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There’s No Need to Change Amazon’s Kindle eBook Return Policy

April 3rd, 2013 by · 62 Comments · Amazon, ebookstore news

oEKiurzzuCtigWf-556x313-noPad[1]Have you ever returned a Kindle ebook? That option might soon be going away, thanks to a petition over at Change.org.

The petition calls on Amazon to change their customer-friendly Kindle ebook return policy. Even though this petition is only 4 days old it has over 2 thousand signatures from authors and publishers, all of whom want Amazon to now block some types of returns.

The petitioners don’t see the return policy as reassurance to readers that we can return a poorly written or poorly formatted ebook. Instead they view it as a loophole that is being gamed by serial returnees.

There is some truth to this idea, but would it surprise you to know that Amazon is a step ahead of serial returnees?

I first read about this petition on GalleyCat, and I was surprised to learn that I was the only one who knew about Part B of Amazon’s return policy.

A lot of authors are bothered by readers who appear to be gaming the system (buying, reading, and returning multiple books) and that is an entirely understandable concern. Amazon is bothered by that as well, and that is why they have long had a policy in place for responding to serial returnees.

If a customer buys and returns too many ebooks, Amazon will put a block on their account and not allow any more Kindle ebooks to be returned. I know this policy exists because I encountered it in 2009.

In December 2009, while I was still blogging for MobileRead, I shared an email that a friend had received from Amazon. It very politely noted that my friend seemed to be buying a lot of Kindle ebooks by mistake:

Hello from Amazon.com.

We’re writing regarding your request of Refunds.

Unfortunately, the number of issues you have sustained with your Kindle Store orders has led us to believe that there might be a larger issue. Since it appears that many of your orders have been accidentally purchased, we ask that you contact Customer Service for troubleshooting in an effort to avoid these issues in the future.

Effective immediately, we are unable to compensate you for any additional issues with your Kindle Store orders.

Thank you for your understanding.

Best regards,

Account Specialist
Amazon.com

So as you can see there’s no need to change the policy. Amazon already has it covered.

I’m not sure whether Amazon sent the email when the returns hit a certain threshold or whether his buying habits fit the pattern of a serial returnee. But I do recall that this email was sent after 30 titles were returned.  In absolute terms that is really not a lot of ebooks; I’ve bought more ebooks than that in a single month.

But it doesn’t really matter why Amazon sent the email; what matters is that they have a policy in place to cover anyone trying to cheat.

Furthermore, I am a little surprised at the number of authors who don’t realize the importance of Amazon’s return policy.  While a few people use it to cheat, the rest of us see it as a promise that we can return a crappy product. This increases the probability that we will take risks with unknown authors.

Few ebookstores have a return policy as generous as Amazon’s. Barnes & Noble does not allow returns at all and nor does Sony. In fact, Google Play Books (and Kobo, or so I am told) are the only significant ebookstore that let you return ebooks.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I would bet that Amazon’s return policy is at least partly responsible for Amazon continuing to dominate the ebook market all the way through Agency pricing. It is is less risky to buy ebooks from Amazon that anywhere else. And TBH if Amazon did not have this policy I would be far more cautious about spending money there.

That is the point that the petitioners seem to have missed. They are upset about the tiny fraction of people who are gaming the system and in order to stop serial returnees the petitioners want to hurt the rest of us as well.

I would say that the cure is worse than the disease, wouldn’t you agree?

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62 Comments so far ↓

  • flyingtoastr

    Amazon dominates ebooks because they have mindshare and throw more cash at advertisements than the entire market capitalizations of the other ereader companies combined.

    It isn’t because they will return ebooks.

  • Peter

    “The petitioners don’t see the return policy as reassurance to readers that we can return a poorly written or poorly formatted ebook. Instead they view it as a loophole that is being gamed by serial returnees.”

    I honestly think you have that entirely backwards. The core issue is precisely that under Amazon’s existing policy they can’t just dump unproofed raw OCR output on us and say “Suck it up, buttercup” without fear of repercussions. Serial returnees gaming the system are a cover for the real concern (and a way to sucker in auctorial support).

