Episode 158: Page Flip, Amazon Cash, and Windows Ebooks

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Question of the Week: Why hasn’t Amazon fixed the Page Flip feature after six months of it being an issue?

Why hasn’t Amazon fixed the Page Flip feature? Bryan and Jim featured this question as the top story in another news-filled week of self-publishing. After thanking their patrons The Final Arrangement, Nightblade, and 31 Days of Wisdom, the self-pub stalwarts discussed connecting with C-list influencers, using Google Analytics to understand your demographics, and the two different types of author newsletters. This week’s news stories included Kobo’s acquisition of Shelfie, the launch of the Windows e-bookstore, Kindle Create, the Prime Reading “advance,” Amazon Cash, and the continued issue of the Page Flip feature on Kindle devices. This week’s Question of the Week: Why hasn’t Amazon fixed the Page Flip feature after six months of it being an issue?

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What You’ll Learn:

  • Why you should connect with C-listers instead of A-listers
  • How to use Google Analytics to learn more about your readers
  • The two types of email newsletters you should consider writing
  • Why Kobo decided to acquire Shelfie and integrate it into its platform
  • Whether or not Jim thinks the Windows e-bookstore will be a success
  • Why Jim thinks Kindle Create is a dumb idea
  • Whether or not you should take the money if you’re offered $5,000
  • How Amazon Cash could work to sell you more books
  • How the Page Flip feature may still be costing authors money
Links:
Question of the Week: Why hasn’t Amazon fixed the Page Flip feature after six months of it being an issue?

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  • Ethan Jones

    As Jim usually says, book sales on Amazon are probably 0.0001% of their total revenue. The page-flip issue is not high on Amazon’s priority list. What are authors gonna do – submit to the slave-drivers with the mahogany desk syndrome?
    Blessings,
    E

    • Bryan

      Probably not :). Good point, Ethan!

  • Stella Wilkinson

    Hi Jim,
    Just caught the show, excellent as always. Yes please feel free to show the competition cover – you guys did great work with a pretty difficult brief!

  • They care! They put the team on it, but they don’t really care enough to put more people on the team.. I think they have a team assigned to all these things, and when an issue arises, they put it in the queue, try to fix it, move on to the next issue, and wait for people to tell them it’s still an issue. Plus, they might not KNOW what’s up until people start doing testing and pointing them in the right direction.

    Also, they don’t really care.

    • Bryan

      Lol.

  • As to Tim’s C-Lister suggestion, I can say as a solid D or E-Lister (in fitness, nutrition, and health coaching) that even I don’t have time for people who reach out to me cold. 😉

    I listened to Tim on the show yesterday, and it’s really worth a listen. https://selfpublishingformula.com/episode-59/

    • Bryan

      Tim’s always got great tips. Thanks, Roland!

  • Thanks for netting out the KKR piece on email. I knuckled down and read it, and what she leaves out is the type of email that many people send. It’s an email. An attempt to have a conversation with the reader. I don’t know who well that would fly with fiction (aside from the superfans), but in non-fiction, it seems to help.

    I dropped my newsletter format last year and replaced it with a mostly text email designed to look like I had opened up gmail and typed a message. There are links to news and things like that, but generally just one per email, if that. I ask them questions, and give them answers, and hope to make and keep fans.

    It actually took the pressure off. A Newsletter sounds fancy. Email is just email.

    • Bryan

      You’re welcome! Yeah, we don’t need to call it anything fancy :).

  • Spider McGee

    Amazon hasn’t fixed the feature because they don’t have to. They don’t consider the competition they have serious enough to make any real changes.

    Also, I’d take the $5000. Make no mistake. Hell, I’d take $500 at this point. Times are hard, and those Hungry Man dinners ain’t buying themselves.

    • Bryan

      Mmm, Hungry Man dinners :).

  • Hey folks. About that Page Flip thing…. 😉

    The quotes erroneously attributed to Lear are actually from me. No worries, but hey, don’t bug him about my research, OK? 🙂

    If you guys would like me to come on and chat about the results at some point, let me know.

    Jim is incorrect. It’s natively built into every Kindle app now. No clicks. No barrier. C’mon, guys – you can check this with ten seconds of effort.

    There’s no pain level.
    It’s automatically there.
    It impacts every single book where enhanced typesetting is on.

    There’s a BUG in the implementation of the feature. The feature is awesome. But the KU reads still tracks the last page read (we know this), but FAILS to track the last page *Flipped to* using Page Flip, unless you then drop out of Page Flip.

    Any reader who reads a book entirely in Page Flip (very doable in an iPad, say, especially for short books) gives the author 1 KENPC for credit for the book, not the full book pages read.

