Ragged Right Edge

As of this morning, I’ve now encountered my fifth Kindle edition where the Enhanced Typesetting isn’t just enabling the left justification option, which it’s designed to do, but seemingly also somehow disabling Kindle’s default full justification option. At least one publisher has told me by email that they’ve submitted new files, but the problem persists.

For all five books, this problem occurs across devices and apps—in my case this means the Paperwhite; the Kindle apps for macOS, iOS, and iPadOS; and Amazon’s web-based reader—and so must be a problem either with the source files or with the processing of them by Amazon after receiving them from publishers. Other ebook editions of these five books appear to allow for full justification.

In order of discovery, are the books for which I’ve encountered with this problem so far:

In the case of the Chess, I began notifying Amazon of the formatting error a full year ago, using the only means they provide for doing so: the reporting link buried way down near the end of a Kindle edition’s page on the Amazon website. An email exchange with Tin House eventually led them to pass along the issue to W. W. Norton. Despite following up with them in April, I never heard anything else.

In both July and again this month, I notified AK Press of the issue with the Gumbs, but never received a response. Also this month, I contacted UCP about the Ball book and was told to contact Amazon—something that effectively is impossible, which is why I’d been turning to publishers. Today I let them know in the same email thread about the same problem in the Mattei.

Earlier this month, having failed to make any progress, I mentioned the issue in emails to the authors of two of these books, only one of whom emailed back saying they’d ask their publisher about it.

Also this month, I submitted the error with the Goldfarb using a form on the Norton website. That report found its way to someone who did email me back about it, a conversation I then used to raise the issue with the Chess directly with them. This is how I learned that indeed earlier this year they had submitted a new file to Amazon, which establishes only that either there is a problem with the files or with the processing of them by Amazon.

In the course of this exchange, the issue of Enhanced Typesetting has come up, with the Norton representative trying this to the ability to choose full justification. In actual fact, according to Amazon’s documentation, full justification is the Kindle default, and Enhanced Typesetting is what makes left justification (or, ragged right edge) possible. In other words, the reverse of what Norton appears to believe. This makes me think that Norton, and perhaps the other publishers as well, somehow have managed to set Enhanced Typesetting to disable full justification altogether, rather than simply making left justification an option.

Here’s the problem, for me, which I’ve explained in nearly every communication I’ve made about this problem whether it be to Amazon, to publishers, or to authors: I simply cannot read longform text that’s ragged right edge. As much as left justification is touted as an easier read, for my brain it becomes a constant visual distraction. Whether that’s pegged to being autistic, or to being OCD, or to something else I can’t say.

All I know is that I can’t read any of these books, one of which I actually purchased before spotting the problem. I’m not sure what options or avenues are left to me to get someone to address this, but inexplicably no one appears to believe it’s specifically their problem to fix. All I know is that it’s not mine.


  1. You now can add How Life Works, also by Philip Ball and also from University of Chicago Press, so there’s a multiple-title problem across both Norton and UCP, at least.

  2. Since I don’t know what I’m supposed to do at this point, I’ve now contacted four of the five authors via their websites, hoping they can nudge their publishers not to leave this unaddressed.

  3. For what it’s worth, the reason I can’t read longform left justified but my blog is left justified is that longform for me effectively and essentially is immersive in nature. I’m letting go of myself and letting the narrative, be it fictional or non, take the wheel. For whatever reason, I can’t do that when my visual system is constantly distracted over the long haul.

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