What You Need to Know:
- The digital publisher J Novel Club, a company that translates new light novels from Japan into English and then releases them for sale on platforms like Amazon’s Kindle, sent the light novel community into a bit of a panic on July 11 with a tweet.
- The tweet and subsequent information left many light novel fans and writers stunned and confused. The delisting came as a shock to J Novel Club as well and sent them searching for answers. The problem showed up the first week of May when they discovered two volumes of How NOT to Summon a Demon Lord were blocked. J Novel Club then made repeated attempts to contact Amazon and was given, in the words of Sam Pinansky, President and Founder of J Novel Club, “…no clear explanation.”
- The mysterious blocking of books continued throughout May and June with the only a generic notification offered saying that the novels violated the content guidelines. The publisher then attempted to get specific information on what content was causing the titles to be blocked and says he received no additional details.
- J Novel Club eventually was able to speak with supervisors and team leaders and learned that in Pinansky’s words, “if there is a review process that's actually going on, it is a complete black-box and the opposite of transparent… One of the people who promised to help was a Level 7 Senior Manager at Kindle Support, but even they seemed powerless to affect anything at Kindle Content Review.”
- Pinansky says he received a reminder from Amazon that “As stated in our guidelines, we reserve the right to determine what we consider to be appropriate, which includes cover images and content within the book. We’re unable to elaborate further on specific details regarding our content guidelines beyond what is available here: https://kdP.amazon.com/help?topicld=A2TOZW0SV7IR1U.”
- The J Novel Club team believes many factors might have played into this problem and, like many things in 2020, we can blame it on COVID-19. The team at J Novel speculates that to handle staffing problems caused by the pandemic, authority was given to an AI program to flag and delist media that doesn’t fit within its narrow scope.
- J Novel Club has also released a statement on how they feel about being blindsided by the delisting.
“The emails are mostly automated. In the latest case on the 11th, we think that for some reason the books were left available but only on the amazon.co.jp store (the English versions, specifically). Because of that they still show as "Live" in our admin panel, but after calling up support they looked into the backend and found that the content review team had set a sales restriction flag. Since they are still technically on sale on the amazon.co.jp store, I suspect that the automated emails were not triggered which is why we weren't notified.”
Sam Pinansky, President and Founder of J Novel Club
- Pinansky also took the time to remind us that, though convenient, their books were not exclusively listed on Amazon and that the titles can still be found on Bookwalker, Google Play, iBooks, Kobo, Nook, Overdrive, and directly from j-novel.club.
- The fear running through the light novel community and especially the independent creator community is that without knowing what standards are being applied, their work could be next. Delisting could cut them off from the largest marketplace on the planet.
“Without clear guidelines, this leaves publishers and consumers uncertain of which series might be punished. Since light novels are a niche product, it isn't as simple as merely putting them for sale elsewhere. Publishers count on discoverability to expand their audience.
For indie authors, this could be the death of their careers if they've yet to establish a way to communicate with their audience outside Amazon. Not to mention, losing Amazon listings means more marketing work as you no longer have that organic growth path. Also, a number of indie authors have been convinced to have their books as Amazon exclusives to take advantage of the KDP program. So, they literally have nowhere else currently to sell outside Amazon.”
Justus R. Stone, a light novel author.
- Other authors like Chad Davis had a more optimistic view: “I hope it happens to me because I would wear ‘banned by Amazon’ as a badge of honor.” Still, other writers are concerned but are holding out hope that this delisting is truly the result of an AI and the situation can be rectified once the right person at Amazon gets involved.
“It's very concerning considering how arbitrary this decision appears, especially since I've read stories that are MUCH worse in terms of content on Amazon that have not been de-listed. I'm really hoping this is an AI malfunction that will get fixed soon.”
Brandon Varnell, author of 10-book series available on Amazon.
- A change.org petition has been started to put pressure on Amazon to change its policy and return these books to its marketplace. At press time, the petition had more than 1,300 signatures.
- We reached out to Amazon public relations but they did not respond to our request for comment.
The complete list of J Novel titles currently blocked from sale by Amazon:
- Arifureta 6
- How Not to Summon a Demon Lord 3, 6, 7, 8, 10
- Mixed Bathing in Another Dimension 6
- There was No Secret Evil-Fighting Organization (SRSLY!?) So I Made One Myself 1
- Infinite Stratos Volume 3, 8
- Seirei Gensouki: Spirit Chronicles 4
- Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash 1
- Lazy Dungeon Master 2
- How Not to Summon a Demon Lord 1, 2, 4, 5, 11, 12
- The Greatest Magicmaster's Retirement Plan 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6