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Table of Contents in the Back Okayed by Amazon

Posted on 2016-Mar-16

by Paul Salvette

Some Controversy

When Amazon changed KDP Select to a pay-per-page-read model in July of 2015, it was inevitable that some scammers would try to game the system. There were a group of wise guys with a remarkably unsophisticated scheme of publishing books through KDP Select filled with random content pulled from the internet. In the front they would have a link to a “contest” that would be an internal hyperlink to the back of the book. Amazon would then count the entire book as “pages read” and subsequently pay out as royalties via KDP Select. Selena Kitt has all the details of the scam.

In February 2016, Amazon adjusted the algorithm used to tabulate pages read and total page count of an eBook with KENCP 2.0. This apparently did not defeat this scam. Last week, Amazon took the strange approach of flagging eBooks with Table of Contents in the back as implicitly taking part in this scam. Many authors who had Table of Contents in the rear were served the dreaded Amazon quality notices and others even had their buy buttons removed. Waaaatttt? David Guaghran has a great write-up of all this.

Where Should a Table of Contents Go?

While a Table of Contents (ToC) isn’t normally present in the print editions of novels, it has long been required for eBooks (both HTML, NCX, and a nav ToC if EPUB3). Jaye Manus talks in great detail about the importance of the ToC. BB eBooks tends to follow the Chicago Manual of Style convention for front/back matter practices and places the HTML Table of Contents in the front matter. However, many authors prefer to place the HTML ToC in the back matter to avoid taking up too much space in the free eBook samples that many vendors offer. For clients, BB eBooks is happy to place the HTML Table of Contents anywhere preferred: about 15% of our clients prefer the Table of Contents in the back of the eBook. Many heavy hitters in the Indie community recommend that the ToC be placed in the back to improve sampling.

Technically, the requirement to place the Table of Contents in the front has always been part of the Kindle Publishing Guidelines (at least since 2011 when I started out). However, it had never been enforced until last week. From the Kindle Publishing Guidelines 5.1 [pdf]:

Place the HTML TOC towards the beginning of the book and not at the end of the book. This ensures that a customer paging through the book from the beginning encounters the TOC naturally. Incorrect placement of the TOC affects the accuracy of the “Last Page Read” feature. Correct placement ensures that the TOC appears in sample downloads of the book.

The Great Zon Speaketh

We received numerous emails from clients rightfully concerned about having their Table of Contents in back. However, none of our clients had their eBook quality noticed (luckily). After some pressure from the indie publishing community, Amazon finally responded about this issue—believe it or not. The post from KDP is here:

In many cases, putting a book’s Table of Contents (TOC) at the end of a book can create a poor experience for readers, and in general we suggest authors locate TOCs to the beginning of a book. If the formatting of a book results in a poor experience or genuine reader confusion, or is designed to unnaturally inflate sales or pages read, we will take action to remove titles and protect readers. That said, absent any other issues of quality, locating the TOC at the end of a book is not in itself outside of our guidelines.

Thankfully, it looks like Amazon will no longer be removing eBooks that have their Table of Contents in the rear; however, we will continue to monitor.

Label: Technical and Design

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