . . .

Baskerville is mostly given credit for being the most ornate and historically significant of the fonts available for selection in most popular e-book readers.

“It has respect,” Anna Thompson, Penguin Random House designer told Co.Design, indicating that it would be her choice if she owned an e-book reader.

Robert Slimbach, principal type designer at Adobe Systems, is also a fan, but seems to be one of a small group of readers who considers it a comfortable font to read.

“Its classical characteristics and open counters make it very inviting to read and less fatiguing to the eye,” he told Co.Design.

The font is, however, criticized for some on-screen display issues – most notably as a result of the finer components of the strokes.

“ Rather than showing off how nice the display is, Baskerville does the opposite: it shows how relatively crude it is, resolution-wise,” the experts at Daring Fireball say.

Joel Friedlander over at Thebookdesigner.com feels that, while it is a fine option for printed medium, its Kindle incarnation is “weak-tea.”

Link to the rest at Edition Guard

PG may be atypical in his response to fonts (as he is in so many other ways), but he is mostly oblivious to which font is delivering his reading material.

“[T]he delicate way the upper arm almost licks the stem of the lower case ‘k’” and “Bookerly even includes some lovely ligatures” are well beyond PG’s typical visual comprehension.

OTOH, per the OP, “If you use a typeface that annoys readers or that they find even slightly difficult to read, then you are giving yourself problems.”

PG is thus inclined to live with Kindle’s default fonts in both his e-reading and in formatting Mrs. PG’s ebooks on the theory that the more he doesn’t notice the font, the better.

However, for shorter messages, PG loves the bizarre.

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See Weird Fonts for many more examples

On Creating Bookshelves for an All-Digital Public Library

16 April 2019

From BookRiot:

I work for the first all-digital public library system in the country. Our library branches house no physical books; instead, our resources are housed on multiple platforms/apps like cloudLibrary, Hoopla, RBdigital, Lynda, PressReader, BiblioBoard, and many others. I am the Collections & Acquisitions Librarian for my library and it is hands down the coolest job I have had in my decade in public libraries. The no physical books part of my job does not bother me one bit. It’s quite lovely to not have to handle grimy books that have been through dozens of homes.

. . . .

I evaluate, purchase and curate our digital content for all ages. But unlike a traditional public library that offers multiple locations to display physical books, our ebooks and audiobooks must be carefully curated on digital bookshelves. Every month our digital bookshelves change so that our patrons get a different look at our collection. Since they are unable to walk through stacks and go from physical bookshelf to bookshelf, this is our best chance to highlight books that are overlooked or are older. We usually have anywhere from 12–15 digital bookshelves in any given month. I usually highlight monthly observations while occasionally throwing in my dad joke shelves. These shelves may include color puns or just something I think our patrons will respond to.

You may not think so, but this is quite a difficult task. I am quite competitive and I want our monthly circulation numbers to grow from month to month. If we circulated 20,000 items in March, for example, then I hope to circulate 20,000+ in April. But the truth is, my digital curations are either hit or miss with our patrons. I have one chance per month with these bookshelves to impress our patrons enough that they will actually look through these shelves. If they are not interested, they will skip over most shelves and go straight to our New Fiction and New Nonfiction shelves. It’s quite an interesting task.

. . . .

#BOOKFACE SHELF

This shelf is filled with ebooks and audiobooks that patrons can check out to post their favorite Instagram photos using the #bookface hashtag. The tricky part? Try doing this with a Kindle Fire, NOOK, iPad, or other ereader device. It is much more difficult than using a physical book.

DYSTOPIAN NOVELS ARE SO 1984 SHELF

This shelf contains ebooks and audiobooks of fiction dystopian novels. Some books featured on this shelf are The Dog Stars by Peter Heller, The Power by Naomi Alderman, Blindness by Jose Saramago and American War by Omar El Akkad. Our patrons really love dystopian novels and psychological thrillers.

Link to the rest at BookRiot. Here’s a link to The Bexar County Digital Library and here’s a link to Biblioteca, the tech company that provides cloudlibrary, the digital library infrastructure.

PG noted in the Biblioteca information that the company has helped at least one library transfer its digital content from Overdrive to cloudlibrary.

PG’s local/regional library offers its ebooks through Overdrive. While PG uses Overdrive on a regular basis to read overpriced books from traditional publishers, he has always found the Overdrive customer UI to be pretty clunky. Although he hasn’t been hands-on with Biblioteca’s cloudlibrary, the videos he’s seen lead him to believe that it has a UI much nicer than Overdrive’s.


