Category: Kindle Stuff


I need to start this post by letting you know I can’t give too many details, as there are people and other blogs involved in this and this issue is not about them, it’s about Amazon.

In a nutshell, there is a certain author, who a certain blog owner and his commenters hate with a passion.  So much so, that the commenters took it upon themselves (well, the blog owner did a nudge-nudge, wink-wink) to add tags to the authors book (it’s only available right now for pre-order so reviews are not open yet) that crossed the line from petty and perhaps funny (which I have to problem with) to spiteful, mean and potentially libelous.  Yes, some of the tags are that bad.

Personally, I don’t know the author and have never read or purchased any of their books, but I did see a wrong being done here, and decided to report it to Amazon.  Keep in mind that I generally assume the best of people and companies until I am given a reason to think otherwise.  Amazon now has me thinking otherwise.

Here is my first e-mail to Amazon, with only the names redacted:

I think you may want to look into the tags associated with XXXXX’s book due out soon (Name of Book).  There is a blog (XXX) that has members who have openly stated they are adding negative tags without having read the book (obviously) simply because they and the blog owner don’t like the author.  Just FYI.

Sounds reasonable, right?  Here is the e-mail I received from Amazon in reply:

Hello Gizbot7,

I read the Tag you reported to us in your message. We understand your concerns, but since the Tag falls within our posted guidelines, we are unable to remove it. Here’s a link to our guidelines if you would like to have it for reference:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=16238571

We appreciate your understanding.

No real problem here until I realized two things:  first, that their own guidelines (that I didn’t look at until someone pointed out I should) state that you should not post tags that are “spiteful” and second, the e-mail said “tag” as in singular but I was concerned about several tags – plural.  So I responded to Amazon again.  This time with:

I submitted a feedback form regarding tags being added to XXXXX’s book “Name of Book” (that is soon to be released) that were added at the direction of a competing blog owner (XXX) and which were extremely spiteful and wrong.  I received this response from Erin P from Amazon:  “I read the Tag you reported to us in your message. We understand your concerns, but since the Tag falls within our posted guidelines, we are unable to remove it.”  This seems odd to me, since your own posted guidelines state:

What tags shouldn’t I use?
By default your tags are public so everyone can view them. You should not use:

1. Profane or obscene language, inciting or spiteful tags (emphasis mine)
2. Tags that might: harass, abuse or threaten other members of the community
3. Tags that may reveal any personal information about children under age 13
4. Tags that promote illegal or immoral conduct
5. Tags that indicate sentiments by or on behalf of a person or company with a financial interest in the product or a directly competing product

Your own guidelines indicate that the tags are clearly in violation of #1 and possibly #5.  I challenge anyone to take a look at some of the 160+ tags listed on XXX’s book and tell me with honesty that those tags aren’t spiteful.  In case you didn’t know, (the blog) posted an article today bragging about the tags they left for that book.

Now here is where we leave the path of courtesy and common sense on the part of Amazon:

Hello,

My name is XXX and I’m a senior member of our Communities team. A significant part of my job consists of deciding if tags adhere to our guidelines. As such, I reviewed the tags on (Name of Book).

This tag falls within our posted guidelines. We won’t remove it and we aren’t able to consider the removal of these tags any further. If you’d like it for your reference, here is a link to our Tags guidelines:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=16238571

First of all, was it really necessary to inform me that she is a “senior member” of their “Communities Team”?  Not really.  But that’s okay.  Sometimes it helps if customers think that someone in authority is involved with their issue.  However, when she goes on to completely dismiss my issue (once again, she refers to “this tag,” as opposed to tags) by saying “we won’t remove it” and then pretty much tells me to quit bothering her by saying “and we aren’t able to consider the removal of these tags any further” then yes, I am going to have an issue.  One also has to wonder if she did indeed see all of the tags, since in that sentence she uses “tags” — plural.  If so, one then has to wonder about her common sense.

Anyway, here is my most recent e-mail to Amazon (even though I was told to shut it):

After reporting spiteful tags being added to a book you sell (or will be next month) “Name of Book” by XXXXX, I received an e-mail indicating that your guidelines said the “tag” (singular) that I was reporting was within your guidelines and would not be removed.  Okay.  So, I re-reported the issue asking for someone to look at all of the tags (plural – I was not concerned with just one) as there are over 160 tags that anyone can see are at the very least spiteful and downright wrong.  In response to that e-mail, I was basically told to stop writing you.  This is the e-mail I received:

“Hello,

My name is XXXXX and I’m a senior member of our Communities team. A significant part of my job consists of deciding if tags adhere to our guidelines. As such, I reviewed the tags on Stop the Islamization of America: A Practical Guide to the Resistance.