  • Tristan

    I’m always amazed at how quick authors are to form a mob and act stupidly. It reminds me of how they took down that one legit book lending site several months back.

    • Pumpernickel Bertholemue

      There is no such thing as a “legit book lending site” (at least not when it comes to ebooks). Besides, if it was legit, it wouldn’t have been taken down

      • Nate Hoffelder

        The site that Tristan is referring to is called Lendink. Last August a huge number of authors falsely accused that site of pirating their ebooks when in fact all it was doing helping connect Kindle owners so they could legally lend an ebook to each other.

        It was a lynch mob:
        http://www.the-digital-reader.com/2012/08/12/one-author-explains-his-role-in-the-lendink-lynch-mob/

        • Rowena Cherry

          Lendink appears to be a bartering scheme for profit and the evasion of taxes which are due on barter transactions. One wonders how much Lendink will profit now that the affiliate system rules have been modified, and affiliates are not paid if the majority of clicks go to something other than sales.

          Lending is reasonable when a purchaser loves a book and wishes to share it (once, as allowed by Amazon), privately with a friend who is likely to enjoy it.

          When they wish to trade their “lend” of a book with a stranger in exchange for a borrow of another book, that is gaming the system. Moreover, there are sites that encourage members to snag promotional reads when they are free even if the book does not appeal to the member, explicitly for the purpose of subsequently trading the freebie for a book they really want to read.

          • Frank Skornia

            You have a particularly narrow concept of lending. Libraries and their lending practices must really burn you up. Or do you just believe that a library’s patrons are close personal friends to the library. What about a site like PaperBack Swap (http://www.paperbackswap.com/index.php)? Aren’t they doing pretty much the same thing that Lendink did, but with physical books? In fact, I’m sure that’s an even more egregious sin because those books can be swapped multiple times, unlike the Kindle books which can be lent ONCE FOREVER.

            I should be able to lend my books to anyone I choose, even if I don’t know them personally and have only communicated through an online site. Once I paid for my license for the Kindle book, I’m entitled to ALL my rights within that license, even lending if it is allowed.

            If you have such a problem with eBook lending, don’t allow it on your books, it’s as simple as that. Granted, it’ll take you out of the sweet profit spot, but that’s the choice YOU must make, don’t make it for everyone else.

  • Joanna

    Kobo does allow returns, and always have. I have gotten a few refunds from them for books which had problems. In all cases, they asked for details about what those problems were, and once they verified that I was correct that the book had legit problems, they refunded my money with no problems.

  • Dan Meadows

    Yet another attempt to erode physical-world, consumer-friendly policies we’ve always enjoyed in the digital space. At this point, I just wanna ask writers backing this kind of garbage why they hate readers so much. I’m starting to agree with Bob Mayer’s take. If these writers hate Amazon’s return policy so much, then pull your books and go with B&N. They don’t even allow returns, that should be their panacea. Of course, maybe they actually want to sell books.

    • Stephanie

      I never saw so many readers who hate writers as I have in this comment thread!

      • fjtorres

        Some authors have earned themselves a lot of scorn.
        The lendlink lynch mob, Scott Turow, Sue Grafton…
        The signees to this petition are good candidates to join that select list. :)

        • KarlB

          Absolutely. It seems that the underlying problem here is that there are huge numbers of self-publish authors who are absolutely SURE that their book OUGHT to be earning them more money than it is. So when they find that sales are dribbling in at a pathetic rate, it MUST be because somebody is cheating them out of the fame and fortune they deserve.

          Heaven forbid that they consider the notion that people just aren’t buying their book because it’s not worth buying.

          • KE

            As an Amazon author you can see your sales and returns. And when you have a 5 star rating on a top 100 book that is formatted and editing thoroughly. And watch your refund # increase yet the person fails to leave a rating of the book. It can only be classified as scamming. If you are unhappy with a product why shop in the genre. you get to read up to 10% of most books before you buy. 10% is enough to see spelling, grammar and formatting errors. You shouldn’t be able to return a book because you didn’t like how it ended. I can’t return albums to itunes when they suck ass. I have signed the petition asking that amazon change the policy not eliminate it. Seven days is too much of gap to return a book, you can read in seven times in that time frame. Also, there should be a price threshold. Seriously, returning 20 99cent books a month is ludicrous. And thirty returns for a year is still excessive and I read about that in 30 days. The money comes out of the authors pocket. You can’t benefit from a product and then ask for you money back. We stay at amazon because that is where our good honest fans are too. But because of the policy many authors are making up that income by not allowing lending and borrowing. Either way authors are losing out.