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BiblioTech Bexar County Digital Library - Exterior
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B&N Press Now Offers Ebook Coupon Codes

30 March 2019

From The Digital Reader

B&N Press continues to add features, lending credence to rumors about an impending sale of the Nook division.

I just got an email from B&N, informing me that B&N Press now offered users ebook coupon codes and better formatting control over book descriptions.

Currently in beta, B&N’s ebook coupon codes give publishers the option to create a coupon code to market and sell their books at a specially discounted price to Nook readers. There’s no meed to worry about price matching on other retail sites., and users control all aspects of the campaign so that they can find and reward Nook readers. This feature is found in the Manage Promotions section from the Projects page.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

PG says he hadn’t thought about B&N Press for a long time.

His initial unmoderated response was similar to one he sometimes has when he sees an article about a movie star he remembers from his childhood – “Is she still alive?”

PG also wonders who might be interested in purchasing B&N Press.

The only entity that initially came to mind was Kobo, but, given Barnes & Noble’s general ineptitude in digital matters, PG suspects any potential purchaser would discount the price offered to take into consideration the expense involved in cleaning up the electronic back office.

Since Apple has a bazillion dollars stashed away and is looking at more content plays in general, perhaps it might buy B&N Press to beef up its offerings.

The first inquiry that comes to PG’s mind for either acquirer is how much overlap there might be between the titles published on Kobo, Apple Books and B&N Press. PG suspects most authors who don’t follow the path of ebook exclusivity with Amazon do so planning to go wide. Once you get your epub up on Kobo, is there a reason not to post it on Apple and B&N as well?

An additional factor that will keep the attorneys for any potential acquirer of B&N Press busy is a potential bankruptcy filing by Barnes & Noble in the future. Care must be taken to avoid having a B&N Press acquisition sucked into that morass.

And iBooks?

26 March 2019

PG did a quick Google search and couldn’t find any mention of iBooks in Apple’s big “moving to services” announcement yesterday.

Is there any reason to think Apple is going to pay much attention to iBooks going forward? Anything Amazon should be worried about?

Drop Caps

22 February 2019

Mrs. PG has gone back to address some minor typos and a few other corrections in some of the earliest ebooks she published, beginning about eight years ago. Formatting the corrected ebooks has been a trip down memory lane for PG.

As previously discussed on TPV, PG has used Kindle Create to format the books Mrs. PG has published since KC’s first availability. He has found that Kindle Create is very easy to use and produces a nicely-formatted fiction ebook. Until something better arrives, that’s what he’s using for Mrs. PG’s books in the foreseeable future.

In connection with the above-mentioned republication, PG has pulled up the original ebook files which were published with Jutoh. In the process, PG has been reminded about what a powerful and elegant formatting program Jutoh was and is.

Eight years ago, PG was strongly affected by print book formatting (he had formatted POD versions of Mrs. PG’s books) and he brought formatted files and practices into Jutoh for preparation of her ebooks at that time.

Revisiting those early ebooks, PG found drop-caps, page-appearance related formats, etc., etc. He also found he had included some erroneous code in those ebooks that made a few parts of the books look a little off upon PG’s latest inspection.

One example of this was PG’s use of drop-caps at the beginning of chapters and in the body of chapters where there was a major change in scene, etc.

Drop caps have been used in books for hundreds of years for a wide variety of reasons. Here’s an example from 1407, before the invention of the European printing press.

Historically, they marked chapter breaks, with other visual cues denoting the beginning of another long sentence, etc. They were visual cues to permit the navigation of large and heavy volumes. PG seems to remember that some of the earliest bibles did not include anything like a table of contents.

The printing press resulted in the production of many more books, but drop caps continued. In the following printed bible c. 1480, the printer left space the creation of colored drop caps after the book was printed.

(For more on drop caps throughout history, see this Smashing Magazine article)

Back to PG’s formatting.

He realized that he doesn’t remember seeing many drop caps in the ebooks he’s read recently (although he may have simply overlooked them).

For further insight into current ebook formatting best practices, PG found a blog post by JW Manus, a long-time visitor to TPV, who does custom book formatting for indie authors. Here’s part of what she says in a post titled, Why Your Ebook SHOULD NOT Look Like a Print Book:

I’ve been noticing a disturbing trend of late: Writer/publishers who want their ebooks to look (and act) like print books–and print designers turned formatters who encourage it.

