Amazon has begun a quiet campaign of removing Kindle e-books that have the table of contents at the end of the book, instead of the front. Amazon has a new algorithm that is automatically emailing authors and telling them they have five days to make the changes or the BUY button will disappear. In some cases authors aren’t even getting the emails and their e-books have just been removed.
Walter Jon Williams wrote a Nebula-nominated SF novel Metropolitan in 2005 and Amazon removed the buy button during an expensive BookBub promotional campaign.
When he changed the table of contents from the back of the book to the front, Amazon then sent an email to all previous purchasers of the book saying that the author had now corrected serious formatting and editorial issues and they need to download the new copy.
There are many traditionally published authors and self-publishers who have all received the new emails from Amazon. Some of their titles are enrolled in Kindle Unlimited, while others are not. I have noticed some commonality factors that seem to trigger the warnings. If you change the price, add new keywords or republish the book, that seems to kick start the algorithm to scan the book automatically for formatting errors.
One small publisher seems to think the issue really has something to do with “e-Books not using NCX protocols. For those of you who are unfamiliar with NCX, it’s the coding in your e-books that allows readers to see chapter titles in the Go To list without actually viewing the TOC. So when you hit the “Go To” button, you’d see several chapter titles listed, usually centered on the one you were currently reading. Amazon requires the use of these NCX files, but they haven’t been enforcing that until now, it seems.”
There seems to be some conjecture on the exact reason why Amazon is suddenly enforcing the table of contents campaign. I think authors need to insure that their email address on their Amazon account is up to date, so if changes are warranted its not going to go to an old address and suddenly all of your e-books are removed. Small publishers will also have to pay attention to their portfolios in the coming weeks to make the time necessary to make a litany of changes.
Michael Kozlowski has written about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. Newspapers and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times have picked up his articles. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.