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Books Idle

Amazon "Suppresses" Book With Too Many Hyphens 292

An anonymous reader writes Author Graeme Reynolds found his novel withdrawn from Amazon because of excessive use of hyphens. He received an email from Amazon about his werewolf novel, High Moor 2: Moonstruck, because a reader had complained that there were too many hyphens. "When they ran an automated spell check against the manuscript they found that over 100 words in the 90,000-word novel contained that dreaded little line," he says. "This, apparently 'significantly impacts the readability of your book' and, as a result, 'We have suppressed the book because of the combined impact to customers.'"
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Amazon "Suppresses" Book With Too Many Hyphens

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  • You-should-ask-slashdot-to-publish-the-book-they-LIKE-hyphens.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 22, 2014 @10:48AM (#48651853)

    f-o-x-t-r-o-t-u-n-i-f-o-r-m-c-h-a-r-l-i-e-k-i-l-o-y-o-u-a-m-a-z-o-n

  • LOL ... w00t? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Monday December 22, 2014 @10:48AM (#48651859) Homepage

    So, Amazon is now the grammar police?

    I'm sure there are hundreds (if not thousands) of books on Amazon which have absolutely shit grammar and punctuation.

    To quote the author of the book ... what the actual fuck?

    • Re:LOL ... w00t? (Score:5, Informative)

      by ma++i+ude ( 580592 ) on Monday December 22, 2014 @11:13AM (#48652005) Homepage
      Actually, it looks like Amazon is the typography police. For whatever reason, the book seems to use en-dashes instead of hyphens (check the preview on Amazon). That is an abomination. Where the message changed from "please replace en-dashes with hyphens" to "don't use hyphens" is anyone's guess.
      • Re:LOL ... w00t? (Score:5, Informative)

        by ma++i+ude ( 580592 ) on Monday December 22, 2014 @11:21AM (#48652055) Homepage
        Addendum: It turns out the author used the minus sign instead of the hyphen [wordpress.com]. That (a) looks wrong on the page, (b) breaks screen readers, (c) confuses readability scores and (d) makes this not news.
        • Re:LOL ... w00t? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Pope Hagbard ( 3897945 ) on Monday December 22, 2014 @12:06PM (#48652341) Journal

          It's so not-news that it was debunked on Reddit and other places a week ago.

          Slashdot's given up on news for nerds, and it's giving up on stuff that matters.

        • Addendum: It turns out the author used the minus sign instead of the hyphen. That (a) looks wrong on the page, (b) breaks screen readers, (c) confuses readability scores and (d) makes this not news.

          Ah. What's news then, is that Amazon can't deploy a simple perl script to fix common typography errors such as these. YouTube wants more content creators so it deploys helpers like 'auto-stabilize' and such. Amazon, in contrast, prefers to castigate its contributors for typography errors. Who benefits? Copy

          • Most people probably do not want Amazon to edit their books.
          • Re:LOL ... w00t? (Score:5, Informative)

            by pthisis ( 27352 ) on Monday December 22, 2014 @12:55PM (#48652717) Homepage Journal

            Propose such a "simple" perl script.

            Here are some cases it should know how to deal with:

            Between numbers (note that slashdot eats some of these characters; the numbers below all have different dashes or related symbols between "555" and "1000"):
            "Pages 555–1000 discuss this matter" (this should be an internumeral dash, which is typically an en dash, U+2013).
            "Her phone number is 5551000" (this should be a figure dash, U+2012).
            "There were actually a lot more of them than the estimated 555—1000, to be precise" (this should be an em dash, U+2014).
            "The teacher asked me to solve 5551000. I told him negative 455 was the answer." (this should be a minus sign, U+2212)

            Between letters/words you have a similar problem: even if you know it shouldn't be a minus sign (which symbolic algebra makes tough to know for sure, but suppose you could surmount that), you generally have no idea what kind of dash or hyphen it should be turned into.