    The original bug was a heck of a lot bigger. It was huge – any book that was read where Page Flip was turned on *at all* was reduced to 1 KENPC. They fixed that back in September/October.

    I’m not actually certain Amazon is still aware the lingering bug exists. I *do not* think it is likely to show up often. ANY time the user drops from Page Flip, the author gets credit for them reading to that point. The reader has to read the entire book in Page Flip and never exit it for the author to get no credit.

    I gave some suggestions for authors to combat this issue in my original research post on the 20Booksto50k group on Facebook, but in short:
    – Turn off enhanced typesetting (via Vellum, or some other tool).
    – Put multiple links to cool things in the end of your ebook. Clicking a link drops the reader from Page Flip and gives you credit for the book being read.

    Again, I’m happy to pop on with you folks and clarify a lot of this stuff sometime, if you want.

    And next time, make sure you cite your sources accurately. 😉

    • Did you follow the link?

      With about ten seconds of effort you can see that it looks just like Lear had done the testing.

      https://www.facebook.com/groups/781495321956934?view=permalink&id=1071410782965385

      • It does indeed, unless you read the comments in the thread. Where you can see that I gently chided Lear for quoting my post verbatim without citation the day after he posted it.

        It’s not really *that* big a deal, Roland. Just a small goof. 🙂 Bryan and I have already been chuckling about it in Facebook PMs, and we’re working together to try to reach Amazon about the subject. Thus the multiple smilies in the post above. The guys are cool, and I figure they can handle a little ribbing. 😉

        Here’s the original post, from March 15th, for those curious: https://www.facebook.com/groups/781495321956934/permalink/1048413015265162/

        • Stefan Lear

          Hey, it wasn’t Verbatim – I bolded a whole line that was lower case originally. LMAO.

      • Stefan Lear

        This is how the confusion started: I saw Kevin’s original post and copied it into a note. Before I could copy the link to his article, I got distracted by a post about BookBub ads in another group I’m a part of.
        Later, when I couldn’t find the source, I went ahead and posted the note, at which time Kevin popped up to claim authorship [I explained the note/URL issue in the comments section where Kevin and I talked about it.)
        Now it got to this point. Jeesh!
        Kevin is the original author, did the research, and from Now On I am just going to post links to other author’s insights so that this doesn’t happen again.
        [Damn, Kevin I can’t believe I’m having to explain all this! LOL]

    • I don’t believe I ever said I was sure of that. I believe I said “is it built in to the app?”

      • It wasn’t just you, Jim. You asked if it was built in; Bryan said he wasn’t sure but thought there might be some setup involved, then you went on about pain levels and such.

        You’re absolutely right: if there was any pain involved in turning on Page Flip, it would be a lot smaller problem.

        As it stands, it’s so easy to activate (and there’s no setup; it’s on by default) that I sometimes *accidentally* activate Page Flip with my finger while reading on an iPad.

        You guys do an awesome show, but when you make statements about a Kindle feature that all your listeners know aren’t true, it damages the credibility of the rest of the show. Which was excellent as usual, BTW. 🙂 There’s a REASON I listen to this podcast as soon as it loads, every week – you guys do great! It’s rare for you to make factual errors, which is why I pointed this unusual event out.

        • Simon Goodson

          I’m guessing it’s not available on older kindles though, especially pre paper white

    • Bryan

      Sorry about the misattribution, Kevin! As I said when I spoke with you, we’ll make sure to attribute this one to you during next week’s show. Thanks for the additional information!

    • Stefan Lear

      Hey Kevin, you beat me to the punch. I guess that from now on I’ll do a proper attrition in the original post, not in the comments to the post. And I see that you covered the fact that page flip is hard baked into the Kindle apps and readers.

      • *chuckle*

        REALLY not worried about it. 😉 But yeah; this sort of thing is why attribution is a good idea. 🙂

  • Simon Goodson

    For the bet… winner gets to buy me dinner. Loser gets to pay to fly me from the UK for that dinner. Sound fair? 🙂

  • Simon Goodson

    Thinking about the page flip issue, and pages read in general, from a coders point of view here’s my thoughts…

    From the original kindle point of view, when books were always bought, there was no need to record whether each page had been read. Why store that info for 500 or 1000 pages when all the reader really cares about is what is the last page they were on (note that – not the last page they reached, the last one they ended up on). It’s the difference between storing one piece of info and a thousand, multiplied by the number of books you have, multiplied by the number of people with kindles… that’s a big difference.

    Now with page reads it becomes important to record whether all pages have been read… but most of the older kindles probably don’t support that at all, so the best Amazon can do is look at the most recent page read (again, not necessarily the last page).