What those who try to force print design into ebooks seem unaware of is WHY readers like ebooks:

  1. Portability. (I can carry hundreds or thousands of books in my purse.)
  2. Availability. If a book is in digital form and offered for sale, then it is always in stock. If you finish a really terrific book and want to read another of the author’s books, just pop over to the retail site, buy the next ebook and keep reading.
  3. Reader-friendliness. If, like me, you have overworked and/or aged eyes, the ability to increase font size and line height is a godsend. If, like me, you enjoy reading outdoors, an eink reader completely eliminates page glare and the resulting eye fatigue. If, like me, you like to read in bed but your partner wants you to turn off the damned light, if you have a tablet or backlit eink reader or smart phone, you can turn off the damned light and keep reading.
  4. Social reading. For those who like being part of a club, you can connect your books to other readers and share highlighted passages and comments.
  5. Price. Unless the ebook is coming from one of the Big5 publishers, it’s probably inexpensive enough to appeal to even the heaviest readers. They are inexpensive to produce, cost nothing to stock and free/cheap to ship. They should be inexpensive. I bet I’m not the only reader who was priced out of the print market and stopped buying new books, but because of ebooks is now back to buying four or five new books a week.

. . . .

Publishers and formatters drop the ball for one of two reasons:

  1. They don’t understand how ebook reading devices work.
  2. Their priorities are skewed.

If you don’t know how reading devices work, you have no business formatting an ebook. Period. It’s not easy keeping up with everything. Trust me, I spend a lot of time keeping up with updates and changing devices and standards. I have four Kindles, an iPhone, and two computers on which I read and/or test ebooks. I use several programs to test out new techniques. My goal with every job is to produce an ebook that can be read on any device. If you don’t know how ereading devices work, you can format an absolutely stunning looking file in Word or InDesign or Scrivener only to have it completely fall apart or turn into an unreadable mess when it’s loaded onto an ereader. If you’re using Calibre to convert commercial ebooks, chances are you’re unaware as to why that’s a bad idea. The truly clueless seem to be the most proud of creating one-size-fits-all formats for print, epub, and mobi.

. . . .

Drop-caps. They’re pretty, I get it. Unless you are a pro and willing to te st your coding across a multitude of devices, delegate drop-caps to the print version. And don’t forget to test in landscape mode. The results can be… disconcerting.

. . . .

Text-wrapping around images. This is another element that can seriously bite you in the butt. It can work, but only if you know exactly what you are doing (and just because you can do it in Word or InDesign doesn’t mean you know how to do it in an ebook). Consider the many, many, many readers who use their smart phones as ereaders. What happens on an iPhone as it struggles to fit everything on the screen would be laughable if it weren’t so annoying to the reader. It can be pretty nasty when readers need a larger font size, too.

Link to the rest at JW Manus

In Jaye’s post, she includes a page capture of an ebook in which the drop cap looks fine in a Kindle Fire, but not in a Kindle Paperwhite.

So, PG removed the drop caps in the old ebook file when formatting the new one.

 

Harry Potter Forever?

24 January 2019

When PG checked out Amazon Charts this morning, he discovered that Harry Potter occupied six of the top ten positions on the Most Read Fiction chart.

The Most Read chart ranks books by the average number of daily Kindle readers and Audible listeners each week. Given Amazon’s domination of the ebook world, Charts should be a reasonably-accurate of the behavior of English-language ebook reader behavior.

If PG’s grand-offspring are any indication, few in their generation will have any concern about reading ebooks (although they still like physical books as well). Plus a cast-off operating Kindle ereader works as well for book-length text as a new tablet or ereader does, so the younger generation in a family may benefit from the occasional hand-me-down or obsolescent device.

In a perfect world for those who are curious about human behavior, there would be some sort of means by which Amazon could track which of the hardcopy books it sold were Most Read so the behavior of ebook and printed book fans could be compared.

On the non-fiction side of Amazon Charts, Michelle Obama’s book, Becoming,  is ranked first in both the Bestselling and Most Read charts.

Observers of human behavior have long observed that people will sometimes purchase non-fiction bestsellers that they don’t manage to read. For example, Steven Hawking’s A Brief History of Time is notorious as a book which is started, but not finished. It is the standard against which all other purchased-but-unread books are measured.

