Amazon’s e-book return policy is being protested by authors. As opposed to all the five largest e-book retailers, Amazon is the only one that allows customers to return e-books up to a full week after purchasing. The idea is that costumers are able to “cancel an accidental book order within seven days”. However, for many readers, a week is a more than enough time to finish a book, and return it after reading; essentially treating Amazon like a lending library.
Lisa Kessler, a romance paranormal writer, recently logged into her Kindle Direct Publishing to inquire about her wages from the previous month. She was shocked to find something that she’s never had happen in her 11 years as an author. Kessler shared in an interview with NPR’s Deanna Schwartz, that she had lost money. Somehow, despite selling books, Kessler had a negative earnings balance.
When an Amazon customer returns an e-book, the royalties which were originally paid by Kindle Direct Publishing to the author (when the book was purchased) are deducted from the author’s earnings. As such, when customers return e-books after the author has already been paid, writers can actually end up with negative balances in the end.
Reah Foxx, an avid book lover from Louisiana, started a petition, after a “life hack” post showing people how to take advantage for this Amazon Loop hole went viral. The petition has garnered almost 75,000 signatures.
Kessler shared with NPR that “prior to the ‘read and return’ trend, she would normally have one or two book returns a month, something she attributed to genuine accidental purchases. Now, she sees entire series of hers being returned. ‘It really rattled me,’ she said. ‘You think, Can I still make a living if this continues? and that’s very disheartening.’
Amazon sells many different digital products, and yet e-books are the only digital item customers are able to return. Barnes & Noble and Smashwords do not allow for the return of any e-books, and Kobo and Apple iBooks asks the costumer to contact customer service in order to see if an item is eligible for a refund.
“Amazon aims to provide the best possible experience for customers and authors. We have policies and mechanisms in place to prevent our e-books returns policy from being abused. We’re always listening to feedback and we investigate any concerns we receive,” an Amazon spokesperson said.
Kessler, and many other authors are suggesting that Amazon limit returns based on how much of a book a customer has read, perhaps after 20% of a book has been read, it can no longer be returned.
Romance author Kristy Bromberg shared with NPR that she’s had more ebook returns in the last couple of months (since the ‘read and return’ trend started), than in the last eight months combined. Fantasy writer E.G.Creel, also shared with NPR that there are big issues with this return practice. “I have my book available at the library. If somebody wants to read it for free, they can,” Creel said. “But reading it and making me think that I’ve made an income, and then that income being taken away from me, that feels like stealing.”
Many of the people jumping on the ‘read and return’ trend, may think they are sticking it to a large billion dollar corporation, but in fact, they are hurting many independent authors who are just trying to make a living. These authors are still very loyal to their readers and fans, and hope by creating awareness of how Amazon’s return policy, when being used in this manner, is actually causing harm to many of them…and it seems to be working. Many tiktokers book lovers are coming out in support of authors. It will be interesting to see if Amazon rethinks its current policy.
An avid book reader, Angela Waterfield is new to the world of e-Readers. She has a background in education, emergency response, and fitness, and loves to be outside. She has contributed writing to The London Free Press, The Gazette, The Londoner, Lifeliner, and Citymedia.ca.