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Purchased by accident? Cancel Order

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On April 26th, I bought Leanna Renee Hieber’s Strangely Beautiful on my Kindle Fire. On May 2nd, I still had the option to return it. I’m not a fast reader, and honestly, I haven’t even cracked it open yet (I read it years ago, before it went out of print, and desperately needed it in my library again), but when my eyes were younger and my attention span longer, I could have easily devoured it in a few days, with room to spare to request that Amazon return my money.

Amazon will refund readers for an e-book purchase within seven days, regardless of how much content has been read. At first glance, this might seem like good customer service. I’ve certainly thought so in the past when I’ve accidentally purchased a digital duplicate copy of a paperback I already owned. Still, this is something I’ve done rarely–twice, if I remember correctly–and each time I worried that my return might affect the book’s sales ranking.

Other people, it seems, do not feel that kind of guilt. Last week, a story circulated on social media that outraged readers, writers, and book bloggers alike. An author (who appears to have removed their original post) received an email from a reader who, writer M.A. Knopp reports, wasn’t happy with the price point of the books they’d enjoyed:

Dear Ms. Author.

I really like your books. I think they are well-written and I enjoyed reading them. (So far, so good, right? Hang on.) However, I have returned them all because you priced them at $0.99 to $2.99, and that is too much to pay for them. I can’t afford to pay that much for a book, even though I liked it. In the future, can you make sure you make all your books free so I don’t have to return them?

Free e-books, which were once considered a promotional tool or a gift from authors to their loyal readers, are now an expectation. Despite the endless options for free digital reading from sites like Wattpad and An Archive Of Our Own, some readers feel that all content should be free, regardless of whether or not the author is a professional who relies on writing for their income.

“Why would you think our job is any different than your job–you know, the one you are supposed to go to so you can pay for your entertainment?” author Becky McGraw asks. “Authors work twelve to sixteen hours a day at our job to produce books for your entertainment.”

On the surface, Amazon return scams seem no different from piracy. But whereas readers who pirate ebooks seek out a particular torrent with a title already in mind, Amazon’s return policy allows unscrupulous readers to browse at their leisure and easily download the content to their devices.

Author Bianca Sommerland understands the difference between piracy and what’s happening at Amazon: “With pirates, it sucks. It’s horrible, but those people aren’t buying books. That isn’t money I would have made. They wouldn’t have given me a cent.” Since Amazon doesn’t seem interested in dealing with the issue, Sommerland says, “I almost want to raise my prices so those people worry a little more about the charges, but I won’t punish the rest of my readers for the few assholes.”

The results of an informal survey asking authors to report their April sales and returns showed numbers ranging anywhere from 1.2% in overall returns, to a whopping 40.1%. Losing 40% of a monthly income would be devastating to any household; to authors, it could mean future releases are spaced out further or cancelled altogether.

The timing of the returns is also particularly cruel. Author Stella Price reported that her return rate can be devastating during the week of a book’s release, usually the most financially profitable time for an indie author: “I might end up selling 70, but I have 20-30 returned in a day.” It’s become such a problem that it has influenced Price’s recent decision to stop publishing in the e-book market. It’s a choice that has made some of her readers unhappy, but with such a high digital return rate, she sees no other option.

That’s not to say that all returns are fraudulent. Books purchased by accident in the Kindle app can be easily returned within seconds by clicking a link on the purchase screen. Honest mistakes happen; anyone can fumble their device and hit the One-Click button. But not all mistakes are so honest.

I had a group of at least 5 returns on each book in the Cobra series last month,” Sommerland says. “They came close together. Maybe I’m imagining things, but the way they were spaced, it seemed like the books were read, then returned as each person in this group finished the book.”

When customers return a book due to formatting errors or an egregious number of grammar offenses, Amazon sends the author a notice asking for corrections. But in the case of Sommerland’s books, “There’s no report of errors or anything that would explain this. And if you don’t like a book, you don’t get the next one, right?”

Some readers recognize the potential harm return scams can inflict on authors who make their living writing. Blogger Alisha Webber started a Change.org petition in the hopes that Amazon will take notice and change their policies. “They’re blatantly stealing from authors and Amazon is sitting on the sidelines pretending it isn’t happening,” Webber writes. “We need to prevent the return of books read past 15% along with refusing returns after a few days. We can’t allow this theft to continue.” At the time this article was written, the petition had over 7,000 signatures.

