Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Feigning friendship, Forgiving people

Recently I was in discussions on human relations. There was no restriction on topic. But, there has to be some guidances and they should be proven by examples.
One started off with smoking , the obvious cancer issue and the ways to control smoking at home, workplace and why gathering courage to confront  a smoker if he/she violates a public rule. In the middle ,there was a query  on how to tolerate friends who have ditched her. It would have been very interesting to see how psychiatrists, mothers, teachers   handle that question.

Most of us stressed on the importance of forgiving and forgetting . Move on - was the message. Why unforgiving hurts was well articulated by one friend, by stressing on the psycho-somal relations.

I begged to differ.

Forgiving is not  easy.  It is by reiteration , emotions are kindled - for good or for bad. Conscious forgetting is again commanding brain hoplessly, to erase something from its circuits. Again an impossibility, unless brain's circuits fail.

'Let us not swim against the current' - said I. 'If a boy has outraged your modesty, get angry wtih him. Show him the doors. Let him know you were upset. '

By the same token, I said to a boy who also got up on this arguement , ' if a woman unjustifiably did a character assassination on you, take her upfront. Don't take it timidly to show you are a gentleman. Nothing is important than self respect. Show her the doors , from your contacts and from your friendship. Simply she does not qualify to be your friend. '

A mother smiled at this statement and said " Sir, you are making things worse. Kids cannot focus on studies , if they are filled with animosity. For their own good, let us coach them to let the bygones be bygones. Let them move on"

"You have got me wrong, Madam" I said. " i am not asking them to brood over it for ever. All I am asking them is not to fake their emotions. Let them say upfront that they are upset and show their displeasure. Afterall,those who have erred need to expiate for their deeds. If they do not feel sorry, simply you are letting them to go ahead with their bloated ego. There was no friendship in the first place. It was a misjudgement by both"

" No" She argued " It could be a spur of a moment, an upset mood, a physical issue that bothered him/ her. Surely , they would have regretted"

" Not actually. There must be an ulterior motive to say a hurting word. If they do not find it obviously, they should dive deep. Could be a hurt ego, an insecurity.. whatever. I stand by my statement, there was no friendship in the first place. It was at best an acquintance or familiarity. Years do not matter. "

" Can you prove this, Sir?" she was a bit amused. For her friendship over years mean time has made it stronger.

"Sure" said I, " It took 23 years to find that what I considered a friendship was just a matter of sitting in a class together. Not even one friend came forward publicly . in support of me when my character was called in question. That does not mean I don't communicate with them. Just mentally kept them in their rightful place and have moved on.

I take calls, call people, text people, but avoid meeting anyone now. I go all out to meet my real friends. Who knows, some of them may also fall out tomorrow. I too may fall from their list."

When we were leaving, the lady came with teary eyes and said " I hope I am able to find out what hurt me... it is my pretention that nothing has hurt me/ forgave someone who hurt me; actually inside me, I have been feeling sad."

"Yes." i said " No need to feel sorry for you either. Shed all the unqualified relations and move on".

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Amazon support for Indic language e-books - What is the fuss?


Discussions on Amazon's support to  Indic languages' ebooks   requires some clarity from my side. The points discussed mainly are  Hardware compatibility , Policy Decisions and Market Potential  ( perceived).  Please  see below each point and my conversation with Amazon for better clarity.
Hardware issues:
When I published the book the title was 7.83 ஹெர்ட்ஸ் ; sub title 7.83Hz and description was totally in Tamil.  Then around 18th March, the communication started.
Please read the following conversation with Amazon.
The first mail from their customer service said,
You've submitted your book in a language that isn't yet supported and we have had to block it from sale" 
For this , I had responded  on 20th March
It is Tamil language and I  have thoroughly tested the book in Kindle instruments, Kindle app for mac and kindle app for PC. It renders well and only after confirmation and gaining confidence it is put up for sale. People who downloaded it could read without problem.".   I have friends who have read in Kindle  old version instruments to prove this. Please check Venkatasubramanian Ramamurthy's post. https://www.facebook.com/mannairvs/posts/10152072814737545?stream_ref=10
I changed the title to 7.83 Hertz and the description in English. If this had been the reason, it should have fixed it . But I got a reply that said,
" I checked your book and noticed that you wrote the book description in English, selected the book's language as English and the title was also in English. This is the reason why it passed the review process when you firstly published it on our website"
I replied with an explanation
" I had given the title in Tamil 7.83 ஹெர்ட்ஸ் and the sub title as 7.83 Hz for easy search. The description was totally in Tamil. The language selection was not allowing Tamil and hence I choose English. It was not to mis lead any buyer. Whoever bought the book are aware that this is in Tamil."
I got a reply for this yesterday as,
" Although you're able to view the content in Tamil language in your Kindle or Kindle application, it is not applicable to all the Kindle or Kindle applications."
I have mentioned this in my blog.. Do they mean to say, they would make "all the older instruments/ apps " compatible with Tamil, once they approve this language? Is there a backwards compatibility? I have not heard of this  happening. The statement " all the Kindle, All the Kindle applications" is not a justification. Even if they do, it is going to be " Not applicable to All the Kindle or Kindle application". So what is the fuss?

