Author Topic: Amazon Actions re NEW Bonus Content Limits, Amazon Taking Action (MERGED)  (Read 151230 times)  

Offline boba1823

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The pen name Viper listed is not Chance Carter. I haven't seen credible proof anywhere he's returned.

I agree that it's best not to publicly speculate about this sort of thing, and risk damaging the reputation of innocent authors/publishers.

The reality of things, of course, is that it's fairly easy for a person whose account has been banned from Amazon to return with a new account that, for all practical purposes, will not be traced back to the original banned account. Or to have multiple accounts all along, just in case. (For obvious reasons, I'm not going to lay out the steps.) So any given person whose account is banned for whatever reason may well come back under a new account in the future.

This is what makes it so important for Amazon to develop some kind of mechanism for preventing bad behaviour, rather than just (occasionally, and after long delay) going after individual bad actors.

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    Offline unkownwriter

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    Please, please, please, stop ignoring that there are other variables that are more likely to be the cause than excessive bonus content.

    I don't think most of us are saying this, but none of us really know, not even you, so if we want to discuss the scammers, the stuffers, the botters, the illegal lottery runners, the review buyers, or whatever, it's really none of your concern. Don't want to keep seeing this topic? SOB Scroll on by.

    Why does this matter so much to you, anyway? It's not like the pitchforks are being waved dangerously close to anyone's family jewels, we're trying to discuss something that's of importance to our careers. We aren't Amazon, as far as I know none of us has any pull with the company, and whatever they do, it will likely be done with little regard to what we say here.

    I swear, the concern shown by some people for folks who are playing a dirty game. SMH

    Offline Becca Mills

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    Regarding the post I edited above, which identified an author as supposedly being Chance Carter's new pen name ... FYI for newer members, we don't call out people that way here. Those who have pretty clearly been targeted for action by Amazon are something of a gray area, and we're talking in the smoky caves about just where the naming-names line should be drawn with that group. But accusing an identifiable individual based on rumors circulating on Twitter? I feel confident in saying that will never be okay here. Please refrain.

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    Offline 39416

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    About how many stuffers have been removed now? Ball park figure?

    Offline AltMe

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    I get that cynicism isn't the best lens through which to view things, but I have to say, I don't doubt for a second that any and all nefarious parties that have been "thrown out" of KDP are all still operating under other accounts and names. Without any real way for Amazon to prevent that, and with all that money still ripe for the taking in KU, I can't see any apparent way of keeping them out. It's just a never-ending cycle, isn't it?

    This I dont get.

    What happened to needing a tax file number? Surely these can be verified? Surely checking they are not reused on multiple accounts is not difficult to do?

    KDP made a big deal of getting tax information from me when I signed up. Why isn't that being used to ensure 1 tax file number, 1 account?

    What am I missing?
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    Offline CassieL

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    This I dont get.

    What happened to needing a tax file number? Surely these can be verified? Surely checking they are not reused on multiple accounts is not difficult to do?

    KDP made a big deal of getting tax information from me when I signed up. Why isn't that being used to ensure 1 tax file number, 1 account?

    What am I missing?


    That companies have their own tax ID numbers and these people can start up as many companies as they want.

    8 Pen Names. Genres: Non-fiction, Speculative Fiction, Romance.

    Offline JWright

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    I think most people understand that many of the stuffers do other things besides stuffing that can get them in trouble - they pretty much go hand in hand.  Maybe some have strictly been using stuffing and no other shady tactics but anyway pretty sure most people get it.

    I don't really follow Romance so I could be wrong but I looked at a couple of best seller charts for Romance sub-categories and they looked a lot more legit to me without the 2,000+ page stuffed monstrosities.  I hope that's true.

    Some of them sure did have a lot of nerve to do all they did and rank that high in the romance charts.  I think it would be a lot safer if you want to scam and use questionable and/or illegal tactics to keep a lower profile.  I don't think for a second that those who do lose their accounts can't easily just set up a new corporation and everything else and be back and business, but they might hesitate to try and be so visible and take over the charts and hog the All Star bonuses.  I don't know.  We'll see.   

    I know Amazon hates using humans, but they could at least get a college intern to watch the top of the Romance charts for anything shady or have a contact person at least.  It might help to at least guard against the worst offenders taking away the top of the charts.   I know they were informed long ago and just need to act, but maybe going forward if they were more proactive about it they wouldn't end up with such a mess. Wishful thinking I know.