Compared to Amazon’s policies on returning downloadable software (you can’t) or streaming movies (within twenty-four hours, and only if you haven’t accessed the content), Webber’s proposal seems modest. Amazon allows generous sampling of e-books prior to purchase, allowing customers a chance to gauge not only their interest in the content, but the quality of the work. This courtesy isn’t extended to software, games, or movies, yet those items are considered a final sale after purchase or partial consumption. Amazon has the ability to track the reading progress of an individual e-book; it’s how they evaluate royalties paid to authors in their Kindle Unlimited program. If the ability to prevent fraudulent returns exists, why would Amazon allow them to continue?

As more writers are forced to change their business model or hike their prices due to abuses of the Amazon return policy, readers will feel the pinch, too. “Actors don’t act for free, painters don’t paint for free, and authors don’t write for free,” McGraw points out. “You want us to keep writing books? Stop the freaking theft!”

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66 Comments

  1. Very nice. Thanks for helping spread the word on this practice.

    May 4, 2016
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  2. Megan M.
    Megan M.

    I’m the same. I only return a book if I bought it accidentally (which has happened maybe twice?) or if I read the first few pages and can tell I’m going to hate it. And I still feel bad about doing it and worry that I’ll get in trouble somehow. Now I use the “sample” button for everything except favorite authors that I know I will enjoy.

    I read something a long time ago about a girl who was surprised that her Amazon account got suspended because she’d been purchasing and returning a LOT of books every month – possibly in the hundreds, I can’t recall now – and she’d been doing it for a really long time. She seemed completely baffled that there was anything wrong with her behavior.

    Wouldn’t most people who are avid readers have had enough experience shopping in a brick-and-mortar store to have it ingrained that returning books is something you only do right away, when you haven’t read more than a few pages? I know bookstores are going away now, but I’m in my 30s and have had a lot of experience with salespeople at Barnes and Noble glaring at me suspiciously because they think I took a book home and read it all and am trying to scam them. I think that’s where my current returning book guilt comes from.

    May 4, 2016
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    • Tammy
      Tammy

      I have a feeling the people buying and returning books are the same ilk who go into a brick and mortar store, ask for book recs, then go home and buy books on Amazon. That’s how my favorite bookstore that catered to fantasy and scifi shut down, anyway.

      May 4, 2016
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      • Rhiannon
        Rhiannon

        That doesn’t only apply to books, btw. My husband sells cameras in an electronics chain, and he’s had people come up and say thanks for the advice he gave them, they bought the camera on Amazon then cos it was cheaper. And then they didn’t get why he wasn’t grateful for their praise.

        May 4, 2016
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      • Cherry
        Cherry

        As someone who works at a small independent bookstore, I can say that these are almost definitely the same people. How do I know? Because they are the same people who buy, read, and return paper books as well.
        Also because they seem to feel that what they’re doing is so okay that they’ll freely tell you about it. I showed you around for 25 minutes and you’re going to go buy the books I told you about on your kindle/ from amazon? Then you’re going to return them there? No, I won’t hate you AT ALL for that.

        May 4, 2016
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  3. Goldberry
    Goldberry

    This is really horrid. I just recently got the Kindle app on my phone and have been overjoyed at the books I now carry with me. The one click purchase button I often joke, is going to get me into trouble. As a poor student it is so easy to click away the rent. But I do NOT begrudge the money, these books have rescued many a long 24 hour clinical while waiting between patients. It makes me furious when people aren’t paid the wage they deserve and this is simply stealing. I have returned one e-book to Amazon and that was solely because it was and accidental purchase. For my part I’ll be sure to spread the word as to how harmful this is. Down with thieves and pirates!

    May 4, 2016
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  4. Danielle Charron
    Danielle Charron

    I’ve never even heard of this policy and I can’t imagine doing such a thing (I’m not one for returning things I’ve used anyway). How shitty to be able to have such an effect on a writer’s income? It’s more theft that mere dishonesty. Amazon needs to have a look at that policy.

    May 4, 2016
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  5. Laura
    Laura

    But, but, how are people going to read books if they can’t get them for free? It’s not like there are buildings that specifically loan out free books for people to read and then return! Oh wait…

    May 4, 2016
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    • Sunniegreen
      Sunniegreen

      And if the library is distressingly far away, there’s Overdrive! There’s an actual library app for borrowing ebooks and audiobooks on your phone. There’s really no excuse.