    I’ve not used page flip, but looking at the features it seems like it keeps the “current” page and then lets you look at others, and I would guess the “current” page is the one linked to the old style “most recent” page, rather than the page you’ve flipped to.

    The other thing with page flip is that it looks like part of its purpose is to allow you to scan around the book – so it looks like it would be difficult to tell the difference between someone reading all the pages in that mode and simply scanning to the end to look for something. It’s not impossible to deduce the differences with a fair accuracy (e.g. by time spent on each page), but it’s not trivial and so may have been ignored. And, again, it might be something that can’t be done on older hardware.

    Lastly – if amazon have to choose between removing this feature for its customers and hurting some of the authors a bit… they’re never going to choose to hurt the customers.

    • You’re close, Simon.

      What appears to be happening with Page Flip is that your “furthest page read” (what KDP uses to report KENPC read for payment) is loaded as Page 1 when you open a book. If you the enter Page Flip and read the book through *in* Page Flip, then the author gets 1 KENPC credit for your read.

      If you drop out of Page Flip at any time, it appears that the new page “flipped” to is set as the new furthest page read.

      The issue then isn’t with people using Page Flip as intended (to navigate a book), but rather only when people use it as a reading tool to read the entire book – which actually works remarkably well on a tablet, and probably happens more often than we’d like.

      The simple answer would be to tie the “furthest page read” number to the Page Flip number (let furthest page “flipped” to also register for KENPC purposes). There’s some complications with that, but it’s certainly possible to work them out.

      • Simon Goodson

        Doesn’t that open the door to scammers again though? It’s solvable but not trivial.

        • They never closed the door to scammers. They just removed the scam books. 😉

          That’s why so many books were removed in 2016 for having a TOC in the back of the book; if you clicked through to the table of contents at any time, it functionally gave the author a “100% read” if the TOC was at the back of the book.

          I don’t think it is any easier to set a computer “auto-reading” KU books in Page Flip mode than it is to write a script to do so in regular mode, so I think it’s irrelevant.

          In the long run, the KENPC system is inherently flawed and will always be gamed. It needs to be replaced with a more robust system for payment.

  • Abraham Benguigui

    Hello guys!
    Loved the show, just recently started listening tot as I’m working on my first novel and you guys rock!
    Based in the question, I think that is a combination of things: Not a lot of people use that feature to make the changes compared to the many other projects they are working on. Also, it is a business, and just like Uber did, they start as a great offer to drivers (in our case, writers) but then, once they have enough volume and control most of the market, they start to slowly change rates and prices to make them go their way. So maybe what is needed and you both said this in the show is a strong competition like Lyft is to Uber, in order to start controlling the market and avoiding a monopoly.

    And I do not think I’ll take the $5000. Personally, I have a full time job and I’m doing this part time, so my priority now as I’m starting is just to get as much exposure as possible. So I’ll choose the option that can get me the most loyal readers out there. I think it really depends on what part of your writing career you are on.

    Thanks again for another awesome episode!

    • I can see your point, but my books aren’t making $5k in six months, so I’d take it easily. I’d get the money and exposure I couldn’t get elsewhere. You are promoted by Amazon in that program. I’d make sure my front and back matter were all good to go, and take the 5 grand.

      • Simon Goodson

        The exposure is the reason I’d take it, and the sell through to the rest of the series.

      • Abraham Benguigui

        Yeah that make sense too. I guess it really depends on the stage of your career your at. I think I would prefer to have a little more control over what happens with my first novel but again it all depends on your specific needs.

    • Bryan

      Thanks, Abraham! Glad to have you as a listener :). Competition would definitely help matters!

  • The thing about page flip and page counting in general isn’t necessarily about caring. It’s a technically difficult problem, partially born from the ebook format itself. Thanks to the wonderful benefits of scalable type, digital delivery, and HTML underpinnings, the whole concept of a “page” in ebooks is completely arbitrary. In an ebook format, there really isn’t a clean way to keep a running tally of a reader’s progress through a book. Sure, you could break the ebook format into arbitrary “page-length” chunks and mark those chunks as “read” as the reader goes through them, but that’s a pretty substantial change to the ebook format itself and isn’t easily made to be backwards compatible (without backwards compatibility, a proper reader progress feature like the one I’m describing would require publishers to convert all of their books to the new format).

    Now, there are a lot of smart people working at Amazon and perhaps they have a more clever solution that gives clear reader progress on an estimated arbitrary page length while also maintaining backwards compatibility… but that’s not the point. It’s a non-trivial problem. Just because the problem is easy to describe, that doesn’t mean the proper solution is equally easy to implement.

    • Simon Goodson

      I’d totally overlooked the what is a page question. Really good point.

    • Bryan

      Yeah, they might feel it’s more trouble than it’s worth, even if it’s harming authors.

