Please propose ideas and areas where a line in the sand could be drawn for off-topic / custom close reasons and bullet points in the help center?

Try to stick to one reason per answer so some sort of consensus by vote can filter and/or exclude reasons the community will want to exclude otherwise well framed questions from the ebooks site.

Upvote reasons you want to be viewed as off topic and down vote reasons you feel the site should be inclusive of. Comment liberally as we may need several revisions of these to arrive at a few of the initial reasons we wish to publish.

  • 3
    Shouldn't we wait until some time after the public beta starts? That way, we will see what kind of questions are actually asked that require closing.
    – svick
    Commented Dec 18, 2013 at 22:42
  • @svick I agree that properly determining what is on- or off-topic is going to depend on having some real number of questions Commented Dec 19, 2013 at 4:48
  • 1
    I don't think waiting is a good idea. 1. We have close votes already being cast and having a thread here to discuss early closes will help get thoughts down and we can always change our minds if our initial thoughts turn out to need a change.
    – bmike
    Commented Dec 20, 2013 at 17:16

10 Answers 10


I would propose that asking for shopping options for a specific ebook or author be listed as off-topic for the site.

Specifically, asking for the cheapest option and/or queries where a simple search can replicate any answer. (e.g. Where can I buy "Hot book X" for less than $8?)

On-topic would be how to understand the various drm or quality / features of specific vendors or specific formats would be on-topic - especially if the question is well researched and could possibly help others either generalize I r understand how the technology works.


Questions about the content of ebooks should also be off-topic (and recommendation of ebooks).

I know that this has already been brought up on Area 51, I write this just for reference.

  • Could you elaborate here on what a content question would entail? Do you intend to prevent people from quoting text? Posting TOC? Something else?
    – bmike
    Commented Dec 20, 2013 at 17:12
  • @bmike I am referring to this question. This site is clearly not about what is actually written in the ebooks and we should not forget to mention that in the scope description.
    – Tim
    Commented Dec 20, 2013 at 17:16
  • I assume by this you mean questions like "In book X on Page Y paragraph Z The protagaist says "Who is John Galt?" What do they mean?
    – Chad
    Commented Dec 23, 2013 at 22:47

Questions about marketing, pricing, search engine optimization of sales pages, and the like should be off-topic. See the discussion when I posed this question here.

  • 2
    I think this is too broad of a ban. I think most of us know the questions that do not belong on site, but I can think of marketing and pricing types of questions that could work and should be on topic. How much should I sell my book for? should be completely off topic but topics like "How does the Amazon pricing structure work for independent publishers?" should be on topic.
    – Chad
    Commented Dec 23, 2013 at 22:52

Basically, we want to allow practical questions on how to author or operate the core book functions, but may or may not want to be a place to ask about account support (either as a consumer of ebooks or a publisher of ebooks):

  1. My amazon author account is locked and I forgot my password - what do I do?
  2. My credit card was declined since I live in [country Y] and am buying from [store x] with a fake address in [other country Z]?

Furthermore, questions about installation and troubleshooting basic ebook software and hardware might be better served on other stack exchange sites?

  1. I'm trying to install calibre on OS whatever and please help.
  2. My nook won't start, what to do?
  3. I dropped my iPad in water and can't read my ebooks anymore.
  • 1
    the second set is more debatable - 1) we might be able to create a canonical answer for installing calibre, installing tends to depend on site, on SO, the development site it is on topic for development tools but not pin general so we could have install on topic for ebook tools .2) for an ebook reader this is the only valid site,
    – mmmmmm
    Commented Dec 22, 2013 at 13:12
  • @Mark I presume the calibre basic requirements / installation sort of question would be well covered on SuperUser / AskDifferent / Linux-Ubuntu-Unix sites. It would of course be up to the site here to decide to explicitly include or exclude them when crafting the 1.0 version of the help guide.
    – bmike
    Commented Dec 22, 2013 at 18:03

I'd like to throw in a suggestion. We're starting to see questions that are a little bit too localized. Obviously with the plethora of e-book readers out there, we don't need the same specific questions asked once for each device.

The question linked above could probably be salvaged if it were retitled:

"How to determine the exact readable screen size of an e-book reader?"

  • Thanks for the hint of general question title! (I just have not figured out yet that I should modify my question or ask a new one.) On the other hand, I don't think that every XY device user want's to do a (might be complicated) measurement to figure out their screen size. An already measured answer for their device would be a lot better.
    – palacsint
    Commented Dec 22, 2013 at 9:39
  • Are you looking to add a too localized custom reason? I've found in moderating another site that the stock close reasons work well enough to handle things that are very poor and closing as dupe handles the rest of the localized questions in practice.
    – bmike
    Commented Dec 23, 2013 at 2:36
  • I think it depends. If you have a problem that occurs on a specific model of ereaders then asking about it should be fine. This specific question I agree would be better off more generalized. I hate to ban specific reader questions because some of the questions would be better off generalized
    – Chad
    Commented Dec 24, 2013 at 19:33

type questions should be off topic. Identification questions are a pain, even if they do have a habit of driving site traffic. The topic has been well discussed on other Stack Exchange sites so I'll link them here shortly.

(Update coming once I'm no longer driving)

  • Just quote Jeff Atwood's blog post about those.
    – DVK
    Commented Dec 24, 2013 at 15:16
  • Also, I hope the whole "book content" category is out of scope; that should also squelch ID questions
    – DVK
    Commented Dec 24, 2013 at 15:17
  • 1
    +8Billion It is a blight on Sci-Fi and simply does not belong here at all.
    – Chad
    Commented Dec 24, 2013 at 19:47

While the authoring of ebooks can be considered on-topic, we should determine whether that should include marketing, sales, etc or anything beyond writing and production.