      May 4, 2016
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      • Jamie
        Jamie

        The library in my city even has a way for you to borrow e-books via their website rather than having to physically go in. Or if the total cost of all the books is too much doesn’t Amazon have their $9.99 a month for all the free books you can read thing? Even doing that would be better than basically stealing.
        WTF is wrong with people? Why are they so entitled?

        May 4, 2016
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        • I think that’s actually the problem: people who pay for KU and then expect to read everything on Amazon for free. Which is why Amazon doesn’t stop it. They don’t want to lose those KU readers.

          May 4, 2016
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          • Here’s what I’m wondering: Did the person who is returning the books because they aren’t “free” really mean that she was returning them because they weren’t in Kindle Unlimited?

            For people who don’t exactly how the program works, all the Kindle Unlimited books are “free” to them once they’ve paid their $10 a month. So she wasn’t exactly pissed that the books weren’t free, but pissed that they weren’t in Kindle Unlimited.

            Still inexcusable, though!

            June 27, 2016
  6. Katsuro Ricksand
    Katsuro Ricksand

    What a damn liar. Can’t afford a book for less than one dollar? Riiiight…
    Now, obviously some people really are too poor to afford that, because they need every dollar. But the impression I’m getting here is that this person is just too damn stingy. And

    A while back, I found that Charles Stross had made his novel Accelerando available for free online. You didn’t have to sign up for anything; you could just download the entire book for free.
    I still bought a paper copy, because I liked the book and wanted to support an author who was so incredibly generous that he gave away a book absolutely free. I figured that something as amazing as that deserved to be rewarded.
    And now people act as if asking one measly dollar is too much for hours of entertainment? Sod off!

    May 4, 2016
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    • Marguerit
      Marguerit

      “What a damn liar. Can’t afford a book for less than one dollar?”

      Right?? And excuse me, but what are you reading this digital content on? You have obviously purchased something that is at least $50 in order to buy ebooks.

      May 4, 2016
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      • Ilex
        Ilex

        …excuse me, but what are you reading this digital content on? You have obviously purchased something that is at least $50 in order to buy ebooks.

        Dave Lowery of the bands Cracker and Camper van Beethoven made the same point about people expecting to get music for free — everyone seems willing to fork over plenty of money for a device to get music on, and then they don’t want to pay for the music itself. I’m not sure that people quite understand that they’re cheating the creators out of money, rather than some “faceless corporation.”

        May 4, 2016
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      • Katsuro Ricksand
        Katsuro Ricksand

        Well, not necessarily. Some people will be allowed to borrow their room mate’s e-reader. Or they got an old one as a hand-me-down.

        May 10, 2016
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    • Laura
      Laura

      I thought the exact same thing. If you can’t afford a book that costs $1-3, you have much bigger problems than the fact that authors have the audacity to ask for payment for their work.

      May 4, 2016
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    • Spockchick
      Spockchick

      i’m guessing those who can’t afford a dollar for a book won’t be able to afford an e-reader, so that vile reader’s argument, as you point out is a total crock.

      May 5, 2016
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  7. BlueSimplicity
    BlueSimplicity

    I found out about this yesterday. My “favorite” bit is when said reader went to return a book to Amazon, was given a message to call them regarding this, and then cursed out the author for reporting her and forcing her to create a new account. I mean seriously.

    What she’s been doing is horrible, HORRIBLE. And then she got caught, and instead of apologizing , showing any remorse or admitting she did something wrong, she has the nerve to confront the author from stopping her from stealing. The entitlement of this woman just astounds me.

    May 4, 2016
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    • And as an author I can say that unless you message me and tell me what you did, I have no idea who bought or returned a book. So likely they finally hit that 200+ returns that will lead to Amazon finally pulling the plug.

      May 4, 2016
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  8. author
    author

    I’ve exchanged emails with Jeff Bezos over another matter regarding Amazon’s policies and I can safely state the man simply doesn’t give a shit how much damage he causes writers. His only concern is how much cash is streaming into his pockets.

    Stolen work is stolen work. As far as I’m concerned, Amazon is an enabler of thieves and just as culpable.