          • by plover ( 150551 )

            What's news then, is that Amazon can't deploy a simple perl script to fix common typography errors such as these.

            There is nothing simple about typography, and a script such as you describe would cause more damage than it would fix. Any editor has to fully understand English, to know which word is the right choice, to understand syntax and grammar, and to know when a writer is deliberately or playfully bending the rules.

            If you want to see what the state of the art in automated editing looks like, try using Word's grammar checker. If all of its advice is followed, it can make any interesting story read as blandly as an

            • There is nothing simple about typography, and a script such as you describe would cause more damage than it would fix.

              In this case, the script would be simple, since the book isn't about math. Replace all U+2212 characters with U+002D and you've fixed the problem that Amazon has with the book.

              Although U+2010 is called "Hyphen" and U+002D is called "Hyphen-Minus", either works in this case, with U+002D the most common.

          • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

            Ah. What's news then, is that Amazon can't deploy a simple perl script to fix common typography errors such as these.

            Please don't encourage Amazon to do that. Deciding whether a particular editorial choice is correct or not programmatically is a lot more complex than deciding whether video is likely to be unstable, and programmatically fixing those mistakes correctly in a pile of inconsistent, semi-random text and markup is dramatically harder than applying an IS algorithm to video.

            In my experience, when

        • by 0123456 ( 636235 )

          It turns out the author used the minus sign instead of the hyphen [wordpress.com].

          Hint: probably 99% of all ebooks on Amazon use a minus sign instead of a hyphen, because the hyphen doesn't exist on most (all?) keyboards.

          • I am not aware of any word processor that would insert an actual minus glyph when the 'minus' key is pressed. In this instance, the author explicitly specified a minus codepoint.
      • Re:LOL ... w00t? (Score:4, Informative)

        by Sperbels ( 1008585 ) on Monday December 22, 2014 @11:33AM (#48652133)
        I always thought the en-dash and hyphen were the same thing and the em-dash was the long one. Apparently there's hyphen, en-dash, and em-dash and the text of the book does indeed use the en-dash...and looks a little weird.

        Fangs burst through her gums as her jaw elongated into a razor–filled [razor-filled] muzzle and her ears elongated. After less than thirty seconds, the woman had been replaced by sleek, muscular, brown–furred [brown-furred] monster.

        • Re:LOL ... w00t? (Score:4, Informative)

          by gnupun ( 752725 ) on Monday December 22, 2014 @11:41AM (#48652177)

          An en-dash is much longer [noupe.com] than a hyphen.

        • Apparently there's hyphen, en-dash, and em-dash and the text of the book does indeed use the en-dash...and looks a little weird.

          There's actually a lot more [wikipedia.org] than just those, some of which render identically in most fonts.

          I ran into a eBook that uses the n-dash correctly when used a a modifier for compound words, and it does look weird (which is what alerted me to it in the first place), but after reading the rules, I left them that way.

    • by Zocalo ( 252965 )
      Not with any consistency it seems. They are apparently fine with Ernest Vincent Wright's Gadsby [amazon.co.uk] which doesn't even include the letter "e" once in the main text (there's a nice bit of humour/irony in there being an ebook version though), with all the readabilty issues you might expect that to bring. The works of James Joyce [amazon.co.uk] also still seem to be listed, come to that, so I'm somewhat curious as to just how this "readability filter" get applied. I sure hope it's not just based on reader comments, because if
    • In his blog, there are a number of comments about the HTML entity he used instead of the hyphen character. There is speculation that text-to-speech accessibility features were mis-interpreting things as a result.

      On the TTS note, It seems like HTML (or at least the dialect used for ebooks, but why not everywhere?) should have a tag for providing pronunciation overrides, which would improve accessibility and finally allow us to know how the authors intended the pronunciation of all those apostrophe'd names.

  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Monday December 22, 2014 @10:48AM (#48651861)

    ...there would be no Slashdot summaries.