  • I would see what the marketing etc questions are like before making a decision but I would note that they will need to be non opinon based which I think will remove a lot of them
    – mmmmmm
    Commented Dec 19, 2013 at 11:56
  • This is a deep area in my initial thinking. Marketing any book or writing would have lots of answers where someone with experience could weigh in. Do we want to include / exclude those and just focus on marketing for electronic copy? It's not clear to me where we might want to mark things on this aspect of the site... Would you edit this to say where you feel the line might lie?
    – bmike
    Commented Dec 20, 2013 at 17:14

The asking for or giving of legal advice. Even for folks who actually are lawyers, a question and answer site like this just isn't the proper place for the following reasons:

  1. The laws are often too complicated to be summarized in a reasonable length answer.

  2. There are too many jurisdictions and laws vary too widely between them.

  3. Neither stack exchange nor any of its users would want to be held legally or financially liable for problems caused by erroneous information.

  4. Ebook law is still in its infancy and likely to change over the next few years.

  • I believe that legal questions are prohibited across the stackexchange family, but I can never find the link to it when I am looking. Commented Dec 22, 2013 at 11:56
  • @JamesJenkins - wouldn't that also include making statements that something is legal or illegal? see meta.ebooks.stackexchange.com/questions/73/…
    – mmmmmm
    Commented Dec 22, 2013 at 13:06
  • I'm the one who asked the eBooks rights (USA) question. I totally agree that Ebook law is in its infancy but that is exactly why I think questions are so important. I think it's ridiculous that rights for buying a hard copy book are obvious while owner rights to an eBook are not at all obvious. I don't intend to ask any more legal questions but this particular question is really basic to buying e-books. I have not accepted an answer yet but would be perfectly content with an answer that was a bunch of annotated links to the relevant information by manufacturer, if that's what it boils down to.
    – Joe Golton
    Commented Dec 22, 2013 at 20:03
  • On "Infancy" - to say that we should not ask questions about something in its infancy doesn't make sense to me. Should we not ask questions about the Meteor framework (or other JS frameworks) on stack overflow because it's still in its infancy? Yes the answers to some questions will become wrong in months (or maybe even weeks!) but the answers are still valuable within a certain life span to those attempting to learn how things work currently.
    – Joe Golton
    Commented Dec 22, 2013 at 20:07
  • I'm actually thinking that honest discussion on legal aspects might be undertaken similar to how people discuss App Store purchase policies and implications of managing EULA on sister sites.
    – bmike
    Commented Dec 23, 2013 at 2:37
  • @JoeGolton - A large part of the value of SE sites is the durability of answers. "Too localized" in either time or place is, all by itself, one of the system-wide default reasons for closing a question. Commented Dec 23, 2013 at 13:34
  • Some legal aspects are involved in everything we do. questions that ask for legal advice are off topic. Questions about a specific law, or protections may be answerable on a case by case basis.
    – Chad
    Commented Dec 23, 2013 at 22:56

One thing frowned upon on Unix/Linux is cross posting. It has its own close for off-topic selectable item.

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I particularly miss this feature SO itself.

  • I don't think cross-posting should be "off-topic" as it's not a topic. But it should probably be grounds for closure - if you post this as a separate Meta proposal, I'll upvote.
    – DVK
    Commented Dec 22, 2013 at 14:45
  • I think it is listed under off-topic because of restrictions in what can be modified on a SE for each site and what not. So proposing it as a separate ground is probably not going to be implemented.
    – Anthon
    Commented Dec 22, 2013 at 14:49
  • @Anton - I care more about written policy that can be pointed to (in the form of Meta Q&A) as opposed to another bullet point in the OFFTOPIC form - the latter has an "Other" option which can be used for any closeable content.
    – DVK
    Commented Dec 22, 2013 at 14:56
  • 1
    This will be something the community can add to the close reasons by editing them once we determine if we need a non-diamond mod link. My guess is this won't be a problem until 3 years in of growth past "graduation"
    – bmike
    Commented Dec 23, 2013 at 2:39
  • Cross posting is reason for deletion but if the question is on topic here and this is the last place it was posted, then I do not think it should be closed simply because the OP did not know about our site or understand all the rules. Educate and enlighten the noobs. Those who would disreguard our laws should be cast into the firey pits of hell!... or at least told not to do that.
    – Chad
    Commented Dec 24, 2013 at 19:52

Questions about ways to read more general-purpose document types (PDF) on general-purpose devices (desktops/laptops).

Example: This letter spacing is nearly unreadable! I'm trying to read the December 2013 Library of Congress Digital Preservation Newsletter using the Document Viewer (evince) in Ubuntu Linux. What can I do? Abbreviated answer: Using the menu commands in Document Viewer, we see that the document specifies a font that is neither embedded in the document nor included in the default install of your software. By creating certain definitions in file $HOME/.config/fontsconfig/fonts.conf you can enable your software to substitute a certain font with comparable metrics that is indeed included.

Example: How can I display PDFs sideways on my Linux laptop so I can hold the machine like a book and the display will fit a page shape better. Abbreviated answer: Your best method will depend on further details of your hardware and software. Generally certain options to the command xrandr get you most of the way there.

  • Hmm - Ill see if I can edit those to sharpen the questions or ask some better ones. There may be legitimately good questions on how to generate PDF that render properly or accommodate PDF that are not generated well for ebook consumption.
    – bmike
    Commented Dec 23, 2013 at 2:41

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