"One of them picked up what looked like a dog's hind-leg and put it in a white plastic bag."
"With the two-week Easter holiday just over a month away, ..."
"The woman's white hair was hidden by a red-head scarf, ..."
"The door of one of the expensive motor-homes opened ..."
Seems to me Amazon may have a point about some of his use of hyphens.
But you're correct that the others examples are erroneous, some egregiously so. I had to read the "red-head scarf" several times before I was finally able to parse out the presumed meaning: "red headscarf".
1. Source: me. I worked for 10 years as a translator, editor, and proofreader for Lionbridge and many other multinational publishing and localization companies before moving into software development.
Wrong according to whom?
We're not talking about writers for a newspaper or magazine, where everyone is expected to adhere to a single style for the sake of uniformity.
James Joyce did a number of things "wrong" both grammatically and stylistically, but that was part of the artistic expression. It's weird, to say the least, for a bookstore to enforce style. When I walk into a physical bookstore, I expect that the bookstore has made some decisions around book placement for the sake of optimizing sales, and books that have bad grammar may not be as attractive. But I don't expect that they have made decisions directly based on the grammar of the books ("we dislike the way you use punctuation, so we're going to put your book in the back of the store, or take it off the shelves altogether").
Amazon is now trying to eliminate the need for publishers, but in that process we should be clear not to conflate the role of the publishers (which includes editing) and the role of the marketplace.
 Incidentally, most brick & mortar bookstores are organized by genre and then either title or author name, so the extent to which they can even 'demote' books is generally limited to the ability to place books "cover out" instead of "spine out". With the exception of keeping adult-themed books in a special section and promoting certain books in a themed display (e.g. "Staff Picks for Summertime Reads"), bookstores don't really take heavy action against books based on content.
When Joyce published his first novel as a nobody, people like you would've said something equally thoughtless about his grammar, followed up by a glib "the writer is no Arthur Conan Doyle."
And to be clear I mean asking about specific instances, so don't point back at the blog post, which seems to be a case of Amazon making a mistake. All of the hyphens quoted from Moonstruck are grammatically correct.
I do think it is difficult for anyone other than the author to answer that question though. For me, only the "red-head scarf" example would be a mistake, but others in this thread indicated that 3 or 4 of the examples were wrong for them.
According to the customer who complained about them (who is, after all, the person with the money), and anyone else who's familiar with standard English usage.
Consciously choosing to break the rules and breaking them because you don't know any better are two different things.
There is a time honoured tradition regarding what to do if you have money and don't like the artistic style of the author, and "demand their publisher pulls the book or forces the author to change their style to suit you" isn't it. (Not to mention all the happy customers who gave the book 4 & 5 star ratings and didn't complain, who are, after all, also people with money)
And how did Amazon decided on which was the reason for his actions?
"There could be no-one there, ..."
"...into a razor-filled muzzle ..."
"... sleep, muscular, brown-furred monster."
"... through her blood-soaked fur."
"... propelled backwards in mid-leap, ..."
"... the red-haired woman ..."
"... a tall, grey-haired man ..."
Not my style of fiction, but most of these don't offend my sense of grammar either. I think "mid-leap" is the only one that slightly jars.
I guess it causes issues with bad screen readers.
That's incorrect, isn't it? It's reinforcing the potential confusion that the hyphen is meant to avoid. Unless she really was wearing a red scarf made from someone's head?
There are some exceptions: e.g., I've read you should always write "Douglas-fir" instead of "Douglas fir" because it's not actually a fir.
red-head scarf might suggest that the flairs at the end of the scarf are red, and that it just a normal scarf https://www.google.ca/search?safe=off&tbm=isch
where as a red head-scarf would be a red... head scarf. https://www.google.ca/search?q=head+scarf&tbm=isch
Dunno. Needs more context frankly.
"Are there people out there so fucking mind-bogglingly stupid that the inclusion of a – between two words confuses them enough to be torn from the story and ruin the reading experience so much that they felt obliged to write to Amazon and complain?"
I think that the author insulting someone who have paid for his book is not something intelligent, nice or professional.
"Do they need to do something about the quality of the ebooks on their device? Oh yes. Absolutely no question about it."
I was going to argue freedom of speech and the ability to form ideas the way the author intended is what matters here, but the author himself doesn't seem to agree himself.
That's fairly straight up UK english hyperbole. Calling the author stupid and unprofessional because you're unfamiliar with the way UK english works is a trifle unfair.
Edit: I'm specifically talking about being unfamiliar with that style of hyperbole here. I am not defending the hyphenation. That's why I didn't mention the hyphenation at all originally. But apparently that wasn't enough, so now I'm explicitly saying I wasn't talking about the thing I didn't mention. Hope That Helps, Have A Nice Day.
I see no reason not to insist on some kind of quality here. We're not talking about poetic license or writing to reflect a dialect, we're talking about the author believing hyphens are correct for a given passage. In the vast majority of his usage, his beliefs are incorrect, and his lack of grammatical awareness (enforced by his own post) is making for a bad reading experience.
I'm also of the opinion that if I'm reading a book with such egregiously awful editing, I'd stop reading it, rather than ask for corrections. If the editing is bad, are the ideas any better?
Is the phrase "self published" really correct for Amazon and others to use? It could be argued that Amazon is the one publishing it, and they're really letting you bypass the editors and sales reps from a print-based publishing house to get your works onto Kindles.
I really don't know. The situation makes me uncomfortable as a creator of content, certainly, but the author's railing against the company for protecting its customers and defending against liability from credit card issuers ... That just feels like someone bitching out of a sense of entitlement, and history shows (all over the world) that people who thoughtlessly feel entitled are rarely able to be convinced that they, in fact, are the ones that need to change.
His piss-poor use of hyphens (see what I did there?), however, isn't hyperbole. Hyperbole is a rhetorical device (and the greatest thing ever!), and unless he intended to evoke an emotional response in his readers by their incorrect and non-poetic application, it's just bad form; Being from the UK has bugger all to do with it.
The example he gives is of auto-generated books uploaded for the purpose of gaming algorithms for profit. I'm as much a free-speech fundamentalist as the next guy, but that is no more a free speech issue than the Nigerian governor emailing me the unique opportunity to take a cut of $80,000,000 worth of penis enlargement pills.
But I digress.
For example, spellcheck has a curly red underline right now. But would it really look better as spell-check?
At least, this is what I've been told by a very picky guy...