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    I know for a fact (confirmed) that they are looking at connections that might go back at least two years and it's account based. So even if it was under a different pen name, or happened so long ago you barely remember that one cross promo you might have done for some holiday, there's a good chance someone got tasked with combing through your account for evidence of what they are looking for. (Which isn't excessive use of bonus content.)

    If this is true, then calling out bad actors immediately and publicly needs to be a more accepted practice. Lots of people did swaps with Chance and other masterminds because they were ignorant of their shady business practices. If engaging with bad actors puts your account in the cross-fire, then we need to make sure everyone knows who bad actors are.

    I know I did swaps with plenty of the mastermind types even though I disagreed with the way they did business. AFAIK, they weren't doing anything against the rules at the time, but they could easily have been engaging in shady stuff on the DL. I cut those swaps awhile back, after some of Chance's bad actions were brought to my attention on a Kboards post (I think it was the skip to the back epilogues, but I'm not sure).

    Offline KelliWolfe

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    Some of them sure did have a lot of nerve to do all they did and rank that high in the romance charts.  I think it would be a lot safer if you want to scam and use questionable and/or illegal tactics to keep a lower profile.  I don't think for a second that those who do lose their accounts can't easily just set up a new corporation and everything else and be back and business, but they might hesitate to try and be so visible and take over the charts and hog the All Star bonuses.  I don't know.  We'll see.   
    It has been conjectured in other topics about this that there are a lot of scammers who do exactly this - they have a fairly large number of accounts with a bunch of books in them, but they never generate enough reads/borrows on any given book to attract unwanted attention. They never hit the top lists and stay buried low enough in the ranks that it would take some serious effort to find them. I discovered a whole lot of these back when the computer generated books first started showing up, and there's no reason to think that they're still not using similar tactics, just with extremely cheap ghostwritten books rather than computer generated ones so they're harder to spot. The computer generated ones didn't really pop out at anyone until some of the scammers got greedy and generated so many borrows that the books started hitting the top lists. It was much the same with the scamlets back in KU 1.0. A handful of scammers get too greedy and start drawing attention to themselves, and the nail that sticks up the highest gets hammered.

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    Offline AltMe

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    That companies have their own tax ID numbers and these people can start up as many companies as they want.

    The companies need directors, and these have to be real people. All it takes is a rule a company cannot have a director or office holder who is a banned person, when applying for a KDP account. Nor can they appoint a banned person and keep their account active.

    But I guess this needs a real person to make the connections and do the due diligence. So Amazon wont do it.

    So, (dons combat armour) companies cannot submit to KU. Problem solved.
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    Offline GeneDoucette

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    The companies need directors, and these have to be real people. All it takes is a rule a company cannot have a director or office holder who is a banned person, when applying for a KDP account. Nor can they appoint a banned person and keep their account active.

    But I guess this needs a real person to make the connections and do the due diligence. So Amazon wont do it.

    So, (dons combat armour) companies cannot submit to KU. Problem solved.

    I work in banking, and I promise you, it's MUCH more complicated and difficult to really know who is benefiting from a business. And banks can ask a whole lot more questions than Amazon can. Amazon could put a whole team on the it, and they wouldn't know.

    Here's just one way: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beneficial_owner

    Offline JWright

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    It has been conjectured in other topics about this that there are a lot of scammers who do exactly this - they have a fairly large number of accounts with a bunch of books in them, but they never generate enough reads/borrows on any given book to attract unwanted attention. They never hit the top lists and stay buried low enough in the ranks that it would take some serious effort to find them. I discovered a whole lot of these back when the computer generated books first started showing up, and there's no reason to think that they're still not using similar tactics, just with extremely cheap ghostwritten books rather than computer generated ones so they're harder to spot. The computer generated ones didn't really pop out at anyone until some of the scammers got greedy and generated so many borrows that the books started hitting the top lists. It was much the same with the scamlets back in KU 1.0. A handful of scammers get too greedy and start drawing attention to themselves, and the nail that sticks up the highest gets hammered.

    Yes, I think if someone would want to scam that would be the way to go - stay low key and use software. Not that I want that of course, but making yourself so visible you are going to fall sooner or later.  If nothing else Amazon doesn't like to be embarrassed.  There have been articles in Forbes and other well-known publications about Amazon ignoring the problem lately.  I'm not sure if that did it, but anyway at least they look like they are doing something.

    To be so visible the way some have been - takes a lot of nerve.   Amazon could have stopped it long ago but since they didn't the Masterminds just kept going.   I think taking down a few of the big pen names might help to clean things up at the top, but that could be wishful thinking on my part.   And if more goes underground I have no idea how that affects the rest of us.  More illegal page reads for one thing.

