Amazon getting their act together on Kindle quality?

Just received this email:


We are happy to announce that an updated version of your past Kindle purchase of Making Embedded Systems: Design Patterns for Great Software by Elecia White is now available. The version you received had the following issues that have been corrected:

Significant editorial issues were present.

Before you update to the new version, check to see that all devices that you have used to read this book are connected to a network and that their Annotations Backup settings are turned on. This will ensure that your notes, highlights, bookmarks and furthest reading location are retained in the new version. For help with modifying settings, please visit

You can get this new version by going to the Manage Your Kindle page at .Find the book in your Kindle Library and click on the “update available” link next to the book’s title. Within 5 minutes, any of your devices that have the eBook currently downloaded and have an active wireless connection will be updated automatically.

Alternatively, you can reply to this email with the word “Yes” in the first line of your response. Your e-mail response must come from the e-mail address associated with your Amazon account. We will update your book within 2 hours of receiving your email.

We thank you for your business with Amazon.
Customer Service Department

I am away from my Kindle at the moment, so cannot verify how good the changes have been, but it is at least a positive sign. I still would not recommend using a Kindle for maths, science and computer science books though: this is just one update… and there are all the other, DRM-related, issues too.

Don’t buy a Kindle to read maths or computer science books

The volume rocker of the Amazon Kindle 2
The volume rocker of the Amazon Kindle 2 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the last twenty-four hours I have been forced to completely reassess my view of the Kindle.

I have been reading a book (I won’t say what as I want to make the comments below anonymous) on a Kindle (the device, not an application – see below), and was resigned to the usual second class Kindle editing – the odd missing paragraph, the loss of a non-roman letter or symbol here or there, when I came to a chapter which was essentially unreadable because it relied on (for example) the difference between P and \bar P but was unable to render \bar P , merely displaying P .

I was so frustrated and annoyed – how could any publisher allow their book to be published in this form when a whole chapter was rendered into (literally) nonsense – that I emailed a senior editor of the publisher to complain.

To be fair to them, they replied quickly and passed on my complaint to a senior colleague:

This is a problem with the way the Kindle displays mathematics and it is an ongoing problem that we are trying to solve with Amazon and other hand-held device makers … I suspect you will be due a refund from Amazon.

The reply does the publisher a lot of credit, and more or less restored my faith in them. But it also carries a very simple message – don’t buy a Kindle to read technical books.

I have since discovered that one Kindle app – on Mac OSX – renders the book perfectly, while another – on Android – is just as poor as the Kindle itself.

Why are Amazon selling books that are broken like this?

In the meantime I suggest sticking to hard copies when it comes to technical works.

Update: Not sure why I thought the Mac OSX app worked – it’s just as broken as the Kindle itself.

More thoughts on the Kindle

Amazon Kindle

I made pretty extensive use of my Kindle this last fortnight – and the ability to order a book and have it delivered more or less instantaneously was great when it came to getting hold of Information and Coding Theory.

But a few gripes remain. It’s plain that publishers do not put the same effort into editing their books for the Kindle as they do for print (some small but still annoying errors that would never be allowed in print for a maths book are all to obvious in that one, for instance).

And why can’t we have colour in Europe? That points to the bigger problem: that the Kindle concentrates too much power, close to all power, in the hands of the distributer.