Please note, they have not said it was hardware/ software issue. They simply do not support. No explanation given. It is all our assumptions that Kindle old / Kindle new do not support and that is why Amazon is reluctant.

Policy issue;
They consistently maintained ,
"our Kindle Content Quality team ran a review on this book and found it was published in a non-supported language, so they decided to remove it from our website until it is published in the language you selected." and
" If the language in the content of the book doesn't match the language advertised on our website, this is misleading to our customers which may result in a bad reading experience.
We will be able to reactivate the sales of your book until it is published in English or another supported language."
Where is the question of misleading the clients? I have checked , convinced my self in Kindle reader, Kindle for Ipad, Kindle for PC ( what else do they have? ). If it is their policy   not to allow un-supported language, how do  they have other Tamil e books on their site?
Indirectly, they force you to publish in a language they support. They are even willing to advise and guide you to a list of translators , albeit with a caveat that they do not endorse any one of them.
For this I wrote,
"My book will be in Tamil and am not translating because KDP is not supporting it. When I am ready for English, I may consider KDP too for publishing."  and
"Thanks for the suggestion for translation services. I would rather go for sites that are sensitive and support my language.  I encourage my friends to look for options that are more friendly to local community sensitivities. We may lose out in being in the market leader's site, but atleast we would not be treated differently"
A policy of a seller  cannot force me to publish in a language of his preference. Sorry.
Conflict in amazon's  statement:
Quoting from above  "   " .  If this is true, how some Tamil e - books got into their site with the meta data " Language - Tamil" ?
 On the same mail, they mention " If you find any books published in a language we do not support, feel free to pop us a mail with the ASIN, so that we'll investigate.".
If they are clear about the policy, how come they do not know Tamil e books are there in their site ?
Do they have different standards for PDF versions and .mobi versions? It is not clear from  their site.  Amazon has an impeccable record of making things very clear to the  users. It is not an oversight or a technical glitch.
From the above statements, it looks like it is their policy not to support except a few languages.  So,  it is their business decision not to support Indic language as of now.
Market potential hypothesis
Lower market opportunity  of Indic language e-book is cited as the reason for not supporting these languages by a few of us. Amazon has never said this overtly or intrinsically. It does not seem to be the reason as
1. They support languages ( like Basque, Nordic scripts) that are not very vibrant like English, French, German, Spanish or Portuguese. The convenience of having Latin based scripts could be a reason for de-facto support. But it is not out of business perspective.
Compared to that Malay, Chinese ( Mandarin and Cantonese) would be  a huge opportunity. If complex scripts like Indic languages are an issue, the older Kindle would not support the old Tamil script ( who gave that script to them? !). The Paperwhite supports modern Tamil script and so is Kindle Fire.
2. India is a huge mobile consumer market . Reading habit is less compared to Western countries, but , it could be a good market to Kindle Singles as well. Who said , books are to be voluminous to read? Indic language support was made available in Nokia after much criticism. Samsung was smart to catch on. It does not make sense for Amazon to remain Latin obsessed in this country.
3. Kindle is not aggressively sold here unlike in US. I had explained  in my reply to Anton Prakash. Basic kindle is USD 69 in USA and the same is available for Rs 5999 in India ( almost 99 USD?). It is not aggressive pricing strategy.
They sold till yesterday, their old generation Paperwhite for Rs 7999 while the new generation is available at the same price in US. It was just a dumping act. Not an intelligent market tactic. They got more brickbats on their comments and review. Now, you would see only their NEW paperwhite for sale! Some damage control act ( or they simply exhausted the old stock).
By looking at their pricing, positioning or support strategy , it is clear that they are NOT interested in a market that is in nascent stage. May be they are not Farmers type - to sow, water, grow the crop ; but, Hunter types - attack and devour by force when the meal is available.

My observation : Tamil as a language is NOT supported officially ( any Indic language) as of now in Amazon.  It is their policy as of now.  If there are Tamil books in their site, they are,  by  let ups which they want to fix. 
It is a business decision taken at the high levels. It is not a hardware issue or a market potential analysis.
I do not bother if they do not support Zwahili for Indian user . Having  an office in India, and in Chennai, a policy of not supporting Tamil or any Indic language is an abberation in their policy. This needs to be corrected , now.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Allergies of Amazon - Tamil e -Books?


When I decided to submit my book 7.83 ஹெர்ட்ஸ் ; 7.83 Hertz in Tamil, to Amazon, least had I expected that it would be rejected for the language ( I am bit uncomfortable with foul language).
Publishing was smooth as  I  completed all formalities and uploaded the .mobi copy of my work. Got  it published  and a few readers had  downloaded it too. It was for a price and I have not set the price low to attract many buyers. It was at par with hard copy price to be fair for all.