  • dave

    Hi Nate, a slightly off topic question: if you’ve on occasion purchased more than 30 ebooks in a month, how many do you tend to read on average? I don’t see where you find all the time ;-)…Dave

  • Tori

    I think Amazon’s return policy should be revised, at least. If you read more than 20% of a book, you should no longer be eligible for a refund. That’s enough to determine if the formatting has a problem or the book is just bad.

    • J.T. Holden

      Tori is correct. Before purchasing any book, read the sample on Amazon. These samples usually contain the first 40 to 60 pages of the book, which should be more than enough for anyone to decide whether or not the book is worth buying. If there’s no sample, don’t buy the book.

      On the flip side, self-published authors need to start reading their own books (not only to hunt down and eradicate mistakes but also to polish and perfect their masterpieces) before submitting them to online vendors for sale. If your own book isn’t interesting enough to hold your attention for a thorough read from start to finish, what makes you think it will hold mine?

  • Morgan Mandel

    I’m wondering within what period of time this person did 30 returns. If it was within a month, that seems excessive.

    With e-books being so inexpensive, I really don’t see why people should get any leeway with returns after 2 days. That’s time enough to know if a book was bought by mistake. Also, it’s their fault if they didn’t read the generous sample first.

    • Puzzled

      Returns aren’t just for mistaken purchases, they are also for poorly constructed ebooks.

      I’ve had Kobo refund a ebook due to obvious construction errors. Amazon just sent me an email letting me know that an ebook I purchased has been updated with better construction, I haven’t opened the original ebook because it hasn’t made it to the top of the TBR pile yet.

      I’m amazed at the level of typos and bad punctuation in purchased ebooks.

      I’ve had ebooks that I’ve purchased that I haven’t opened yet. I haven’t needed to. Yet.

  • Taylor

    Amazon has never been able to effectively answer my queries about one thing. If they do indeed have a seven-day strict return policy, why do I show, say 100 sales for Book A in January and February combined and 190 returns for the very same book for the very same time period. I’ve graphed out multiple times the discrepancies in the number of returns, which far outnumber the actual number of sales in a given time period, and they’ve never been able to provide an effective answer. It is simple math.

    I had 177% more returns than sales on several titles the entirety of 2012, and no, my December, 2011 wasn’t so successful to make up for that extra 77% in returns. My formatting on said titles were just fine and there were no returns on any of the other venues.

  • Rowena Cherry

    I believe that more information is required to make Nate’s case. For instance, did the serial returner “purchase” more than one e-book by the same author? Did the serial returner avail himself of the free reads, the look-inside opportunities, the legal lending on Amazon, the blurbs and reviews, and many other free opportunities to check out the writing and formatting of any work before “buying”?

    How many e-books did he buy and keep?
    Did he rate or write reviews of any of the e-books he returned?

    30 returns may seem fair to Nate, but that is potentially 30 authors who were not compensated at all before one serial returner was asked to mend his ways.

    • Nate Hoffelder

      Why would we need more info beyond the fact that Amazon is tracking returns?

      You’re welcome to assume whatever you like, but I’m not sure how it changes things.

      • fjtorres

        Amazon tracks returns.
        Amazon also terminates accounts of people that *do* game the system.

        Considering that serial returners generate no revenue for Amazon but generate download charges they would be the most interested party in kicking them off the system, no?
        Either you trust them to apply their rules or you don’t.
        If you don’t, peace of mind alone would suggest you take your business elsewhere.