  • I’ve just checked my kindle app and the page flip feature was turned on by default. I didn’t have to go in and make this change. I think perhaps Amazon values reader experience over Authors, but that’s nothing new.

    • Yes, me too! I’ve gotten ‘stuck’ in flip several times, and couldn’t figure out how to get out of it! LOL. I’m okay now 😉

    • Bryan

      Ha, yup. It’s definitely enabled by default. We’ve learned a few things since last week’s episode :).

  • I appreciate you’re Mac guys, but, just for the record, Vellum isn’t the only way to create a nicely formatted ebook. Jutoh, for example, can do everything Vellum can, on any platform, for a fraction of the price.

    • It looks pretty nice.

      • Scary, old-fashioned looking website, though. People DO judge books by their covers.

    • Bryan

      Thanks for the PC recommendation, Kevin!

  • Re: Amazon Cash. I think they are trying to eliminate the gift card distributors middle men.

    • Bryan

      Ah, I can see that.

  • madisonwoods

    Thanks for the information about page flip and pages not counting. I have my one self-pubbed fiction book set to use the enhanced features but will go turn it off now. I’m not sure if I did the same with my nonfiction or not. Just wanted to mention, though, that I didn’t have to “opt in” or do anything at all to use it in my own reading. One day a book I was reading a book and the page flip was doing its thing. Every book since then does it, assuming the author has it enabled in KDP. I use a Galaxy reader.

    • Bryan

      Not sure if the enhanced features will turn it off or not. But there are many authors out there who have a few tricks up their sleeves to turn it off. After learning more about it, it seems like KDP has it enabled automatically.

  • I’m confused about your response to Amazon Cash. This isn’t about a new way to purchase from AMZ. It’s a new way to purchase from any store accepting AMZ cash. Like paypal but easier at Point Of Sale. You have the app on your phone. It shows a barcode. The retailer scans it. Their system does all the rest through secure POS to AMZ channels. Now, take this to countries where many people don’t even have a bank account and therefore can’t do traditional online commerce. I’m just saying it’s bigger than you make it out to be in the show.

    • Bryan

      Ah, that makes sense. Thanks for clarifying, Edwin.

    • Yeah the Amazon Cash play is all about international markets. Banking and credit card usage is just not the same in many regions as it is in North America.

      • Bryan

        Good point, Dan. Another international play from Amazon!

    • Amazon isn’t really helping clear up confusion, though. Their Amazon Cash page says its “The fast, no fee way to use cash to shop on Amazon.”. In the FAQ, it notes that this is no different than the gift card balance – its the same some of funds.

      Knowing that, I kind of had the same reaction as Jim. When I get cash gifts and want to use it on Amazon, I just go buy a gift card in the amount of the cash I have (Amazon already sells physical gift cards with settable amounts, in addition to the fixed ones).

      I mean I guess it saves the time of typing in the Amazon gift card number if you have a smart phone and already use the Amazon app, but otherwise, I’m not getting why they are doing this, unless they want to phase out physical gift cards altogether down the line. I don’t see this is any real gateway for anyone who just will not shop online, because they aren’t likely to even open Amazon account, much less have the app and all that.

      • Bryan

        Amazon and confusion go hand in hand a bit these days :). Thanks, Anma.

  • Clare Walker

    Just to clarify: the issue with page flip messing up how authors are paid only applies to authors who publish exclusively with amazon via KDP Select, correct? Authors who go wide with other sellers do not have access to the program that pays for pages read. Do correct me if I am wrong. As an author whose books are available on multiple sites I dont think the page flip issue applies.

    • Bryan

      That is correct, Clare. Thanks for the comment!

  • Okay, I’m a bit late on this but Amazon Cash. That program isn’t aimed at the “western” market. Yeah, there’s so many million in the States without bank accounts. However, there’s nearly a billion people in India that don’t have bank accounts. India is still a primary cash-n-carry economy. The government has trouble tracking the money in the country for taxation purposes. Amazon will work the kinks out of the system here in the States, and then launch it in India. They’re gunning for the bankless cash floating in the country.

    • Bryan

      Makes a lot of sense, W.H. Great point!

      • So true. My Eastern European wife didn’t have checks until she moved here. She had to pay her mobile phone, electric, and internet bills by actually GOING TO THE STORE with the cash. It’s better now in Bulgaria, but many parts of the world are skipping over checks and even credit cards.

        In some countries people buy things online via their mobile phone account. They put money into the mobile phone account and use it for airtime AND online purchases. Amazon is probably in a good position to play big in that market (and track EVERYTHING using that data).

        • Bryan

          Good points, Roland. That’s what our sister podcast, Sell More Books in Bulgaria Show tells us all the time.