    May 4, 2016
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  9. Ilex
    Ilex

    Laura, you beat me to “Have these people who want to return all their books never heard of libraries?” I do most of my reading via the library because (a) it’s free, and (b) I end up with fewer new heaps of books piled on top of my already-existing heaps of books. Generally, I buy a book because I loved it and I want to show my appreciation to the author by putting some money in their pocket.

    I don’t buy ebooks or shop from Amazon, so I’d never heard of this return policy. It strikes me as nuts, though — I thought Amazon can tell if people have read ebooks (because didn’t they want to not pay authors if readers didn’t go past the 10% mark in a book?) — so why would they even let people return a completely-read book?

    May 4, 2016
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  10. iheartbusterk
    iheartbusterk

    I had NO idea that Amazon’s policy was so generous and therefore prone to such fraud. I can’t even comprehend what would make you think that was a cool thing. I’ve never even returned a book because I hated it. Just what is going through these people’s heads?!?!

    May 4, 2016
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    • Xebi
      Xebi

      Right? If I buy a book and hate it, I give it to someone who I think might like it.

      Seriously, my jaw actually, literally dropped when I read the bit about how dare authors charge almost a whole dollar for a book because that’s way too much. WTF? Has this person ever been inside a book shop?

      May 4, 2016
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  11. Lan
    Lan

    I’ll admit, I may be slower to buy a book if it is priced $6.99 or above. But to complain about 0.99 – 2.99 just seems ridiculous to me.

    May 4, 2016
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  12. Carolina West
    Carolina West

    I just recently started selling books on Amazon, but even if I had no plans to, I still would’ve signed the petition. This entitlement attitude is spreading worse than the freaking plague, but companies don’t seem concerned about it at all. You’d think they’d be right on top of it, since their profits are most likely taking a hit as well. Of course, it’s not nearly as big a loss for them as the authors it’s happening to, but still, this garbage just needs to stop.

    May 4, 2016
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  13. mydogspa
    mydogspa

    It takes my wife about $5500 for each 22 page comic to pay for the artist, colorist, letterer, production, and printing. There are six issues in her miniseries. She goes to comic conventions to sell them to recoup costs, then (especially the youngsters) walk away without paying a dime with the attitude of “it’s on line, so it’s free.” Fortunately there are enough other folks who actually buy it, but the whole sense of entitlement is damn frustrating.

    Then there are the websites that rip off the pages from her website and offer sell them for $3 each page without giving us a dime. (We’d be happy to sell them the whole book for $5)

    Well, I guess you can’t say self-publishing isn’t an adventure . . . .

    May 4, 2016
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  14. Rhiannon
    Rhiannon

    As I am about as technical as your average granny, I didn’t even realise you could return the books – certainly I never have. I can’t believe the nerve of that person who wrote to the author to tell her she should make her books free of charge! Do they think she wrote it in 5 minutes or something?! I’m not keen to buy Kindle books priced over about $10 but that’s because they are Kindle books and Amazon could still take them away. I don’t mind paying that for a physical book. Honestly some people these days just think they should get everything for free.

    May 4, 2016
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  15. Myst
    Myst

    I mostly ‘buy’ the free books on amazon, unless I really love that author/series. I keep a close eye on titles I’m interested in to see if they drop in price, but I’ve never returned a book for a refund, even when I bought it by accident. And some of the promotional freebies I get, I already own a physical copy of.

    I get a ton of books from the library, and I search used book stores, but only purchase if the book isn’t overly damaged. I’d rather pay 6.99 at Walmart for a pristine paperback than 3.50 for a bent spine folded pages copy. And I know the Walmart purchase will actively pay the author unlike used book stores.

    As for the 0.99-2.99 person, that is absolutely awful behaviour. Amazon has thousands of free books (like classics or promotions), where your kindle account will fill up with more than you can read in 3 lifetimes. Lets see this person get paid 10 cents an hour because everyone stiffs them and see if their tune changes.

    May 4, 2016
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  16. Curly
    Curly

    I find it really odd that people seem to be taking this blatant trolling at face value. Maybe someone did write an author and say 99 cents was too much to pay for a book, but extrapolating from that to the result that Amazon must change their return policy is absolutely baffling.
    Anyone who works in retail knows that there are people who abuse return policies, why would online content be any different? There is a threshold that gets serial returners shut down and it probably is more generous that the content providers would like. But the reason that return policies exist is because, overall, most people don’t abuse them, but do buy more items because they have the assurance that they can return if they want. That would be me. I spend about £50 a month on ebooks and I think I’ve returned 2. But if I wanted to return one and came up against what I thought was an unreasonable return policy that indicated that the retailer did not stand behind their product, I might take my money elsewhere. I have actually done this with brick and mortar retailers.