  • Link to the source (Score:5, Informative)

    by OzPeter ( 195038 ) on Monday December 22, 2014 @10:50AM (#48651869)

    At least link to the actual story, rather than the discussion of the story.

    Hyphen Hate? When Amazon went to war against punctuation. [wordpress.com]

    Jeez. That was in the second paragraph of TFA.

  • How would that fraction even be deemed significant?
  • by 91degrees ( 207121 ) on Monday December 22, 2014 @10:51AM (#48651875) Journal
    I also think it's about time they take down down on Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro" from their mp3 store until someone can do something about the number of notes.
  • by iamwhoiamtoday ( 1177507 ) on Monday December 22, 2014 @10:57AM (#48651911)

    When you host your content on someone else's systems.

    • Host? You mean sell. This is a retailer selling someone's works only to stop when some moron complained about the punctuation.
    • Welcome to what happens when you host your content on someone else's systems.

      Amazon isn't your host.

      It's your printer and publisher --- and both have always had a say in grammar, style and formatting.

      The subscription service, Kindle Unlimited, has taken a lot of flack because these mostly self-published (aka vanity press) books have been edited so sloppily they wouldn't pass muster with your high school English teacher.

      • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

        Amazon isn't your host.

        It's your printer and publisher --- and both have always had a say in grammar, style and formatting.

        Uh, no. Amazon isn't a printer or publisher in any meaningful sense of the word. Many eBooks distributed by Amazon have an actual publisher associated with them, and for their print editions, have an actual printer, too. Amazon is more properly described as a distributor and a bookseller. Traditionally, neither has had any say in grammar, style, or formatting; their sole recourse i

  • Over 100, so lets say there are 150. That's only one every 600 words for a 90,000 word book; basically it's only once every page and a half that it even occurs. Is it really that big of a deal? Not to mention fantasy tends to used the hyphen pretty regularly in names/places. It really just seems an odd thing to attack and try to minimize by the distributor. My guess is that they had one issue and now is just creating other issues. Silly amazon being silly as usual.
  • of what Melania G (the Amazon/Kindle exec) is smoking -- it must be really good stuff!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    There are unfortunately lots of Unicode characters with the graphical appearance of a horizontal line at roughly the height of the middle line of a capital E. If you use the wrong one then it might look right for you but disastrously wrong for some readers. I suspect this may have happened in this case.

  • by creimer ( 824291 ) on Monday December 22, 2014 @11:17AM (#48652023) Homepage
    Amazon will be telling authors to break their novels into chapters and paragraphs.
    • And after that, I bet they'll require a title. The bastards must be stopped.

    • by Richy_T ( 111409 )

      Life doesn't happen in chapters — at least, not regular ones. Nor do movies. Homer didn't write in chapters. I can see what their purpose is in children's books ("I'll read to the end of the chapter, and then you must go to sleep") but I'm blessed if I know what function they serve in books for adults.
          -- Terry Pratchett

      • One guy. Heinlein, Asimov. It's now two to one successful writers.
      • IMNSHO,
        Chapter breaks allow for a reader to be able to step away from the novel knowing they haven't left a cliffhanger on the next page. Think of it like a scene change in a movie. I can't stand just picking some random place to stop reading a book because I have to go. If I decide to quit reading in the middle of a chapter, I check to see how much is left. If it is just a page or two more, I'll finish the chapter.

        Paragraph breaks let my brain codify smaller chunks of data for parsing more efficien
        • by Richy_T ( 111409 )

          I really don't care either way, I was just throwing the quote out there.

          However, I have to say that I have never had much of an issue reading a book without chapters. It's usually clear when there's a change of pace in the story. At most, you might have to scan the next line or so to confirm. If you have a long chapter anyway, there might be reasons you would find a stopping point before getting to the end. I guess I'd say that chapters don't really do any harm and some people like them but an author should

  • Sorry, too many parens.