From a 2014 Wall Street Journal article by Dr. Jordan Ellenberg, a professor of mathematics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison:

It’s beach time, and you’ve probably already scanned a hundred lists of summer reads. Sadly overlooked is that other crucial literary category: the summer non-read, the book that you pick up, all full of ambition, at the beginning of June and put away, the bookmark now and forever halfway through chapter 1, on Labor Day. The classic of this genre is Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time,” widely called “the most unread book of all time.”

How can we find today’s greatest non-reads? Amazon’s “Popular Highlights” feature provides one quick and dirty measure. Every book’s Kindle page lists the five passages most highlighted by readers. If every reader is getting to the end, those highlights could be scattered throughout the length of the book. If nobody has made it past the introduction, the popular highlights will be clustered at the beginning.

Thus, the Hawking Index (HI): Take the page numbers of a book’s five top highlights, average them, and divide by the number of pages in the whole book. The higher the number, the more of the book we’re guessing most people are likely to have read. (Disclaimer: This is not remotely scientific and is for entertainment purposes only!) Here’s how some current best sellers and classics weigh in, from highest HI to lowest:

“The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt: 98.5%
This seems like exactly the kind of long, impressive literary novel that people would carry around ostentatiously for a while and never finish. But it’s just the opposite. All five top highlights come from the final 20 pages, where the narrative falls away and Ms. Tartt spells out her themes in a cascade of ringing, straight-out assertions.

“Catching Fire” by Suzanne Collins: 43.4%
Another novel that gets read all the way through. “Because sometimes things happen to people and they’re not equipped to deal with them” is the most highlighted sentence in the seven-year history of Kindle, marked by 28,703 readers. Romantic heat in the late going also helps to produce a high score.

. . . .

“A Brief History of Time” by Stephen Hawking: 6.6%
The original avatar backs up its reputation pretty well. But it’s outpaced by one more recent entrant—which brings us to our champion, the most unread book of this year (and perhaps any other). Ladies and gentlemen, I present:

“Capital in the Twenty-First Century” by Thomas Piketty: 2.4%
Yes, it came out just three months ago. But the contest isn’t even close. Mr. Piketty’s book is almost 700 pages long, and the last of the top five popular highlights appears on page 26. Stephen Hawking is off the hook; from now on, this measure should be known as the Piketty Index.

Link to the rest at the Wall Street Journal 

PG notes that the standards applied to Amazon Charts (average number of daily Kindle readers and Audible listeners each week) and the Hawking Index (how many people stopped reading a book before finishing it) are different, but he finds both interesting.

Amazon provides another interesting collection of data in its list of The 10 longest sales streaks at No. 1 in Amazon history

Harry Potter has four of the top 10 streaks, but Michelle Obama is also on the list and, given current sales trends, may climb higher.

 

Draft2Digital, Baker & Taylor, and OverDrive

2 December 2018
Comments Off on Draft2Digital, Baker & Taylor, and OverDrive

From Indies Unlimited:

Those of you who use Draft2Digital to distribute eBooks outside of Amazon should have recently received a message that Draft2Digital has now partnered with Baker & Taylor’s Axis 360 eBook distribution platform.

Baker & Taylor, a massive distributor of books, movies, DVDs, and other entertainment, has been in business for over 180 years.

. . . .

But wait, you may be thinking (or at least I was), Draft2Digital already uses OverDrive to reach libraries. Why do we also need Baker & Taylor?

The short answer is that they offer different services and are used by different libraries. The long answer is more complicated.

OverDrive, as you probably know, also distributes eBooks to schools and libraries. OverDrive was founded in 1986, originally to convert analog video and audio media to a digital format. In 2000, they extended their business online and began what would eventually become one of the first – and biggest – eBook distributors to retailers, libraries, and schools. OverDrive is compatible with just about any ereader on the market.

. . . .

When Baker & Taylor decided to branch out into the distribution of eBooks, they became … well, you could say frenemies … with OverDrive. In 2009, believing they were forming an exclusive partnership, OverDrive signed on to help Baker & Taylor develop their own eBook distribution services, one that was superior to the one OverDrive was currently using. They even gave Baker & Taylor access to their list of accounts, sales and marketing data, inventory, and servers. It didn’t end well.

Now they’re competitors when it comes to distributing eBooks to libraries. Some libraries use both systems; some only use one. Because OverDrive has been in the business of eBook distribution longer, they’re used by more libraries and have, according to some, better developed technology. Because Baker & Taylor has over 180 years of paperback and hardback book distribution behind them, they’re catching up quickly.