    May 4, 2016
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    • Razwick
      Razwick

      It really has nothing to do with this particular story besides that being a catalyst to discuss it.

      People are losing money because of this policy and note how despite that, none of them are saying the return policy should be removed just changed. 7 days and allowing you to return a book after you read 100% of it is flat out ridiculous and no return policy for any other kind of digital media is that open and generous, for good reason.

      May 4, 2016
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    • Kylie
      Kylie

      It’s true that there are people who abuse return policies, but as someone who does work in retail, currently, that they also change policies to prevent abuses. For example, Target allows people to make returns with their ID as long as the item is in good condition and we can prove it is sold by the chain; however, they cap out that amount per month. The cap is recent due to continued abuse. Amazon, faced with a situation of continued abuse, should also change its policy to protect the retailers. As Jenny said no one is calling for no returns ever (though there are many items that exist in this world that wherein you can’t get returns or exchanges for already, digital included); however, it is far from baffling nor unreasonable to ask Amazon to accommodate authors by implementing a new and better policy. Whether it is capping the number of book returns a person could do per month or a certain time/percentage combination.

      May 5, 2016
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  17. Curly
    Curly

    I’m really surprised at the lack of understanding in this thread about why return policies exist and also lack of understanding of technology.
    Punishing everyone who buys to try to catch the small percentage who abuse will hurt sales in the long run. That will also lose people money.

    May 4, 2016
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    • JennyTrout
      JennyTrout

      There’s no lack of understanding. We all understand what a return policy is for, and that the majority of readers don’t abuse those policies. But we all also understand that e-books are being treated differently than any of the other digital goods sold by Amazon.

      The solution proposed is still far more lenient than Amazon’s policy on any of their other digital goods. Two to three days for returns, only if the book hasn’t been read past a certain percent. That’s all we’re asking. Not, “No one is allowed to return books ever.”

      As for technology, Amazon is able to track the percentage of books read. That’s how they pay us for books enrolled in Kindle Unlimited.

      I can’t return food to the grocery store that I’ve eaten. I can’t return a PS4 game that I’ve opened. I can’t return a dress that I’ve worn. It’s not unreasonable to ask this very small change in policy that will not penalize readers acting in good faith.

      May 4, 2016
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      • Spockchick
        Spockchick

        You know I’m going to try this at my local store: ‘I didn’t like this candy, I demand a refund! *hands over empty box of chocolates, wipes face*

        Curly, we all understand fine. Nobody should be allowed to return something that has been actually read to the end. I think books are very different, and I don’t EVER return them. I’m surprised that is actually a thing, other than oops, I accidentally bought this.

        May 5, 2016
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    • Xebi
      Xebi

      How is that punishing everyone who buys when those rules already apply to software and other electronic purchases and book buyers can read a sample first? Even giving people, say, one hour instead of a week would make a difference because then people who genuinely make purchases by accident can rectify their mistakes.

      May 4, 2016
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    • Quelaag
      Quelaag

      Actually, it’s PS4’s policy that games purchased as online downloads can’t be returned, and they warn people of this before making the purchase. Yet download purchases still sell very, very well…

      Kindles can tell how much of the book someone has read. I wonder if they could use that technology to close the loop-hole. For example, if someone has read more than 70% of the ebook, it can’t be returned. I figure 70% is plenty enough for customers to determine if they want to keep it, and the frequent returners will be forced to buy it or not know how it ends.

      May 4, 2016
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    • Laura
      Laura

      From my perspective, it seems that you have a lack of understanding about why return policies exist. Return policies are not intended to allow people to consume any kind of entertainment they want without ever having to pay a dime for it. This is the issue with Amazon’s e-book return policy. Of course, not everyone feels that way, but a substantial, not small, percentage of users are treating the service that way. As Jenny said, the changes proposed would not punish anyone who is acting in good faith, and they will greatly minimize the number of people who are able to abuse the policy.

