Kindle Unlimited (KU) has one big flaw.
Amazon cannot count the Kindle words per page readers read, the number of pages readers flip, or the time readers spend on reading an ebook.
For avid readers of lots of books per month, using their 30 days free trial or spending $9.99 a month for their Kindle Unlimited membership for as books a month as they can read, it is not an issue.
They can select from over a million books in the Kindle Store and read to their heart’s content. Who cares about the Kindle word count?
But for honest authors, Amazon’s inability to calculate exactly how many words and pages a reader indeed reads of a Kindle book via their Kindle Unlimited subscription services is costing authors a lot of money.
Why? Because scammers and ebook stuffers using jump links are scooping up a sizeable percentage of the monthly pot, and Amazon is having all sorts of trouble dealing with it.
Amazon knows there is a problem, and as usual, has reacted with a sledgehammer that has hit a few scammers.
But also adversely affected honest authors who had no idea that they had done anything wrong.
I can’t vouch for the honesty of the authors in this article on Yahoo News, but their stories ring true when you have a problem as an author with Amazon.
Particularly in the response from Amazon when you ask why, about anything?
If you ever want a definitive answer to a why question, don’t bother asking KPD help or Amazon Customer Relations because you will always get the same response. “Refer to our Terms and Conditions.”
Douglas Adams could well have been referring to Amazon in this quote.
“But the plans were on display…”
“On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.”
“That’s the display department.”
“With a flashlight.”
“Ah, well, the lights had probably gone.”
“So had the stairs.”
“But look, you found the notice, didn’t you?”
“Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard.”
But, you can go to Amazon’s Terms and Conditions, if you have hours to waste, or if you are a lawyer, and try to understand.
On book stuffing, there is this page of rules. Well, at least it mentions something about 10%.
But to find out why you get your account suspended, well, then it gets difficult. After an hour of searching, this is the best I could find.
You can find the above section on this page if you scroll down to the section labelled, Links.
The key phrase in the email above from Amazon KDP Executive Customer Relations is this.
Amazon reserves the right to terminate our agreement with you and our programs at any time and for any reason.
In other words, if you are an author and you have a problem with Amazon KDP or Kindle Unlimited, well, you can go suck eggs.
Amazon can terminate your account at any time without giving you any reason why. It has over a million titles in Kindle Unlimited, so losing a few hundred doesn’t make an ounce of difference to Amazon.
Scammers clean up
But the scammers are having a wonderful time and making bucket loads of money.
David Gaughran has written a lot of informative and in-depth articles about Kindle and Kindle Unlimited scams.
But this one on KU book stuffers, in particular, is well worth reading.
There is one image at the very end of the article that highlights another one of Amazon’s KU word and page counting problems.
It can’t account for extra paragraph breaks in a page. All the blank lines in this image below count as words read on any Amazon device or app.
All scammers have to do is fill a Kindle ebook with words (and lots of space), and have a jump link at the beginning to lure readers to the end of the book.
And then, presto, the whole ebook is seen as read by Amazon Kindle Unlimited and the scammers clean up.
Kindle Unlimited page read calculation is so primitive that in fact, links in the table of contents perform the same action as a jump link, so how can Amazon tell the difference?
Why can’t Amazon count words, pages and time spent reading on a Kindle device or Kindle app?
Because it is impossible.
An ebook is similar to a web page in the fact that you scroll from the top to the bottom. It doesn’t matter if it is 20 pages or 1,000 pages. It is really just one webpage of text.
If you use Google Analytics, you will know that Google can’t count the time a reader spends on a web page.
It can only record time if there is a trigger action such as clicking a link on a page or clicking a menu item to navigate to another page. Analytics Edge explains the problem this way.
“Google Analytics Time on Page and Google Analytics Session Duration are typical examples until you discover one not-so-obvious fact: Google can’t measure the time a user spent looking at the last page of their visit to your site.
This happens because Google uses the time of the next page view to determine the time you spent looking at the current page. On the last page, there is no next page recorded, so the Time on Page is unknown (recorded as 0) and the Session Duration ends when they opened the last page.”
If a site visitor leaves a page open in a browser tab, even for days, without a click, Google can’t calculate the time. So it records zero time for session duration.
It is why Google Analytics reports a longer time on an individual page than on a complete session.
But Google can record scroll depth quite accurately.
I believe this is how Amazon calculates Kindle Unlimited ebook reading, and why the measurement is so unreliable.
Basing page reads on scrolling depth is why KU has such a problem with ebook stuffers. It cannot count words read or time spent on an ebook because an ebook is in fact, one long webpage.
It can only record an estimation of reading based on how far a reader progresses through the ebook. But with no recorded measurement of time or speed to read one book.
So if a KU reader opens an ebook, starts reading chapter one and then clicks a link to go to the end of the book, KU records this as 100% progress in reading Kindle Unlimited books.
It’s all a bluff, and when Amazon thinks it finds an author or two who know its all bluff, and profits from the weakness, Amazon reacts by taking the easy way out.
Amazon reserves the right to terminate our agreement with you.
Amazon needs to own up, but it won’t
Kindle Unlimited scammers and ebook stuffers are not the real issues here.
It is Amazon’s inability to set clear, easy to understand guidelines and to be able to monitor and measure KU reading accurately that is the real problem.
Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count (KENPC) is an oxymoron because I don’t believe Amazon can count pages or words.
Until Amazon can find a better system to track and record Kindle Unlimited ebook-reading correctly, the scammers will keep finding ways to make money, and honest authors publishing ebooks will lose out.
Or be terminated.
I started my working life as a lithographer and spent over 30 years in the printing and publishing business.
Originally from Australia, I moved to Switzerland 20 years ago. My days are spent teaching English, writing and wrestling with technology while enjoying my glorious view of Lake Geneva and the Alps.
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