        • Bronwen Evans

          Actually, authors get charged for download too, so much per book! As a reader I have returned books, because I read so many books that often I’ve forgotten that I’ve actually read xyz book in paper format. I’m pleased to see Amazon does have a watch on serial returners. As this is the digital world, surely Amazon could build a way to tell how much of the book a person has read. If they have read the whole book, I don’t think a return should be allowed. That is not fair. But on the other hand I suspect many readers will try a new author KNOWING that if they start the book and don’t like it they can return it (often we don’t have time to read the sample, especially if the book is on special). This could mean new authors get read and enjoyed when otherwise they might not.

        • KE

          Authors actually pay the download charge

  • Christine M. Fairchild

    As an indie author, I would NEVER waste my time worrying about returns. I see them occassionally, and they are just part of the landscape of selling books. Most readers are honest, good folks and the returns are mostly mistaken purchases. To think that all or even a high percent of books returns are cheaters is silly. I’m not that paranoid or pessimistic or bitter in life. Even if if the returns were ALL cheaters, I still wouldn’t care, cause folks who want to cheat the system will find a way and won’t convert to paying customers–so I pay them no heed. they are the minority in this world, not the norm.

    I love my readers and would never do a thing to hassle them. The customer is always right. I’m a Nordstrom shopper for the same reason–don’t hassle me if I need to make a return. So I’m perfectly happy that Amazon is kind to customers in these situations…so let it be!

    • Dave Rubenstein

      Well said. Thank you.

      I am in the very early stages of writing a book. I hope to have enough confidence in it to put “Money-back Guarantee” on the cover.

  • Brian

    I haven’t seen this more than hinted, but I would expect that a certain group of authors would see a higher percent of the returns. Just like Nate was saying, being able to return a book if it is crap makes you more likely to get more books. But it also means that the authors who write the crap books will see a lot more returns. And if those authors think their book is good it will look to them like people are gaming the system instead of the returns being a reflection on the quality of their book.

  • Stumbling Over Chaos :: Linkity wishes the damn “T” key would stay where it’s supposed to

    [...] Does Amazon’s ebook return policy already cover concerns about “serial returnees”? [...]

  • Xendula

    I don’t understand how authors can petition against ebook returns and not against physical book returns! In theory, I can buy and read any physical book, then return it, so what’s the diffence?! Ridiculous petition.

    Kudos to you for not regarding your readers as thieves, Christine. I will check out your books after posting this.

    I have only returned 3 ebooks ever, and only because I don’t get to read my ebooks within the first 7 days after I purchase them. Therefore, as a customer, I am already keeping a lot of books that are poorly written or that are so full of typos and punctuation errors that I abandon them after a few chapters.

    To address an earlier comment, being able to return ebooks is not why I favor Amazon, but their very easy, customer friendly, return system is what makes me like them so much more.

  • Russell Blake

    I was contacted by a fellow author and asked to read and sign the petition. After consideration, I declined. I did so for a number of reasons, first of which is that I’ve seen no indication that petitions influence Amazon’s policies in any positive manner at all. So it’s a big fat waste of time that makes the powerless feel like they’re doing something to control their destiny. That’s my pragmatism kicking in.

    I sell tens of thousands of books every month. A typical return rate is 1.5-2.5%. Call it 2%. I’ve checked with other authors in my genre, and that seems to be the number. For whatever reason 2% of purchases get returned. Why, I have no idea. Part of it is probably abuse, but it’s impossible to know how much, unless you’re Amazon and have access to an important data point: How much of the book has been read.

    To me it would be pretty simple. Amend the return policy to be something more reasonable – return within 3 days if the book has been read 25% or less. If over 25%, guess what? You didn’t like the ending, felt it should have been done differently? That’s called not liking the ending. It happens. I can’t recall how many films I’ve walked into and felt the film fell apart halfway through. But I didn’t demand a refund. That’s part of the experience of going to the movies. It’s also part of the experience of buying a book.

    I’ve read reviews where readers didn’t like the amount of swearing, or aspects of the plot, or the character arc, or the denouement. Guess what? You can’t please everyone. I’ve got back to back reviews on one of my extremely well rated novels saying, in essence, that reader A didn’t like the ending because it was a cliffhanger and they don’t like cliffhangers, and reader B didn’t like the ending of the same book because she wished it had been more of a cliffhanger. I can’t make this stuff up. If you try to please everyone, you’ll please nobody, and there will always be those who dislike a book for some reason, often something completely irrational, or that they got wrong. It goes with the territory of running a retail business, which is what bookselling is.