This tag falls within our posted guidelines. We won’t remove it and we aren’t able to consider the removal of these tags any further. If you’d like it for your reference, here is a link to our Tags guidelines”

Bottom line is I don’t honestly care what tags people put on this particular book.  As you can see by pulling up my account I have never purchased a XXXXX book in my life and have no plans to do so.  As an outside observer, I thought you might want to know that your system was being abused and in the interest of doing the right thing may want to check it out.  I appreciate that someone at least read the e-mails I sent regardless of what you as a corporation decide to do.  What I don’t appreciate is basically being told to shut up about it.  Frankly, I could care less if “XXXXX” is the President of Amazon, her e-mail was unprofessional and does not reflect well on your company at all.

You may be wondering why I am bothering with this issue at this point.  After all, I admitted I have no real interest in the book in question.  The answer is simple:  what was done to this author was wrong.  If people are uninterested in the work of the author, they can choose not to purchase it.  Or, better yet, they can read it and leave whatever review they desire.  Again, I am not overly concerned with the adding of frivolous tags — it happens and sometimes they are funny.  But this situation crossed the line from funny to abuse, and Amazon — by virtue of the fact that they have guidelines at all — has an obligation to step in once the situation has been reported.

Quite frankly, I would have been satisfied if someone with some courtesy would have said they looked at the tags (plural) and whereas they could see why I might have a concern, the tags would have to stay accompanied by an understandable reason.  Is it really so much to ask that someone respond to my actual issue politely and without thinly veiled contempt?  With this particular representative and issue, I suppose it was.

I myself have been in customer service in some fashion most of my professional career and understand you get a lot of seemingly ridiculous demands and requests.  But here’s the catch — it is not your job to decide what is ridiculous.  After all, a customer took the time to tell you about it, so it clearly wasn’t ridiculous to them.  Aside from the fact that the tags do violate their own written policy, the old adage is true:  most of the time, it’s not so much what you say, but how you say it.  And telling a customer to shut their pie-hole ain’t it.

Oh, and by the way, the number of tags is now up to over 170.

UPDATE:  After a little research, turns out that this “we aren’t able to discuss this further” (I think someone needs to look up the word “able”) response is pretty common with Amazon.  It appears as though when they have decided you are no longer worth their time, they blow you off – and rudely.  I have a Kindle, which I admit I love mostly because I don’t have to interact with anyone at Amazon to purchase books.  However, customer service is important to me (important enough that I switched to and have stuck with a small cable company for the same price of the big dogs due to their great customer service) and this development  is troublesome.  The holidays are coming up so I think now just might be a good time to start looking at other e-readers.  I may or may not switch depending on what’s out there, but I can tell you this much:  I wouldn’t even be looking to change at all if it wasn’t for their horrible customer service.

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I’ve said it before and I mean it — it is important to support unknown authors, dammit!  This is true if you love new and original work, but it’s especially true if you want to be an unknown (at least at first) author.  Check it out:

It recently came to my attention (yesterday in fact) that Jason Kristopher, author of The Dying of the Light:  End, is quite a busy man.  Turns out, he has taken up a cause that I can wholly support — publishing authors that normally wouldn’t stand of chance of anyone except friends and family seeing their work.  He operates Grey Gecko Press, whose purpose is “helping foster many new and talented authors in the years to come.”

The best description of Grey Gecko Press is Mr. Kristopher’s own:

“If you’ve ever written a story and been turned down, or if you’re frustrated by the way ‘the system’ works against new authors, or if you just want to try something different, give us a shout. I can’t promise that we’ll publish what you write, but I will promise to listen and to give you a chance. With no preconceived notions or ideas, no artificial barriers.”

So, if you ever thought no one would publish your book or, if like me and just enjoy great work, stop by his site and check it out.  While you’re there, you might as well pick up a book, too.

The Dying of the Light:  End by Jason Kristopher

The Dying of the Light: End

This is one of many books I choose sort of haphazardly based on the “items others have purchased” function on Amazon’s website.  Whereas this tactic often lands me with a book that I have to struggle to finish and/or deal with poor to non-existent editing, it’s still a worthwhile endeavor for a few reasons.  First, there are some real gems to be found this way and second, I am a true believer in reading works by authors who would have never been published back in the day (support unknown authors dammit!).   This is how I found The Dying of the Light:  End.  I should warn you, I am a fan of reading a story as fresh as possible.  So, I give as few details as possible on everything I review, while still attempting to ensure it is accurate and informative.  I also do not read any reviews before I write mine, so for better or worse, they are untainted by what others  have said.  On to the review…

The story is a zombie tale which is told primarily from the point of view of a somewhat reluctant soldier, David.  It begins with an interesting few chapters of a fictional history of the first zombies and a couple of characters brought in again later in the book.  Overall a nice, if a bit oddly placed lead-in to the rest of the story.

