I thought it would be helpful to explain how you can get updates for Kindle eBooks that you’ve already purchased. I recently published minor corrections for two Kindle eBooks, but getting those updates is not as straightforward as you might think.
Amazon and ebook updates
When a Kindle book is republished, Amazon does not automatically push the updates to users who already own it. Even if you delete the book from your Kindle and redownload it, you’ll get the version you purchased rather than the updated content. Amazon avoids this type of automatic update because it runs the risk of removing your highlights, notes, and bookmarks for that book.
But what if you still want the latest version of a book you purchased? There are two possible ways to get updates:
Update on Amazon.com
If the publisher feels like the changes are significant or critical, they can ask Amazon to push update notifications to their readers. My changes were minor corrections, so I did not do this. Still, it is useful to explain how this works.
To see if you have any books with available updates, go to Amazon.com and click your profile name in the taskbar. Look for Your Content and Devices.
The Content and Devices page shows all of your purchased eBooks. If there are available updates, you’ll see a flag next to the book that says, “Updates Available”. To update, click the “…” button next to the book:
Then click Update this title. Amazon will warn you to make sure that all of your devices are online with the Whispersync for Books feature enabled. This helps to maintain your annotations after the update.
When you are ready, click Update, and you will get the latest version of the book sent to your device(s).
Note: if you have Automatic Book Updates turned on in the Content and Devices settings, then you will get automatic updates on some devices. Make sure that Whispersync for Books is turned on for your Kindle device or reading app to preserve your annotations. Regardless, I think the manual update instructions are helpful both for finding available updates and for troubleshooting scenarios where automatic updates are not working.
Request an update
What if you know your book has updates, but you don’t see the Updates Available flag on the Content and Devices page? Maybe the publisher or author informs you of the updates (like this post, for example). Or, maybe you see differences in the “Look inside” preview for a book. In this case, you can request Amazon to send you the latest update of the ebook.
Go to Amazon.com and scroll to the bottom of the web page. Click on the Help link.
Hover over Need More Help, and then click Contact Us.
On the Contact Us page, none of the choices are perfect. So, just select Prime or Something else:
Then fill in the options for More non-order questions followed by Questions about Kindle devices or Kindle content:
At this point, you have the option of email, phone, or chat. Before you click on one of these options, you need to know two things: the title of your ebook and its Amazon Standard Identification Number (ASIN). In a different browser window, search for the book as if you were shopping for it again. The title is obvious, but the ASIN identifier is hiding further down the page. You can find it in the Product details section:
Now you are ready to click the E-mail, Phone, or Chat buttons. Go back to the “Contact Us” page you left open, and make your selection:
I chose E-mail, and composed the following request:
In less than a day, you should get an email from Amazon informing you that the latest version of the book has been pushed to your Kindle account. If your devices are online, you should get the updates the next time you open the book!
If you don’t think you’re seeing the update, make sure your device is charged and online. Then perform a sync to check for new items.
As mentioned at the beginning, this post was motivated by some recent updates, consisting of minor corrections and improvements to the books The Art of Divine Contentment: In Modern English and The Crook in the Lot: God’s Sovereignty in Afflictions: In Modern English. To help you know that you have an updated version, I’ve placed a revision number under the copyright text. The revision number is the date of the update in YYYYMMDD format.
Of course, this is my solution, but other authors might have something similar on their copyright pages. It might be worth a look.
When to update an ebook
Once you know that an update is available, isn’t it always best to get the latest-and-greatest version? Yes (with a caveat)! If you previously purchased an ebook and made many annotations, highlights, and bookmarks, there is a small chance that the update might not perfectly transition these. Amazon has features to prevent this, but there are no guarantees. If you haven’t made heavy use of these features, then go ahead and get an update from Amazon so you can enjoy the best version of your book!
What is the default option to the Preferences / Book Updates function? Is it by default ON or OFF? Hope you reply. Thank you.
I just checked, and mine is set to ON. I do not think I changed the default setting. Later I will try to check on a different Amazon account to see if the default is ON there as well. Thanks for the question! BTW, the web site for Amazon keeps changing, so I should probably update the steps in the blog post to reflect the current flow.
Thanks so much for the speedy reply!
This is a most important subject to KDP authors. We should know if the updates we make are received by our readers who previously purchased our ebooks or downloaded them for free during our promo days. If revisions don’t get automatically updated when Kindle readers hook up their devices to the internet, then, at the very least, the “update available” notification should appear next to the relevant title in their Kindle library when users browse it. It would be a shame if the author had to contact Amazon to make this non-intrusive button available – instead of Amazon making it available to its customers automatically.
I agree! We want the readers to have the latest version. What I’ve seen from Amazon in the past is that they are very careful not to force this on readers because it sometimes messes up notes and highlights. I think they want the reader to opt-in.
I couldn’t find much info on this via multiple search pages.
Seems Amazon is deliberately impenetrable on this… Let’s hope that those Kindle users who have update options set to ON and synchronization ON, and who haven’t made any notes and highlights, receive the ‘update available’ notification when they scroll down their Kindle library. The biggest reason I got out of retailer aggregator Smashwords, was because they updates were processed incredibly slow to the other ebook platforms or not at all – whilst Amazon processed them very quickly. Really disappointed to have learned that these updates are likely ‘dead’ for past readers… I wonder if the same applies to Kindle Unlimited users. If they begin reading say 10% of the ebook on day 1, and then you update and Amazon processes the revisions, will the reader get to read the rest of the 90% the updated version or the old one?