Wednesday, August 8, 2012


While one of the usability ideas I really believe in is "if you have to explain it, you've failed," sometimes you do have to explain it. Sometimes more than once.

A while back I got a message that availability of the Little Black Book of Design had been suspended in the Kindle store:

We're writing to let you know that at least one of your readers has reported some problems within your book.  To prevent new readers from experiencing these issues, your title has been temporarily removed from sale.

One or more forced page breaks appear in the middle of the body text. You can see this error at the following location(s): Kindle Location: 2, 3, 4, etc.

My response: 

Hello, The book is intentionally formatted so that one statement appears per page. I believe a reader may have simply misunderstood the "one thought per page" format.

Amazon's reply: 

Hello, I am sorry for the trouble you've had while formatting your book for Kindle. From your email, I understand that extra spaces is necessary in your content. However, please note Kindle content is reflowable and if you include extra spaces, it may cause formatting errors and it may affect the display of your book. To avoid these errors and to provide a good reading experience, we recommend you to remove the extra spaces.

I try again: 
Thank you. You don't seem to understand. I have not had trouble formatting the book. The flow of the book requires the specific formatting that was applied. This matches the layout of the print version and the book, as it is a collection of statements - much like a book of poems - will not work laid out another way. This is not simply a matter of "extra spaces." If you look at sample pages you should understand. Please give me contact information for a manager or supervisor if you are not able to reinstate the book.

Amazon responds: 
Thanks for letting us know the title is formatted one statement/page per design. Our quality team will review your comments and get back to you.

The next day the LBBD was again available for purchase. And no, they never got back to me.

My guess is that a reader skipped the description, didn't know what aphorism means, or genuinely could not see a page that was not covered in text without concluding that the book was somehow broken and bringing that to Amazon's attention. There has been feedback from some who didn't like or understand the format. Maybe they expected a nuts-and-bolts how-to for Product X, Version 5.

I don't know. And I will never know. I do know that someone's dislike or discomfort took the book off the market briefly. And the fact that someone felt strongly enough to make that happen is positive in one sense: it means the book make an impression. Somebody noticed.

The villagers wouldn't have come with their torches if they hadn't cared about what Victor Frankenstein was up to.

View opposition as a sign that you're making progress.

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