      May 4, 2016
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  18. Caitlin Persin
    Caitlin Persin

    Honestly amazon should let you have 24 hours to return the book and only if you didn’t read past a certain point. 24 hours is more than enough time in case you or maybe your child accidentally purchased a book.

    This policy is like allowing someone who went to a concert and didn’t enjoy it to get their money returned up to 7 days after you attended the comcert. Or it would be like paying an admission fee at a county fair and then demanding your money back days later. Books are entertainment. You wouldn’t do this in any other type of entertainment industry so why here? Some people are dicks.

    May 5, 2016
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  19. falalala
    falalala

    You know, I don’t really have a major problem with the 7-day part. Maybe someone has a learning disability or just got super busy and honestly didn’t read more than a page or two of the book for a few days. I can accept that.

    What makes absolutely no sense to me is the idea that you can return a book that Amazon knows you’ve read from beginning to end without the product being defective in some way. (And by “defective in some way,” I do not mean “I didn’t think it was very good,” but rather something like “The last five chapters were completely missing from the digital copy.”) That’s ridiculous. That’s like trying to return clothing that not only has the tags cut off, but has obvious sweat stains under the armpits and a big ketchup smear where you dropped a French fry on yourself.

    May 5, 2016
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  20. Annamal
    Annamal

    Amazon might be able to nudge people into behaving slightly better if they made a field with a reason for return mandatory.

    That way they could set much lower user ban thresholds for books being returned for reasons other than spelling/grammer (and they could compare notes with the author on the spelling/grammer thing).

    I’ve returned 3 audiobooks over 7 years of listening and purchasing (there’s a few more I probably should have returned based on audio quality alone).

    May 5, 2016
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  21. Lieke
    Lieke

    That reader’s request is tone-deaf, entitled and ridiculous. I can’t even imagine the lack of reasoning that went into writing that stupid e-mail.

    May 5, 2016
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  22. I would love to have a yacht. Too bad they are all SO expensive! Could you make sure they are for free? Thank you ? <3

    May 5, 2016
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  23. llaph
    llaph

    I think there was a similar petition to this one a few years ago. I recall reading a post from a user who was pissed @ Amazon for cutting her off for being a serial returner and she argued against it sighting her rights as a consumer or some junk. You know how when some people argue on the internet they seem to get hyper aware of how they sound and work to have their replies look super intelligent and have proper grammar, even if what they are saying is full of shit?
    Since it has become so easy to buy music and books the buyers don’t have to deal with the real people who create them so they don’t think about the repercussions. That and it is stupidly easy to return stuff or get it for free. Empathy is almost dead when it comes to something like this.
    Being blind I’m just grateful that I even have the choice to read eBooks and buy what I want. Having that freedom to buy (or sample) an awful book is liberating and sometimes makes me feel like a sighted person again. I know that there have been a few series or books that I bought even after my library started listing them, when I could get them for free, where I out right bought them because I really liked the author and wanted to support them. I did that before I lost my sight and am happy to be able to do it again.

    May 5, 2016
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  24. dekadarling
    dekadarling

    Given that Amazon can track the percentage of a book read, why can’t they set up a partial refund system? Set the first 10% of the book as still being eligible for a full refund. If you read 20% you get 80% of your money back. If you read 60%, you get 40% back. You finish the book and you get nothing back.

    It’d give people a chance to decide whether they like a book or not for free, but with the added benefit that if you’re still undecided at 10% in, you can choose to read a bit more for just a small loss of refund amount. It also means if you’re halfway through a book and suddenly there’s a scene that triggers you, well you can at least get a small portion of your money back. And if you choose to read the whole thing, you know you’re committing to not getting a refund.

    It’d also benefit authors, not only because it’d avoid people scamming the system but because a partial book payment is better than no book payment in the case of genuine returns. It’d also allow authors to analyze when readers are losing interest so badly they want to return a book partway through and make decisions based on that info, potentially allowing them to improve their writing.

    May 5, 2016
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    • Carolina West
      Carolina West

      That sounds like an awesome idea. 🙂

      May 5, 2016
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    • Xebi
      Xebi

      I really like this idea.

      May 6, 2016
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  25. Artemis
    Artemis

    I feel a little weird about the comments up-thread about how if you can’t afford a book for $2.99 you can’t afford an e-reader. I’ve had times in the past year where I literally did not have a single dollar to spare, but I bought a Kindle several years ago when Amazon offered me a really good deal.

