Notifying Kindle Customers of Updates (Has Changed)

Image from ShutterStock

Image from ShutterStock


It happens. After you publish a book, you think of a way to improve it. Or you find a typo. Or you view it on a friend’s device and discover a formatting problem. Or a customer notifies you of an issue. Or a customer suggests something in a review that never occurred to you. Or the content of a nonfiction book becomes out-of-date.

For some reason or another, you need to update your Kindle e-book.

That’s the easy part: Simply visit your bookshelf at KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), upload a new content file, preview your book carefully on each device, and publish the revision.

Your old book remains available for sale until the new one goes live, usually within 12 to 24 hours in the US. (If you don’t want the original to remain available in the interim period, simply unpublish the book from your KDP bookshelf.)

Naturally, you want all of your customers to receive your updated edition. You’d also like to notify your customers that a new edition is available.

That’s the hard part.

It’s never been ‘easy,’ but KDP’s policy on notifying Kindle customers of updates has actually changed.

Their policy is clearly customer-oriented, and that’s a good thing.

But it’s not customer-oriented in a way that’s intuitive to most authors. Authors are focused on how their Kindle e-book has improved, and so they tend to focus on how customers would appreciate having the new Kindle edition (or at least knowing that the new edition is available).

However, in many cases, that would actually be less customer-oriented.

Why? Because there is something else to consider.

Many readers:

  • highlight passages in their Kindle e-books
  • place bookmarks in their Kindle e-books
  • record notes in their Kindle e-books

Imagine customers who have spent hours not only reading your e-book, but highlighting, bookmarking, and taking notes in your e-book.

Those customers may become quite frustrated to lose all that hard work simply because your new edition overrides their original.

Therefore, Amazon must weigh the significance of your update and how customers might benefit from that against the possible loss of highlights, bookmarks, and notes.

The result is that KDP now only sends out automatic updates to Kindle customers when the update corrects serious readability issues, such as:

  • overlapping text
  • cutoff images

If the update does not correct a severe readability issue, KDP won’t issue an automatic update for your e-book.

(It’s true that customers can turn updates on or off, but not all customers take the time to do it or know how.)

KDP will ask you to describe the errors, and may ask you to provide the location numbers of the errors (you can read your book on a Kindle device or in the Kindle previewer to find the location numbers).

KDP will examine the errors to determine whether or not they hamper readability severely enough to warrant an update:

  • For destructive or critical errors (as deemed by KDP) replaced by major corrections, KDP will email current customers to let them know that an update exists and provide directions for how to obtain the updated Kindle e-book.
  • For distracting errors (as determined by KDP) replaced by minor corrections, current customers won’t be notified and updates will only be made available to customers who don’t yet own the book.
  • If KDP discovers critical errors that still need to be replaced, they will remove your book from sale until you correct those issues.

Of course, the best thing is to avoid needing an update, but it’s not always possible. Especially, in nonfiction, you can’t always future proof your book because information, technology, and trends are often dynamic.

For books where KDP chooses not to notify customers of updates, the next best thing is to let your following know on your blog, through social media, or via an email newsletter.

In addition to including information about how to follow you in an about the author section of your book, provide a compelling reason for readers to do this (e.g. a free relevant PDF file of something your audience is likely to want, or to learn about possible short-term promotional savings on your future books).

But you also have to balance publicly announcing that you made a mistake versus helping your current readers receive your updates (by contacting KDP to request that the updated edition be sent to their device, or perhaps you could send a copy of your book). If you have an email newsletter where the contact list consists predominantly of people who have purchased your book, then there is less concern about publicizing your mistakes; but if you post on your blog or social media about a mistake, then your mistake receives much exposure (and if you feed your blog or tweets into your Author Central page, current shoppers may see it).

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

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