Link to the rest at Indies Unlimited

PG notes that libraries tend to purchase their books from sales organizations that tailor their services to meet the needs of libraries.

By opening their doors to indie authors via Draft2Digital, Baker & Taylor and Overdrive are making it possible for libraries to easily purchase books from local indie authors as well as the increasing number of nationally-known and read authors who self-publish.

KDP Books Unavailable To International Readers

18 November 2018

From David Gaughran:

A situation blew up at Amazon over the weekend which has made most KDP ebooks unavailable to purchase for international readers who use the US Kindle Store — one which has also exposed a glaring security problem.

This issue — which is either a bug or a badly bungled roll-out — is causing great confusion as its effects are only visible to those outside the USA, which might explain why Amazon has been so slow to address it, or even understand the problem, it seems.

The first reports were from a few weeks ago, when Australian readers who use the US Kindle Store were unable to see a handful of new releases. It seems to have spread significantly since then. This weekend I noticed the issue myself for the first time. Buy buttons had disappeared from a couple of my ebooks and they were no longer appearing in Search results or on my Author Page. It was as if they had been ghosted. Readers around the world confirmed the same thing — except those in the USA, where all these books continue to be visible in search and purchasable by readers there.

Looking around the Kindle Store this weekend, it seemed like half of the KDP books I checked were unavailable for purchase to international readers, and similarly missing from search results (and, in some cases, author pages). They were undiscoverable by international readers, in other words, and even if those readers navigated to the pages of those Kindle editions directly, price tags were gone and Buy buttons had been removed.

. . . .

So the system seems to think that I shouldn’t be using the US Kindle Store — even though, like many Irish people, I’ve been using the US Kindle Store exclusively since 2011 — and it is blocking me not just from purchasing this title and many other titles, but is also rendering them invisible in search too, so customers don’t even know there is an issue unless they somehow go directly to the book’s page on Amazon. New-to-you readers internationally who use the US Kindle Store won’t even know the problem exists otherwise, or that your book does, I guess.

It gets weirder because this bug or glitch or whatever it is seems to be very inconsistent. All of my non-fiction is unavailable to international readers. Some of my fiction is gone too, but not all of it. If I Iook at someone random from the charts like Bella Forrest, all of the books of hers I checked are gone.

. . . .

I spoke to Amazon customer service yesterday and tried to explain the issue. Amazon didn’t seem to understand it, and just inserted a US postal address in my account instead, which “fixed” the problem as far as they were concerned. And, yes, I can now see my books and all the others which were invisible to me beforehand, but everyone else internationally still can’t see them or purchase them in the US Kindle Store – which is the only place that millions of international readers are able to purchase ebooks (this point must be repeated again and again as misunderstanding abounds — not everywhere has a local Kindle Store and such readers are supposed to use the US store).

Amazon’s “fix” had a number of unintended side-effects. As Amazon now seems to think I’m based in America, I no longer get charged VAT on ebooks. Instead, a test purchase I made applied Washington state sales tax of 6.5% — the customer service person put in Amazon’s Seattle HQ as my address — instead of the 23% rate of Irish VAT that Amazon is legally required to apply to ebook sales to me.

. . . .

Related issues aside, I hope Amazon starts making an effort to understand what is happening here as this is a particularly bad situation for international self-publishers whose readers will naturally trend international too, and who will be disproportionately affected. It also prevents self-publishers around the world from checking their books on Amazon.com — which they need to do for innumerable reasons.

Whether all this is a (bungled) feature or a bug, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Amazon is taking its eye off the ball in so many aspects of its business right now, at least pertaining to books. Amazon’s greatest strength is that it still has the scrappiness and innovative outlook of a start-up — which seems to be achieved by essentially having 1000s of start-ups incubating under one big Amazon tent, who seem to compete with each other for resources and attention and site real-estate.

. . . .

At times like these, Amazon feels incredibly atomized, made up of 1000s of departments who don’t (and won’t) communicate with each other, For example, if you have decided to make hundreds of thousands of ebooks suddenly invisible and unavailable to millions of readers unless they switch to a different Kindle Store maybe — I dunno, radical idea here — email people about it? And if it is just some horrible bug, which has been growing for several weeks to the point where most self-published books are now ghosted to international readers, maybe start working on fixing it? Just a thought.

Link to the rest at David Gaughran

PG notes that David’s post is from November 12. This is the most recent post on David’s blog, so PG assumes the problem he describes may be continuing.

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