Two days ago,  I woke up with this mail from Amazon that said

"  You've submitted your book in a language that isn't yet supported and we have had to block it from sale. Please see https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/help?topicId=A9FDO0A3V0119 for a full list of currently supported languages." 

 Shocked , I surfed the page in amazon which  showed the book with a alert message ,

"Item Under Review,

This book is currently unavailable because there is an issue with its description, content, or formatting.

We are working with the publisher to fix the issue. As always, we value customer feedback."

7.83 ஹெர்ட்ஸ்  is the link of the book. Please see for yourself.

I explained in vain in a reply to Amazon  that Tamil is a classic language that is still being spoken by millions in India and in other countries as well. The Cover image was clearly showing the tite in Tamil, my name in Tamil and the  Book's Title had  Tamil script 7.83 ஹெர்ட்ஸ் with the sub title 7.83Hz  and the description was in Tamil. I awaited their response and was sure that it would be considered.

Amazon's  ebook submission process involves the selection of a language for publishing and Tamil was not there. I choose English as in many sites you do not see your country's name , but forced to choose "others" . I thought it was a small error from Amazon's side. Also , to be on safe side, I changed the title as 7.83 Hz as well as the description in English.

Then came another mail from one Oscar,  this time straightly telling me ,

"I checked your book and noticed that you wrote the book description in English, selected the book's language as English and the title was also in English. This is the reason why it passed the review process when you firstly published it on our website.

However, our Kindle Content Quality team ran a review on this book and found it was published in a non-supported language, so they decided to remove it from our website until it is published in the language you selected. "


I was furious. What the hell is going on here? First I had given all details in Tamil and because they could not support ,  I had changed the description and title in English , still the  cover image showing details in Tamil. Now I am being accused of cheating the readers ?

Going down the mail , I found these gems.

"We will be able to reactivate the sales of your book until it is published in English or another supported language.

To find all of the languages supported by KDP, please visit: https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/help?topicId=200673300

Professional conversion translation are available to publishers seeking help with translating their work. You'll find a list of companies that specialize in these services here:"

Why on earth should I translate my work in English or another supported language ? - because , the almighty amazon says so? and what languages they support apart from Latin based ones? Japanese. Who in Japan would read my book? Or should I try Basque? Finnish? Swedish?

Then I saw this sentence that made me laugh.

"If the language in the content of the book doesn't match the language advertised on our website, this is misleading to our customers which may result in a bad reading experience.' 

I had thoroughly tested the work in Kindle ( old version with 5 point button), Kindle app on  Ipad with IOS7 was tested by my friends, Kindle App on PC by me many times, before I submitted to Amazon. I even bought a new IPAD Mini to be doubly sure. Many of my friends have bought the book and have given their review as well.
Where is the question of bad reading experience - unless they are not happy with the content?

In a reply  to that guy about what had happened and giving all the facts, I wrote the following words:
"It is surprising to see Tamil as a language is not supported by KDP while Kindle reader and app supports. This leaves me with  a  dissatisfaction and disappointment.

My book will be in Tamil and am not translating because KDP is not supporting it. When I am ready for English, I may consider KDP too for publishing."

Today morning I got a mail from Amazon. This time one M.Raja had written. Obviously they could find someone who could understand the savage language's script. He was too polite and professional. I liked the way he had put across the issues, not without some points to make me concerned.


"As previously stated, at this time "Tamil" language is not supported in Kindle. Although you're able to view the content in Tamil language in your Kindle or Kindle application, it is not applicable to all the Kindle or Kindle applications. So, we remove the book from sale which may result in a bad reading experience. I'm sorry if this may cause you any inconvenience."

I thought I was getting replies from people. This was more than auto reply mails. Have not I made clear the steps I had taken and I had personally checked the outputs?

 Would they make older versions of Kindle and Kindle Apps compatible with Tamil, going forward? Their old Kindle supports the old Tamil scripts ( that was stopped in late 70's) with a few bugs. How did they release that Kindle then? If the Paperwhite Kindle could support the newer Tamil version , how come they released without testing? Certainly some testing is done on support for Tamil.

There was one more sentence , the coup de grace 

"I understand that "Tamil" is read by millions of customers in India and around the world and do confirm you that we value our international customers and do our best to satisfy them. "

This was the best. Salutes to Amazon that they have realized that Tamil is read by people. But, their actions fail to convince me that they do their best to satisfy them.

Amazon India has office in Chennai, Tamil Nadu and they say " We understand that Tamil is read by millions" and they do not support Tamil.

With this, I have two options.

1. Stop buying from Amazon.in
2. Check with Apple, Google, Sony, Nook and Kobo whether they have any allergy for  Tamil.