    I would more than happily sign a petition lobbying for refunds to be terminated once a reader has read 25% or more, even though I think it would make no difference to Amazon what 2000 of its authors did or didn’t think. Perhaps they are already ahead of that, and have looked at their data, and concluded that most returns don’t make it that far through. Or maybe they just don’t care because a 2% cost of doing business is basically a rounding error if the customer is happy and the net revenue from that customer is still positive for the company.

    I find it difficult to believe that a company that’s so customer-centric and has been so ahead of the curve in this arena would have missed the mark on returns – something that costs not only the author money, but more importantly to Amazon, costs Amazon money. My hunch is that this is another tempest in a teacup, and just part of the bookselling game.

    Russell Blake
    Suspense Author
    http://RussellBlake.com
    Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Russell-Blake/e/B005OKCOLE/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

  • Zoe Dawson

    I agree with Christine. As a writer, I don’t worry about returns. I worry about getting out the best book for my readers. I do think that some readers will take a chance on a new author regardless of whether or not they can return the book. From my experience, as a reader, I’m always looking for new authors. It’s always a thrill when I find an author I know is on auto buy. But returns are just a matter of doing business.

  • Steve Herting

    I’m not a writer, but I purchase all of my books through amazon and have never had a problem with returns. But I can see that there may be people out there abusing this privilage by returning books after having read them, it takes all kinds you know!

  • Kristin A.

    I’m not even a writer and I believe Kindle’s policy is flawed. Once a book has been read past 20% or 48 hours hours after purchase the book should not be able to be returned simple as that. A 7 day return policy on e-books is ridiculous.

  • Flora Maine

    It’s all very well some authors saying that they only see a 2% return rate, or that only “crap” books get frequent returns. For those of us who write erotica and see someone buy each book in the series, then one by one see them returned, it isn’t easy to support this flawed return policy. I think it’s disgusting that people are allowed to abuse the system like this.

    I cannot WAIT for things to get worse and start affecting those 2 percenters; listening to them change their tune will be music to my ears. Because things will deteriorate, you can count on it. Amazon is where people go for freebies — they’ve created a culture where people expect ebooks to be free.

    Nice work, Zon. Nice work.

    • Heather Kendall

      Thank you for posting this. I had wondered if it was just the genre I was publishing in that was causing the returns or as others have said, maybe the books just suck. I see almost a 10% return and as you said, I’ll see a series bought in sequence and then RETURNED in sequence as well. And not to blow my own horn but I don’t beleive for a second that the books I publish are crap. In fact not one book in my roster has less than 4.5 stars, a few of which have a full 5 stars.

  • Patrick

    There are way too many people out there that are buying books, reading them, and then returning them. It’s called stealing. I thinks it’s great that Amazon is going to change their return policy to stop this practice from continuing. Every costumer on Amazon that is interested in buying an ebook has the opportunity to review 10% of the book prior to purchasing it. If you can’t determine if the book is ‘poorly written’ after reading 10% of the book, then you should go to the book store and sit in the coffee shop like all of the other cheapskates that don’t want to buy anything and read the paperback edition. Most ebooks only cost $2.99 on average, so stop complaining like you are spending $15.99 on a book! If you want perfection then start paying $15.99 for an ebook. What? Too much?

  • Nicole L

    If eLibraries can expire a file on my eReader after a certain date then Amazon should be able to tell how much of an eBook has been read. Personally I’d never abuse the system, despite supporting many Indie authors who don’t give their readers the benefit of a quality editor, but I’ve also returned a few eBooks – including one that would not even open due to a code error on the publishers behalf. eBooks should be returnable, like most everything else, but the policies should be perhaps a little tighter, or the process not so easy. As a previous poster said, scammers are going to scam no matter what.

    (Kobo Canada btw, has currently an “all sales final” policy – though they will not-so-graciously give you a “one-time exemption” if you buy an eBook that won’t actually open)

  • Christopher Shevlin

    I completely agree with you, Nate.