The majority of the book tells the tale of a government group of super-secret (aren’t they all?),  elite soldiers known as AEGIS (Advanced Experimental Genetics Intelligence Service) and their role with a zombie problem facing the world.  It’s not a typical “end of the world” tale, as it does not take place after bazillions of zombies decided to start chomping on humanity.  As I tend to enjoy those types of books, I thought this would make the book boring, but Mr. Kristopher does such a good job of character development and story telling that I was happy to be wrong.  (It also has some pretty good zombie chow-downs to boot, but lacked a little in the gore department for my tastes.)

Although there is a bit more soldier and gun lingo than I would like, it’s not nearly as bad as some books that ooze with so many military acronyms I lose track of what weapon is what, much less which calibers.  In this book the lingo makes sense, and it seems like the author tried to tone it down a bit for the sake of us civilian readers.  Thanks man, I appreciate it.

All in all, this was a solid book with a pleasant mix of zombies, military good guys, science and history (albeit fake history) and I recommend it.  On the negative side, there were a few slow areas but not enough to make me lose interest.  There were also a couple too many love scenes between the main character and his woman, but we are saved from falling into the romance novel porn pit that some horror books  throw us into.  Lastly, I would have liked to have seen more of a few of the lesser characters, some of which didn’t make it to the end.  That sucks.  But, since a sequel is on the way, The Dying of the Light:  Interval, I am hopeful to see the ones who did manage to make it very soon.  If that link doesn’t work for you, here’s another just in case.

YOU JUST MIGHT CARE, SO:   The Kindle version of The Dying of the Light:  End includes a preview of Interval.  I was impressed and very much intrigued.  It’s a definite buy once released.

Okay, here’s the deal.  While at lunch with a friend the other day, the topic of the movie “The Exorcist” happened to come up (these things tend to occur around me).  I explained to him that this remains the one horror film I cannot bring myself to view alone (or with other people for that matter) without getting a major case of the heebie-jeebies.  Watching it at all virtually ensures a few nights of a possessed Reagan’s nasty-ass face popping into my head at will as I make a feeble attempt at slumber.  So, yes I have seen it, and yes, that staircase crab-walk scene is fucking freaky.  Moving on…

Original Cover

Being older and wiser, he suggested I read the book and indicated that (as with pretty much all books) you get more insight into the characters and therefore the book freaked him out more than the movie.  Well, since the movie is my mental kryptonite, and if the book was somehow worse (better?  whatever) than the film, I had to read it post-haste.  Nasty pea-soup dribbled, sleep depriving face be damned!  I went home and pulled up my Amazon account, which is where our story begins.

As of today, simply typing in “The Exorcist” in Amazon’s search engine under the Kindle category, brings up many books but the first and only “Exorcist” book (by William Peter Blatty) is the upcoming 40th Edition, due out September 27th of this year and is therefore not available yet.  I thought, okay, well where is the regular, non-40th Edition that has been out since it was published in 1971?  After a few searches, I found the page for the regular version, but instead of the “buy with one click” option I usually have, it read only “add to cart”.  WTF?  So, I scrolled down and clicked on the “Kindle Edition” under Formats and was — what the hell?– redirected to the page for the 40th Anniversary Edition!  Gah!!!

Anyway, I have sent an e-mail to Amazon about this issue and to their credit I did receive a timely response and they are looking into it.  I sincerely hope that this is not what it looks like — a blatant attempt to force people to purchase the 40th Edition.  It does not make sense to do that, since both versions cost the same ($9.99) but you just never know these days.

I still don’t have the book and if I have to wait until September to get it, there is a slight chance (okay, a 100% chance) that I will forget about my quest and not order either version.  Damn.

UPDATE 7/30/11:  Well, I received a response from Amazon and it was within the window of time (5-7 days) they promised.  However, after deciphering the e-mail it turns out the old version for Kindle has been completely replaced by the 40th Anniversary Edition which, again, is not available until September.  I can still order the old version in paperback, and I probably will, but only because my husband talked me into it.  Well, that’s my story anyway.

For your viewing pleasure, here is the e-mail I received from Amazon, verbatim:   

Hello,

This is a follow up to the previous response regarding the kindle edition “The Exorcist”.

I’ve heard from the Kindle technical team and confirm that the link for the Kindle edition is correct.

“The Exorcist: 40th Anniversary Edition” is kindle version for the physical book (hard copy) “The Exorcist”.

Please be informed that only the 40eth anniversary edition of this title is available in a kindle edition. The older version of the title published in February 1994 is available only in Mass Market Paperback version.

For additional support:

www.amazon.com/kindlesupport

I hope this helps. We look forward to see you again soon.

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