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Kindle Quality Control

I received this email this morning from Amazon:

Dear Publisher,

During a quality assurance review of your title, we have found the following issue(s):

Typo/formatting issues exist that may have been caused by an Optical Character Recognition (OCR) problem. Following are few examples:

*Loc 1969; “kiss on the check” should be “kiss on the cheek”
*Loc 578; “I bum one” should be “I bum one”

At Location – 1924; the word “more” is missing between “even” and “doomed”.

Please look for the same kind of errors throughout and make the necessary corrections to the title before republishing it.

If you have further questions, you may write to us by visiting this page:

https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/contact-us/

Please be sure to reference your ticket number when contacting us.

Best regards,

Amazon KDP

Anyone else receive one of these emails? First time for me. It’s an interesting attempt at quality control – and actually helpful, as it caught some typos I didn’t catch. Though replacing “bum one” with “bum one” isn’t very helpful.

Optical Character Recognition is normally used to convert printed books into ebooks, but the kindle bot is becoming a kind of editor – and will only get better. What it is not doing is saying: we will remove this from the store until you correct this error. So the quality control is voluntarily. More than likely, Amazon is using this software to spot duplicate spam books, which are becoming a problem. Will Amazon start deleting these books right away?  It would make sense if they did, though this poses potential problems.  As is the case with the Google algorithm, sometimes a spam blog can rank higher than the source of the original content.  So some authors could get hurt by this.  If Amazon had an efficient system for reinstating legitimate books, this seems like a necessary evil.

All said, I’m glad that Amazon didn’t remove my book from the site because of a few typos, but if it spots 100 legitimate typos, would it then be OK?  Should people be free to publish whatever kind of book they want, even if it’s unreadable?  These books are for sale, so it’s a bit different than, say, someone using a free service like Blogger.  It’s actually in Amazon’s best interest to correct books – if people buy sub-par books over and over again, they may become less willing to part with their money.

Personally, I’m not against unpublishing a book that has 100 or more typos.  This is a nuts and bolts issue – typos only detract from a book and add nothing.  I’m supportive of the First Amendment letting people say whatever they like, but at least put an apostrophe in the right place.  As self-published e-publishing becomes the majority of new books being published, and recognition software gets more advanced, these are important new considerations.

About Henry Baum

Avatar of Henry Baum
Author of The American Book of the Dead, which won Best Fiction at the DIY Book Festival and the Gold IPPY Award for Visionary Fiction. Largehearted Boy says it's "reminiscent of Philip K. Dick and Haruki Murakami, a book that boldly explores the future and defies genre." Also the author of North of Sunset, winner of the Hollywood Book Festival Grand Prize, and The Golden Calf - first published by Soft Skull Press, with editions in the U.K. (Rebel Inc.) and France (Hachette Littératures). He was a finalist along with Alan Moore and Dr. Brooke Magnanti for his novel " God's Wife" for Best Writer at The Erotic Awards London UK in 2013. He lives with his wife Cate Baum in Los Angeles. He's the founder of SPR.

7 comments

  1. Avatar of Ron Fritsch

    Henry, I’m glad to hear of your experience with Amazon. (But not, of course, because it found typos in your book!)

    What amazes me is that they bother to check manuscripts with software that picks up a mistake like “kiss on the check.” A character might wish to place a kiss on a check, especially if it were for a large amount, say a celebrity’s advance on his or her ghost-written memoirs. The software must be so advanced that it can decide that within the context of your story you meant “kiss on the cheek.”

    If Amazon uses this software on every book submitted to it, independent authors should be pleased. They should want not just a few examples but a complete list of every typo, or alleged typo, the software finds. Any book can use another edit. If this one is free, all the better. And yet another reason not to bother with the traditional publishers.

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  2. I’ve heard speculation that these “quality assurance checks” are really just responses to complaints. If someone sends an email saying “I found these errors….” that can get a book put into to be checked by quality assurance.

    The tricky part is when the errors are not errors.

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    • Avatar of Henry Baum

      Hmmn, that would make it sound like my book’s riddled with typos. It’s not really – I was aware before this of around 5. But maybe there are sticklers out there.

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      • Not necessarily. There are a lot of people who like to appoint themselves as keeper of the flame. They find what they look for.

        However, what I heard was just speculation. You’re only the second person I’ve heard of getting such a letter — but I’ve seen tons of AWFUL books with lots of complaints in the reviews. (And perfectly good books with lots of complaints in the reviews.)

        The speculation was that IF Amazon wanted to crowd source some quality control, the really easy way to do it would be to verify only very specific complaints and then send an automated message like that. General complaints would require more work, and so would be ignored until they reached a certain level.

        The other reason we might be only seeing this rarely is because they are testing different systems for cost and efficiency. In that case, it could have been a real proof reader doing sample tests, or a smart computer looking for likely errors (being vetted by a person), or the smart complaint system like I mentioned above.

        Camille

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      • Avatar of Ron Fritsch

        Henry, I read your book from end to end, and I don’t remember seeing any typos. There could’ve been five. I’m willing to forgive that many. If it had been riddled with typos, I would’ve told you privately. I don’t remember the kissing of the check. Maybe that’s what I thought you meant. Some of your characters were the kind of people who might do that.

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  3. Henry, I just received a very similar letter for my “The Santa Shop” novel this morning. The errors spotted seem to largely be hyphens carried over from the physical PDF formatting when it was first published, long before ebooks became a reality. We, too, have wondered what prompted our title to be chosen, though 50K free downloads in the last three weeks might be the culprit.

    Thanks for posting :-)

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