    The first time someone returned my Kindle book, I was a bit upset. But actually, I think returns help me. I don’t want my book to get into the hands of people who don’t like it – that’s where bad reviews come from. If someone finds that my book isn’t what they thought it would be, I’d far rather they could return it and get a refund than that they felt they had to persist with it, or feel resentful for wasting the money.

    And I can’t imagine anyone gaming the system by getting a refund for a book they’ve absolutely loved, so I think asking for a refund is always an expression of dissatisfaction, however mild.

    I’d like people to enjoy what they read, and I don’t want to make any money out of people who don’t like my book.

  • Brian M.

    The problem isn’t that people are buying the books and returning them after reading them, the problem I’m seeing is most definitely piracy. Every time I see that a book has been returned I’ll wait a day or two and then start searching for pirated copies. Sure enough, shortly after the return happens it almost always ends up on a pirated site. The “major distributors” of pirated ebooks buy the book, crack the kindle DRM, and then return it. The pirates don’t even buy the book to begin with. It bothers me that Amazon effectively gives the book to these people.

  • Meghan

    Soo.. what happens when a sample isn’t provided? I’ve seen this happen many times when I’m interested in a book, and there’s no sample. So I take a chance, purchase it, hate it, and return it. Samples are awesome, I agree with this sentiment. But you’re kind of making a pretty big assumption here when you say *~ZOMG ALL EBOOKS HAVE SAMPLES~* because they don’t.

  • MikeA

    When it comes to Kindle books, the return policy should be no more than twenty-four hours. Kindle books are received instantly. Therefore, twenty-four hours is plenty of time for a reader to browse the book and decide if the content and quality are acceptable. Combined with the free preview, there is absolutely no excuse to return a book after twenty-four hours.

    I’m sick of competitive indie writers buying my books, stealing content and concepts, and incorporating key features of my material into their books and marketing descriptions. If they’re going to steal my work, then the least they can do is pay for it! On another note, I’ve noticed an increase in returns over the past few months. I can’t help but think that readers are now gaming the system.

  • Tara Chevrestt

    I have to say…I signed this petition…but as a reader as well as an author. I’ve had a Kindle for 3 years and I’ve only ever returned ONE book, a mistaken purchase. When you buy a hardback or paperback, does Amazon let you return it because you feel it’s poorly written? No. I’ve been stuck with many a crappy book. When you go to a restaurant, sit down and eat, and the food gives you heartburn, you can’t get a refund then either. You can’t eat it and say, “I didn’t like it. I want my money back.”

    But I respect your opinion. However, a greater number of people than you suspect are buying them, reading them, (even liking them at times) and returning them. There’s a lady on Goodreads who has a shelf called “Bought and Returned” and many of these titles got at least a three-star rating from her. http://www.goodreads.com/genres/bought-and-returned

    It’s people like that that drove authors to starting a petition. Like everything else in life, it’s often maybe just a few, but the actions are bad enough to start something.

  • Tara Chevrestt

    Brian M, I’ve noticed the same thing. It’s always a mere few hours after the first return that the book reaches its first pirate site. I have no idea how they do it though. Boggles my mind.

  • Tara Chevrestt

    There are 2,016 books on the Goodreads Bought & Returned shelf.

  • Kim

    I’ve written several hardcopy books with a major publisher and now have my first ebook. It comes with secure access to a pile of tools and templates that appear in the book, but you need to have access to the ebook to download them. So, what’s happening? Some people are buying the ebook, downloading all of the templates, and then returning it.

    My solution is that Amazon could offer a link to authors that they could use for downloads offered with their books. The link would forward to the actual download URL, but once the link was triggered, no refunds.

    Plus, I’m with the 48 hours or 20% read idea. No refunds for that either.

  • Bruce

    1. The petition doesn’t call for Amazon to “block returns” – it calls for Amazon to reduce the time period in which returns can be claimed
    2.”That option might soon be going away” because of a petition?? laughably optimistic assessment. As others have stated, Amazon could care less about its authors wants/needs. I have rarely encountered a less consultative company. There are many examples of this … they simply don’t want to have to deal with authors or their suggestions, concerns, etc.