    Offline boba1823

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    Without any real way for Amazon to prevent that, and with all that money still ripe for the taking in KU, I can't see any apparent way of keeping them out. It's just a never-ending cycle, isn't it?

    I don't know, I'm kind of surprised, really, that the Zon doesn't have some more sophisticated automated measures for some of this in place.

    Surely it can't be that hard to come up with a nifty little algorithm that is adequately good at detecting stuffed books. Assuming Amazon can come up with a clear definition of what constitutes stuffing, anyway. It certainly shouldn't be hard to run a check against content that has previously been published through KDP, even if it has since been removed (the mosaic stuffing approach).

    Of course, as I see it, the matter of stuffing in isolation is kind of.. meh. It's not allowed now, which is fine by me - but there's still a pretty big difference between an author getting extra page reads on a stuffed book due to readers who are legitimately reading all those bonus books, and an author who is getting extra page reads due to click-to-the-back trickery or other more nefarious things. I'd think that some of this kind of stuff should be even easier to detect - again, just using automated measures. Especially considering that Amazon doesn't usually seem to be too worried about the occasional false positive.

    I don't mean to imply that it would be super simple - I couldn't program checks like this. But Amazon has some clever folks who do some pretty impressive stuff, so.. you'd really think they could figure it out. Makes one wonder how much they care. Though maybe because of recent events, they're starting to care. We can hope   :)

    Offline KelliWolfe

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    The companies need directors, and these have to be real people. All it takes is a rule a company cannot have a director or office holder who is a banned person, when applying for a KDP account. Nor can they appoint a banned person and keep their account active.

    But I guess this needs a real person to make the connections and do the due diligence. So Amazon wont do it.

    So, (dons combat armour) companies cannot submit to KU. Problem solved.
    Most are probably incorporating in states where that information can be kept private (New Mexico, Delaware, Wyoming, Nevada...). KDP could require that the information be disclosed before opening an account, but there may be legal reasons why it isn't feasible for them to do so. Or like plagiarism, they just don't care enough to bother with doing anything about it until they absolutely have to.

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    Offline KelliWolfe

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    I don't know, I'm kind of surprised, really, that the Zon doesn't have some more sophisticated automated measures for some of this in place.

    Surely it can't be that hard to come up with a nifty little algorithm that is adequately good at detecting stuffed books. Assuming Amazon can come up with a clear definition of what constitutes stuffing, anyway. It certainly shouldn't be hard to run a check against content that has previously been published through KDP, even if it has since been removed (the mosaic stuffing approach).

    Of course, as I see it, the matter of stuffing in isolation is kind of.. meh. It's not allowed now, which is fine by me - but there's still a pretty big difference between an author getting extra page reads on a stuffed book due to readers who are legitimately reading all those bonus books, and an author who is getting extra page reads due to click-to-the-back trickery or other more nefarious things. I'd think that some of this kind of stuff should be even easier to detect - again, just using automated measures. Especially considering that Amazon doesn't usually seem to be too worried about the occasional false positive.

    I don't mean to imply that it would be super simple - I couldn't program checks like this. But Amazon has some clever folks who do some pretty impressive stuff, so.. you'd really think they could figure it out. Makes one wonder how much they care. Though maybe because of recent events, they're starting to care. We can hope   :)
    How would an automated system be able to tell the difference between a legitimate boxed set and a stuffed book? The ones I've looked at don't appear to be that different internally, but this isn't something I've spent a lot of time digging into.

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    Offline boba1823

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    The companies need directors, and these have to be real people. All it takes is a rule a company cannot have a director or office holder who is a banned person, when applying for a KDP account. Nor can they appoint a banned person and keep their account active.

    There are - and I'm really glad for this - relatively simple ways for a person to own and operate a business (effectively) anonymously. Having an attorney establish an LLC as a registered agent and file as the nominee director, etc. Certain entities will know who you are, namely the IRS and generally also your bank, but they aren't sharing that with Amazon. I'm not on any public records for my company, and Amazon doesn't know who I am - for my KDP account, anyway. (Not that I'm doing any nefarious - I just don't particularly trust Amazon to keep my information secure.)

    It's a fairly thin veil of anonymity, of course. If Amazon files a lawsuit against a company, the officers/owners will probably be revealed. But that's not going to help much when it comes to new accounts, created by someone who was previously banned.

    Offline AltMe

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    How would an automated system be able to tell the difference between a legitimate boxed set and a stuffed book? The ones I've looked at don't appear to be that different internally, but this isn't something I've spent a lot of time digging into.

    They put in place cross checkable rules.

