Flipping scammers are trying to turn the Tables on Kindle

Amazon is warning publishers about abuse of Table of Contents in Kindle ebooks — now that’s a phrase I never thought I would be using. The problem seems to be that some people are placing their ToCs at the back of a book and then adding links at the front of a book which auto-flip pages in an attempt to trick the Kindle Unlimited page-counter.

Amazon says it has recently received a number of questions on topics such as TOC formatting and the policing of abuse and fraud among KDP publishers.

It says in many cases, putting a book’s Table of Contents at the end of a book can create a poor experience for readers, and in general it suggests authors should locate TOCs to the beginning of a book.

If the formatting of a book results in a poor experience or genuine reader confusion, or is designed to unnaturally inflate sales or pages read, Amazon says it will take action to remove titles and protect readers.

However, Amazon also says that, ‘Absent any other issues of quality, locating the TOC at the end of a book is not in itself outside of our guidelines.’

It adds it has been contacted about the activities of a small minority of publishers who may attempt to inflate sales or pages read through the use of various techniques, such as adding unnecessary or confusing hyperlinks, misplacing the TOC or adding distracting content.

Amazon says it actively polices for this type of activity and investigates when the community points out such abuse. It warns that any abuse it finds will result in the immediate suspension of a title. Some circumstances, including repeat offenses, will result in KDP account suspension. In any abuse cases, Amazon will remove related pages read from the allocation of the monthly KDP Select Global Fund.

Some of the scammers have apparently been so successful with their flipping tricks that they’ve been awarded KDP Select All-Stars cash bonuses for being among the most-read titles on KU. Surely someone at Amazon should give at least the All-Stars winners a quick once-over each month to check they’re all above board?

The Fussy Librarian ebook promotion website reports that some unscrupulous ‘publishers’ have been trying to game Amazon’s page-counting system by putting the table of contents in the back of the book and putting a ‘click here for this free offer’ link on the first page’ which flips through the pages in an attempt to get Kindle Unlimited cash as the ebook subscription service operates on the basis of authors being paid for each KENP ‘read’ (Kindle Edition Normalized Page).

I would have thought the KENP-counting technology should have rejected such a page-flip scam as Amazon has previously claimed to have the capability to assess the average reading speed of a customers and adjust its count according to whether it considers the customer really is reading or just skimming through to find another section.

There are many legitimate publishers who do place their Tables of Contents at the back of books, many of them with the intent of giving readers more pages in the free 10% sample they can get at the Kindle store. It would be a shame if they get demonized along with the scammers.

The Fussy Librarian also refers to the frightening prospect of Amazon working on a used ebook marketplace that will allow readers to resell their digital goods.

I can’t imagine this would be good for authors, publishers or even Amazon itself but Amazon is known for putting consumers at the forefront of what they do and the firm might well be prepared to disrupt its own ebook business, it’s already done so with Kindle Unlimited, where it replaced money-making ebook sales with a library service that probably breaks even.

So-called ‘used’ ebooks, which would, of course, be exactly the same as ‘new’ ebooks, would mean the market being flooded as a high proportion of readers would look to resell after reading. No details have been revealed and it’s reckoned that authors would get a cut from resales but it would be a proportion of an obviously lower ‘secondhand’ price.

Who would buy from the Kindle store in the first place if the ebooks were available at a lower price? It would be like having a store with the goods at one price in one department and the same goods priced at a lower price in another department of the same store.