    Like…I’m not trying to make excuses for serial book returners. That’s not okay at all. When I didn’t have dollars, I went to the library/used Overdrive.

    But it is entirely possible to have things like an e-reader or a smartphone and still be too broke to afford entertainment.

    May 5, 2016
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    • JennyTrout
      JennyTrout

      Yeah, it’s kind of like when people say, “Well, you’re on food stamps, so how can you afford the internet.” Well, because you need it for almost everything these days, like doing your job or applying for jobs, etc.

      Ability to afford some things does not denote ability to afford other things, and it’s possible that someone who can’t afford ebooks is reading on their phone or another device they already had before they couldn’t afford those books.

      But yeah, not an excuse to not pay for books, especially when there’s stuff like the Wattpad app that’s totally free and there’s tons to read.

      May 5, 2016
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    • Xebi
      Xebi

      I didn’t like it either. Things like ereaders and tablets get given as gifts. My Kindle was a birthday present and so was my laptop.

      May 6, 2016
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  26. Monittude
    Monittude

    I have to admit to using Amazon’s return policy quite a bit in the past. Please don’t hate me! I am a voracious reader and hate not finishing a book, unless it’s irredeemably bad. So I was buying a LOT of books for a while and returning the ones that seemed good to start with but by the end were just not. Still keeping the majority that I bought, of course, and ending up with a lot of series or multiple books by the same authors.
    Amazon’s policy is way too permissible and it does create the idea that ‘If they let me do it then it must be ok’. So it’s good to remember that there are real people behind the books who are hurt by the returns.
    What would be awesome though is to be able to ‘loan’ a book for two weeks like a library. Maybe a dollar or two per book? Then if I don’t like the book, oh well, it’s not much money and the author still made something off me. And if I do like it I can buy it afterwards.

    May 6, 2016
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  27. Twila
    Twila

    I am a person who returns books on Amazon a lot. And why? Because I am one of those weird people who reads the end of the book first. I do it to printed books in the bookstore before I buy them (unless the book is by one of my few autobuy trusted authors). This is sheer self-protection on my part, since I cannot enjoy the book without knowing how it ends. With e-books, this is impossible without buying the book. So I take chances based on reviews and the sample you can access, and then, within that week’s window, I check the last chapter. If it doesn’t work for me, I return it. No harm, no foul. At least IMHO. I wouldn’t have bought it in a brick and mortar store, if I could have checked the ending…. I also buy the more expensive e-books, including those up to $15, so I figure I should be able to be happy with my purchase. I have found many authors that I now follow with this policy, and I am not trying to defraud anyone, just making sure that I have the same level of self-protection in the e-world as I do in the brick and mortar world.

    May 6, 2016
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    • JennyTrout
      JennyTrout

      I know a lot of readers who prefer to read the end of a book first, so I understand where you’re coming from. I know a lot of people do this. That said, I’m looking at stats from authors saying that 40% of their income is lost on returns, and they can see patterns in those returns. So while I know readers who do read the end of the book first feel strongly about that, as an author I feel strongly that we deserve some protection from the company we’re doing business with.

      And maybe there’s a solution there from Amazon, too; they allow sampling of the first 15% of their books. What if they allowed authors the option of sampling the last 15%, too? Even if they never revise their return policy, a sampling policy like that would make it way easier on those readers who have to read the end first.

      May 6, 2016
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      • Twila
        Twila

        I like the idea of sampling the last 15% of a book! That would be awesome for me, because then I’d know before buying if a book was for me or not. I don’t want to hurt authors, after all, just make sure I don’t get burned by buying something I would never have bought if I had found it in a brick-and-mortar store and been able to check the ending.

        May 6, 2016
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        • JennyTrout
          JennyTrout

          And honestly, it would save readers the hassle of having to go through their digital orders and cancel stuff.

          May 6, 2016
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  28. Sarah
    Sarah

    Although I agree a loss of 40% of income is devastating, such a high return rate suggests there is something really wrong with the book itself, so the readers should not be blamed in that instance.

    I am just a reader, but I’d be okay with shortening the return window to 24 hours because the only time I’ve ever returned an e-book is when I accidentally clicked the “one-click” button, but that return was within a matter of seconds.

