Looks like Amazon has decided to do something about people who snag free content from the internet, format it as an ebook and sell it for Kindle. I blogged about this awhile back (http://raw-dog.livejournal.com/245555.html). I figured this kind of thing was behind the email we recently got explaining what type of content is acceptable for publishing on Kindle: content that you have the sole right to publish or content that is in the public domain. We don't steal content so I didn't think we'd have any problems. Today we got an email saying that one of our titles contains content that is freely available on the web and we need to verify our right to publish it. The letter says:

"…please provide the URLs for all websites where you have previously published this or any other Kindle content. Please respond within five business days with the requested URLs so we can verify you have the sole publishing rights, or the books will be removed from sale in the Kindle Store."

I'm a bit mystified about what to do here. The book happens to be a collection of essays, articles and reviews. Many of the pieces have appeared elsewhere on the web and in print. While we don't have sole publishing rights to the material we do have rights to publish the book as a collection of articles. I'm not sure how sending links will verify this right.

And now I am starting to wonder about all the free excerpts that we've published online over the years. We often make the first chapter of a book available to the public to promote it. Will that set off Amazon's content sensors?

I'm pretty sure that no real human being has reviewed our particular case yet because the book is clearly not a rip-off, Wikipedia article posing as someone's official autobiography.

Again, I'm happy that Amazon has decided to protect their customers by preventing the sale of free content. However, I'm not sure this is the way to go about it. I plan to write back to them but don't feel too confident that someone will actually pay attention and understand the situation. Publishing rights can be quite complicated and it doesn't seem as though Amazon realizes that. Did they consider that something can be published on the web legally by one venue and then published again, still legally, in a different format? Their letter doesn't indicate that they understand this possibility and doesn't give any information about a way to explain it. If we don't comply they have threatened to shut down our account. I feel as though I may have to remove the book from sale just to make sure they don't do that. But, obviously, that will hurt sales of that particular title.

This reminds me again why it is so scary to have one, primary place for ebooks. Even a temporary shut down is the kind of thing that could really hurt a small business, particularly the ones that are ebook only. Amazon is truly a sleeping giant that could roll over and squash many struggling publishers in its sleep.


  1. Anonymous

    The good news, Microsoft invested heavily in Nook, so that a Nook app can be bundled with Windows 8. May be a really smart move for B&N.

  2. This is happening to me and my little company Daverana. I got the same email you are describing two days ago.

  3. Anonymous

    Get ahold of my at gunslinger at daverana dot com.

    I’ve got some data you might need, or might be able to uncover some data for you.


  4. Anonymous

    I’ve gotten those. I serialized part of my novel, The Prodigal Hour, after publishing it on Kindle. I simply replied to the email letting them know that I had and pointing them to my website. One other time, I got a note about confirming that I had the rights to publish another author’s work (I’m creative director of a nano-press). I replied confirming I had the rights and noting I could show them the signed licensing agreement, if they needed it.

    Both times, I found the Kindle team professional and courteous. So far, they’ve been happy with the evidence I’ve provided.

    The sad thing is that they seemed damned if they do and damned if they don’t. There was a rash of articles recently lamenting the fact that outfits existed who mined online content and published them as ebooks for Kindle and criticizing Amazon for letting it happen. Now that Amazon is being more proactive about confirming rights, it seems like they’re being criticized again. You’re right publishing rights can be complicated, but so far as I’ve experienced, Amazon does seem to realize that, and moreover is active about understanding the various complicated situations that can arise.

    Honestly, if you just replied to this email by sending them this post, it probably would have all been taken care of.

  5. Reselling books that were cobbled together from things off the internet isn’t their sole reason for doing this. There are publishers reporting that their books have been copied in their entirety with copyright information as well as the names of the authors being changed.

    Amazon is not the ‘one primary place’ for ebooks. There are many distribution channels–All Romance eBooks/Omnilit, Kobo, Smashwords, Barnes and Noble to name a few–it’s just that Amazon has been around a long time and has gotten into selling -everything- these days. They’ve also been dipping their toes into publishing and just bought a small publisher, Avalon Books.

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