    Each book in the there should be labeled a certain way with the series and book number, which can be bot checked with your series page. If not there, or the xcheck fails, book is not accepted into KU.
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    Offline MyraScott

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    If this is true, then calling out bad actors immediately and publicly needs to be a more accepted practice. Lots of people did swaps with Chance and other masterminds because they were ignorant of their shady business practices. If engaging with bad actors puts your account in the cross-fire, then we need to make sure everyone knows who bad actors are.

    I know I did swaps with plenty of the mastermind types even though I disagreed with the way they did business. AFAIK, they weren't doing anything against the rules at the time, but they could easily have been engaging in shady stuff on the DL. I cut those swaps awhile back, after some of Chance's bad actions were brought to my attention on a Kboards post (I think it was the skip to the back epilogues, but I'm not sure).

    I think this is really important.  The loudest voices out there insist they aren't doing anything wrong and they convince people to join them, pay them to market their books and pretty much snare them into the wider web of their influence... which seemed pretty "safe" for years as Amazon didn't take action.   The bad actors pointed to their "success" as proof that everything was just fine.

    Now a lot of people who would not have knowingly put their accounts in jeopardy are likely to get caught up in the cleaning process- people who honestly didn't know anything fishy was going on and are stunned that they have been identified as "breaking TOS". 

    When everyone praises a promoter or service but no one shines a light on the actual process or questions the "results"... innocent people get hurt because all they saw was glowing testimonials and happy authors. These discussions aren't "being mean" they are about smart business. 
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    Offline KelliWolfe

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    I also want to throw this out there, but a quick disclaimer first. Keep it in mind that this is my mind wandering along a steam of what-ifs and probably isn't even likely. There is no real evidence to support any of this, just a lot of hypothetical ideas. The more I think about the way LitRPG and RH in Romance got so thoroughly hit with the removal of page reads, and that the known focus of the group who seems hardest hit by account suspensions were RH authors, I have to wonder (and this is admittedly pure conjecture) whether some of those authors had branched into LitRPG because it is a growing market that is actively looking for new reads. So, again another conjecture on my part, if even 2 or 3 of these authors facing an account termination based on manipulated page reads, and since it looks to be account level as opposed to pen name or book level, if those accounts interacted with LitRPG authors, did they inadvertently infect the LitRPG community?
    It's possible, but remember that they got into romance because they could generate content cheaply and the audience is huge and full of voracious readers who often consume multiple books a week. Unless they could garner the same kind of readership in LitRPG without having to spend a lot more on content, it wouldn't be cost effective for them. They'd make more money just developing more pen names in different romance subgenres. I don't think we've seen any of them hit the subgenres like Regency yet, because the readers are far more finicky about the content they'll accept than in contemporary or NA. I would be very surprised if LitRPG isn't the same.

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    Offline Becca Mills

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    I also want to throw this out there, but a quick disclaimer first. Keep it in mind that this is my mind wandering along a steam of what-ifs and probably isn't even likely. There is no real evidence to support any of this, just a lot of hypothetical ideas. The more I think about the way LitRPG and RH in Romance got so thoroughly hit with the removal of page reads, and that the known focus of the group who seems hardest hit by account suspensions were RH authors, I have to wonder (and this is admittedly pure conjecture) whether some of those authors had branched into LitRPG because it is a growing market that is actively looking for new reads. So, again another conjecture on my part, if even 2 or 3 of these authors facing an account termination based on manipulated page reads, and since it looks to be account level as opposed to pen name or book level, if those accounts interacted with LitRPG authors, did they inadvertently infect the LitRPG community?

    Phoenix's recent hypothesis on incentivized readers suggests a mechanism by which a subgenre could be contaminated by just a few bad apples. See here and here.

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    Offline KelliWolfe

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    Becca, what gets me most from reading through those links and drilling down through them to David's blog is that Amazon still can't catch multiple carriage returns between paragraphs for KENPC purposes. After all of their supposed tweaks to make KENPC more accurate, and still in June 2018 all some idiot has to do to artificially increase her page count is add those extra breaks between the paragraphs. There isn't a freakin' rolleyes emoji big enough to cover that one. If they can't catch something that simple, how can we expect them to do anything even moderately complex without screwing it up six ways from Sunday?

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    Offline KelliWolfe

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    It's not multiple carriage returns. It might look like that, but I don't think it is. A few people ripped into the HTML and came away with the belief that this wasn't just a cosmetic formatting thing.
    That makes me feel a little better. Not much, but a little.