  • by QuietLagoon ( 813062 ) on Monday December 22, 2014 @11:31AM (#48652117)
    ... that had too much use of the word "and," leading to an excessive amount of run-on sentences.

    .
    Maybe I should start hitting the Amazon reviews and flagging all the books whose grammar usage I find confusing.

    Let's see, this book [amazon.com] uses strange and confusing Capitalization, making it difficult to read. Maybe Amazon should suppress it as well.

    • "I bought this book of poetry in good faith based on recommendations. Has this 'e e cummings' never heard of capital letters? I demand a refund."

  • I guess Burroughs, Céline and countless other authors need not apply.

  • by clovis ( 4684 ) on Monday December 22, 2014 @11:52AM (#48652243)

    Looks like Amazon was being dumb.
    The problem was not too many hyphens, but rather that there were no hyphens. He had used the minus sign and that breaks some text-speech readers.
    Graeme has already fixed it.

    This is Graeme's blog telling the story, the problem, and the fix.
    https://graemereynolds.wordpre... [wordpress.com]

  • by Richy_T ( 111409 ) on Monday December 22, 2014 @11:58AM (#48652291) Homepage

    Could have been a proctology book rejected for too many colons.

  • They still sell Heideger's being-in-time : and his entire philosophical shtick is using hyphens!
  • It turns out that he did have a formatting issue in the ebook: http://the-digital-reader.com/... [the-digital-reader.com] The author coded the ebook by hand and used minus signs in place of hyphens. While that would look okay when you read the ebook, a TTS engine would have issues.
  • So what if it turned out one of the character names was hyphenated?
  • by frank_adrian314159 ( 469671 ) on Monday December 22, 2014 @12:31PM (#48652535) Homepage

    There goes my book in morse code!

  • by ggraham412 ( 1492023 ) on Monday December 22, 2014 @12:37PM (#48652589)

    Not handling hyphens, minus signs or whatever: it doesn't surprise me in the least.

    Why don't eBook publishers use a typesetting system based on TeX or LaTeX? Good grief. I was formatting complex mathematical formulas and pretty printing them to Postscript and PDF before the lot of you were born. And not just text with mere hyphens.

    Is there something I'm missing, or are eBooks a major step backwards in formatting? Really. I can't tell you how many computer science and mathematics eBooks I've returned to Amazon or B&N because of the sh***y formatting of code and math formulas. Not just when eBooks first came out, but on and on, year after year, and it doesn't get better. It strikes me as the laziness of corporations.

    • LaTeX is absolutely better but the learning curve is a bit of a hike. Especially if you've never used a terminal.
    • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

      Why don't eBook publishers use a typesetting system based on TeX or LaTeX?

      Let me count the reasons.

      • Books in electronic form must be reflowable, to accommodate variations in device size, and to accommodate rotation. What this means is that page numbers can change continuously. If I rotate a reader from portrait to landscape mode, then flip to the next page, then rotate it back into portrait orientation, there's no guarantee that the page boundaries are the same as they were in portrait orientation previo
  • Waiting for amazon to ban Blood Meridian for shitty interpunction.

  • by epine ( 68316 ) on Monday December 22, 2014 @01:18PM (#48652889)

    From Hyphen Hate? When Amazon went to war against punctuation [wordpress.com]

    A ridiculous number of people have gotten caught up in the whole âoehe used a minus sign instead of an ascii hyphen! The bastardâ controversy that has followed this thread around and has spilled over into any number of internet message boards. First of all, let me be clear. The issue was not with my use of a minus sign. The issue Amazon had was that someone had complained about hyphenation. Second, I have since gone back and checked the original file on the Kindle text-to-speech app and it renders fine. No issues. [my emph.]

    <acerbic>
    These days 75% of all Slashdot posts seem to involve drilling down to get the original story straight. Tell me, when did a mass-confusion clusterfuck become the new nerd foreplay? Kindle typography, meet declining Slashdot editorial standards. You've got more in common than you think.
    </acerbic>

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