Why does Amazon still use Topaz file format?

topaz file formatWhy does Amazon still sell books in the Topaz file format? I have, in my several years occasional patronage with Amazon, encountered a few Topaz books. And they were all terrible: the font cannot be adjusted, there are typos and PCR artifacts aplenty, and the format does not seem to offer any advantage over Mobi or AZ3. I would have thought they’d have phased this out by now and converted everything into the usual Amazon file type.

Last night, I forgot my ‘always check the sample first’ rule and downloaded a $1.99 deal from the Kindle big sale page. As soon as I saw the typeface—-which was not my selected one—I had that sinking feeling. The book had all the usual Topaz glitchiness—random spaces in the middle of words, extraneous punctuation such as random dashes and quotation marks, spelling and capitalization errors and so on. I got three pages in, bookmarked 17 errors and then gave up on the book altogether.

I have heard horror stories about people being locked out of their Amazon accounts for requesting too many refunds, so I hesitated to ask for one in this case. But the errors were so obvious and I feel I can back up my request for a refund if questioned. And, lesson learned—check the sample first next time. But at the same time, I have to wonder: why does Amazon still do this to me? There does not seem to be any benefit to the Topaz format, only flaws. So why are they still selling this trash? Why are they allowing publishers to take money for books which in my experience have been universally unreadable? I think Amazon should force all publishers to sell in the standard Amazon format. If that means they have to convert them and do the extra work of correcting the OCR errors first, so be it. Don’t we deserve to be assured that are money is going only toward books we can read?

About Joanna Cabot (1592 Articles)
"I’m a journalist, a teacher and an e-book fiend. I work as a French teacher at a K-3 private school. I use drama, music, puppets, props and all manner of tech in my job, and I love it. I enjoy moving between all the classes and having a relationship with each child in the school. Kids are hilarious, and I enjoy watching them grow and learn. My current device of choice for reading is my Amazon Kindle Touch, but I have owned or used devices by Sony, Kobo, Aluratek and others. I also read on my tablet devices using the Kindle app, and I enjoy synching between them, so that I’m always up to date no matter where I am or what I have with me."

7 Comments on Why does Amazon still use Topaz file format?

  1. Did you send an email to the Amazon feedback address about Topaz? Have you EVER sent an email there about Topaz?

    Anyone who hasn’t done that is part of the reason we’re still stuck with Topaz.

  2. Request a refund and please consider leaving a review as well. Something as simple as: I couldn’t finish reading this due to formatting issues.

    I guess you’re going to have to come up with a few more words to meet the 20 word minimum but I’ll bet plenty of potential users would appreciate the word.

    There is also a place near the bottom of the bottom page to report formatting problems. I usually highlight any problems and then list the first five or so on the report. Then I request my refund.

  3. “Why does Amazon still use Topaz file format?”

    Uh, how about the publishers are still submitting crappy content?

    Have you complained to Amazon about the many problems with this ebook? Amazon has always made a big deal about removing horribly formatted ebooks from the Kindle store. I can recall that you posted on that topic a couple years ago. Chances are not enough people have complained, and that is why this ebook is still available.

  4. I’d presume that the reason they’re selling Topaz is that the title isn’t otherwise available in e-book form. Topaz is an Amazon-performed conversion of a print book to an e-book, which was mainly used in “the early days” when publishers didn’t have e-book versions of many of their titles. A publisher could give Amazon the go-ahead to make and sell an e-book version, and that would be done in Topaz.

  5. Joanna Cabot // April 30, 2014 at 7:51 pm //

    Vicki—I most certainly have sent emails to Amazon about this. I always do when I request a refund. Two of the books I complained about before remain for sale. It baffles me. They KNOW these books have problems. And yet…

    I have never seen a Topaz book which is free from errors. I think they need to either convert them properly, or stop selling them. And I guess until that time, I have to be more vigilant about always checking the samples. No ability to adjust the font is a dead giveaway for me, so a book which does not display with my preferred setting will likely be a Topaz trap…

  6. As Doug said, they are still using it and are reluctant to remove it as they are responsible. Amazon converted the book. Amazon offered publishers to use Topaz to make it easier for those publishers.

    That is the reason why (and it also shows how automating PDF -> Ebook* can’t be well done, even if you are Amazon and spend millions in developing such a system).

    * As far as I can remember, each word in a Topaz file is a picture you can resize. It is a __picture__, not plain text (source: a developer of the topaz conversion tool).

  7. I’ve stumbled into what I’m guessing is a Topaz formatted book. I haven’t yet found a lot of typos, but definitely see all the other Topaz glitches. The worst is not being able to change the font, which is *horrid*. I’m disappointed because I grabbed this book on a $1.99 sale last October, and I was saving it to read this summer. I don’t remember looking at the online sample, as I’ve purchased several other books by the same author and they were all fine. Today I looked at the sample and there is this notice:

    “This sample is from the 2012 edition from Pan Books. The kindle edition you will purchase is the 1997 edition from Globe Pequot.”

    Sure enough, that’s what I have. The sample from Pan Books (2012) looks terrific and the buyer has no way of knowing what they are actually buying. If I were buying today I would return this. As it is, I’ll write to Amazon and complain—after I settle the problems they’ve created with their recent software upgrade on my paper white. *growl*

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