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    Offline Becca Mills

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    Becca, what gets me most from reading through those links and drilling down through them to David's blog is that Amazon still can't catch multiple carriage returns between paragraphs for KENPC purposes. After all of their supposed tweaks to make KENPC more accurate, and still in June 2018 all some idiot has to do to artificially increase her page count is add those extra breaks between the paragraphs. There isn't a freakin' rolleyes emoji big enough to cover that one. If they can't catch something that simple, how can we expect them to do anything even moderately complex without screwing it up six ways from Sunday?

    It's almost like, in designing the entire system, it didn't occur to Amazon that people would try to cheat. Nothing seems to have been developed from the ground up with an eye to resisting abuse, so they're constantly being caught on the wrong foot and playing catch up. Dunno. It's hard to understand. I've thought before that KDP might just be terminally under-resourced compared to other segments of the company.

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    Offline KelliWolfe

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    It's almost like, in designing the entire system, it didn't occur to Amazon that people would try to cheat. Nothing seems to have been developed from the ground up with an eye to resisting abuse, so they're constantly being caught on the wrong foot and playing catch up. Dunno. It's hard to understand. I've thought before that KDP might just be terminally under-resourced compared to other segments of the company.
    Is it that, or is it just that they simply don't care unless it starts becoming enough of a public issue that it might start causing subscribers to leave? We know the program exists as a way to get people into the store, and generating money isn't really part of the equation for them. The fact that they've been willing to pay out millions of dollars in bogus page reads to scammers for years without batting an eyelash is a compelling argument for that. And we only see the tip of the iceberg with the obvious ones who stand out. There's no telling how many more are keeping their heads and book ranks down and quietly raking in thousands of dollars per account every month. But it's easily in the millions of dollars every single month just from what we see. They know it's happening. They can't not know, because they have eventually had to deal with it several times when it got so egregious that it was getting reported on websites that a significant number of people pay attention to. But they don't do anything until after that point, so it really doesn't seem like they care about the activity or the money at all.

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    Offline unkownwriter

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    Where am I showing any concern for an individual or group of publishers? My concern is for the information being spread. Please do not rely on ad hominem attacks. I have repeatedly pointed out that I am defending any group or individual, just trying to bring additional views to the discussion. If you don't want to engage in an actual discussion  and just want an echo chamber, that's your choice. I'm not forcing anyone to read my posts, or even agree with them. I don't call out people who don't agree with me, I try to listen with an open mind.

    I'm listening to the discussion, and what I'm seeing are people with opinions and thoughts and personal feelings being told that what we've been seeing couldn't possibly be right, so we should shut up. That's not discussion, that's repression. If that's not what you mean to get across, you might want to look back over your posts here with a different eye.

    If my opinion is an echo chamber, then so be it. That tends to happen when like-minded folk discuss issues. I'm not some newb who doesn't know how this stuff works. I've been around for a long time, have a strong mind and am fully capable of looking at things and deciding what I think. As a woman, I've had my share of people telling me what I need to listen to, what I should think, and how I should act. You aren't the first, by any means, and won't be the last, but realize you have no, zero, nada, pull with me.

    And thanks for the suggestion not read your posts. Wouldn't that just reinforce your opinion that I'm an echo? But, feel free to ignore my posts.

    Becca, what gets me most from reading through those links and drilling down through them to David's blog is that Amazon still can't catch multiple carriage returns between paragraphs for KENPC purposes. After all of their supposed tweaks to make KENPC more accurate, and still in June 2018 all some idiot has to do to artificially increase her page count is add those extra breaks between the paragraphs. There isn't a freakin' rolleyes emoji big enough to cover that one. If they can't catch something that simple, how can we expect them to do anything even moderately complex without screwing it up six ways from Sunday?

    I think they could tell this was going on. A bunch of folks lost KENPC on the last tweak (and the ones before). I know I did, because when I put some stuff back in KU, I lost from two to nine pages (they're shorts). I'd kept up with my KENPC, so I wasn't guessing. Absolutely nothing about the stories had changed in any way.

    So, they could see these page manipulation things, but suddenly they stopped doing it? Why would that be? It doesn't make any sense. Yet, if multiple people are suddenly adding spaces/returns, using large fonts, extra page breaks and so on, why isn't Amazon's own formatting -- which they've said before is set up to catch these things -- not stopping it?

    Frankly, I'm starting to think they're just outright lying about stuff and randomly changing things, for whatever reason. Maybe to keep us jumping through hoops that are sometimes lined with fire. Maybe the bots are rebelling. Like Kelli said, maybe they just don't care until it becomes something they can't ignore. If that's the case, expect a couple of Band-aids, then back to business as usual.

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