    However, one value I see for the seven-day return window is that it allows for “price adjustment”–if a reader buys a book at $4.99, and then two days later the author reduces it to $0.99, the system currently allows a reader to return it and re-buy it. Would authors be opposed to something to allow for price adjustment within a short time span? I can see some readers becoming resentful if they didn’t have an option available.

    May 6, 2016
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  29. Sherry
    Sherry

    I’ve purchased printed books in the past that turned out to be duds. Did I return them to the book store and ask for my money back? No. They either collect dust on my shelf, get donated to a library, or passed along to a friend who might like them better than I did. Have I ever “returned” a digital book? NO! If I’m willing to pay $8.99 for a paperback book, and you, as the author, generously offer your content at $2.99 for download, you most certainly deserve that small fee for sharing your world with your readers! What a disgraceful practice! I suppose these are people who would “buy” a dress and return it the following week after wearing it once, too, right? When did people get so shady and awful?

    May 10, 2016
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  30. Promise
    Promise

    It has never occurred to me, ever, to return a book other than textbooks for a college class I ended up dropping after the first day, and they had never been opened. (I have sold tons of books over the years to second hand book shops, but that’s entirely different.) I have books sitting in my Kindle app right now that I’ll never finish reading for one reason or another and I’m sure some were within the return period when I stopped reading them, but I never bothered to even look to see if I could return them. I am absolutely astounded that there are people out there doing this! And balking at a price for a book that is less than the average Starbucks order is also insane! If you want to “rent” books for free, there is a place to do that that’s been around for hundreds of years. It’s called a library. Do people not use those anymore?

    May 12, 2016
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  31. I didn’t realize you had such a huge gap to return books until I heard a well known member of the book YouTube community talk about it. In one video recently she talked about buying ebooks, reading them in a week, and returning them if they’re expensive. I’m so happy I came across your blog post. It’s so frustrating seeing a member of the book community encouraging others to do this, and it’s also frustrating knowing that so many people are actually doing this.

    May 12, 2016
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  32. I am late to the party, here by way of Nate’s (above commenter) post about this. As a self-published author, I have seen a few returns myself. They are disheartening, but I try to be cheerful about them. As a reader, I recently had occasion to return a book. It was, I realized after the fact, an out-of-copyright Dorothy- L Sayers that someone had scanned and thrown up as an ebook without even proofing for scanning errors. Many places in the book were marked as “[garbled]” and some sentences made no sense because the letters had scanned improperly. Since it was a book I had read before, I didn’t rush to read it, but when I contacted Amazon, they agreed to refund my $0.99 even though I was well past the 7 day limit. Sure it was only 99 cents, but at that point, I was in it for the principle, not the money.

    For those folks who think Amazon can always tell how far someone has read in a book, let me tell you about an experiment I did. I mostly read on a e-ink Kindle, not a tablet. And since having the wifi connection on runs down the batter, I leave it turned off when I’m reading and only turn it on to buy a new book, or sync my reading if I want to be able to read on another device. So, as a test, I read the first chapter of a new book, and then synced my Kindle by turning on the wifi and using the sync. Then I turned the wifi off, and used the Go To feature to go to the LAST chapter, then paged forward a few times. Then I used “Go To” to page back to Chapter Two. When I used the “Sync to furthest page read” from the menu, It asked to turn on the wifi, and once the Kindle was connected, it told me I was already at the furthest page read. Amazon knew nothing of my brief excursion to the last page. Ergo, anyone wishing to cheat would only need to move back to the beginning again before asking for a return.

    June 27, 2016
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  33. Here is one writer who has quit writing. Not because I don’t have more to say. I have a complete book in my head and ideas for several more. But everywhere I turn I see this disrespect for the work of creative people. My fans (FANS!!!) give away copies of the books I don’t offer for free. My returns have risen because of the ease of scamming Amazon return policies. Reviewers complain that after reading an entire permafree book they resent having to pay $10 each for the rest of the trilogy. So I’m done! And it isn’t the loss of income motivating me; it’s the disrespect I feel when readers think I shouldn’t be paid for my work. It’s the same thing as saying, You’re worthless and your work is worthless!

    But I’m not the victim here. I’m going to be doing other things I find rewarding. My readers are the real victims of this kind of behavior, and until I see them pushing back hard against “everything for free and screw the person who made it” I doubt I’ll reconsider.

    June 28, 2016
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