    In this instance, part of the problem is that Amazon has not and is not prepared to provide details about exactly how or how ell the current system works (or doesn’t work). They also don’t provide authors with details about why their own books were returned. They should. For example if it was formatting surely the author shuld be alerted and able to remedy the problem.

    • Nate Hoffelder

      I was looking at the larger case.

      If the petitioners pulled this off then their next claim would be that the serial cheaters switched to downloading before asking for a return. The so-called cheaters would not read until after stripping DRM or the return was processed. At that point the petitioners would demand even more restrictions on returns, possibly leading up to demands for all returns to be blocked.

      And as far as I am concerned the only returns that matter are made after the ebook has been partially read. That’s when you know for sure whether the book is shit (writing, formatting, editing, whatever).

  • Stacy

    I once couldn’t find a textbook on Kindle so I used an ebook website that specializes in textbooks called Coursesmart. Their return policy was not based on time, such as Amazon’s policy of 7 days, but that if you read a certain percentage of the book (not sure exactly how much, maybe 10-20%) it could not be returned. I thought this was a great policy, since you’d realize the format or other flaws exist within the first chapter or so and could return it for a full refund. This prevented students from copying the book (through screenshots or conversion programs) and then trying to return it.

  • K.E.

    I am a writer of erotic romance. Most of my works have been published through online publishers. Recently, I decided to make a foray into self-publishing. Since I only knew about the sales I made through these various publishers, I have no idea if the return rate is similar to what I’ve seen with my self-published books.

    I am seeing, right now, close to a 25% return rate on one book that only costs 99 cents. Are readers really so outraged at a book purchase that they need to get back their 99 cents? What is the quality expectation for a 99 cent book exactly?

    I think that is what bothers me. They do have an opportunity to read a certain percentage of that book before they buy…so I’m a little mystified by the high percentage of returns.

    Looks like, though, that is a problem with a lot of erotic romance. And doesn’t that beg the question about whether or not we are being ripped off?

    I think that if someone downloads a book, reads the whole thing and then returns it, they have enjoyed the book to a certain degree. Who says only a book that should receive a 4-star or 5-star rating is worthy of the $$?

    Come on, readers! Isn’t a 99 cent price tag really a ‘trial’ price for any author? Give ‘em a shot.

    • Vikarti Anatra

      for me as reader,bought-and-returned are books which either has poor formatting,etc or book itself is bad in some other fashion.
      They are not 0.99US$ books either.
      I usually don’t use kindle preview feature and in some case it wouldn’t helped anyway.
      What would helped at least in my specific case is better book description so I don’t even look at it in first place.
      I usually leave review in addition to 1-star when I return book and put it into bought-and-returned shelf

      p.s.
      and yes, I agree that http://www.goodreads.com/review/list/3147044-melissa?shelf=bought-and-returned is abuse.
      She returned Eternal Lovers (Sekhmet’s Guardians #1) and after that get Eternal Nights (Sekhmet’s Guardians #2). Same author, same series. And this is from first page only.

    • Eric

      I am an independent author and I am having trouble with precisely this problem of returns. It’s not an issue of quality. The book I’m speaking of has a rating of 4.7 out of a considerable number of reviews, all of them positive, so I know people like it. It has never received a review of less than 3, and that 3 I did get was the only time that happened. My book has grown enormously in popularity in the past few months. I have gone from having one return in a hundred books — the 2% people have talked about — to a sudden peak of 30%. I used to be worried what I had done wrong that one person in fifty would return it. Now, though, I realize that people are simply gaming the system. Some community of people has caught on to the book, and because it’s short, they’re reading it in a few hours and returning it. I am losing a lot of money because of this, and as an indie author with no marketing or book reviews in major publications, I depend on word of mouth. The fact that my book has gone from obscurity to the top 20 of the 4,000 books in its category is testimony to its quality and relevance. As an indie, I also depend on getting paid for what I have sold. My job is writing, and when I do have a book that is a success, I need to reap the rewards. It strikes me as eminently reasonable to shorten the returns period to three days, as others have proposed, and to bar all returns if someone reads more than 25% of the book, also as others have proposed. The situation is killing me. If this is happening all over the place, something should be done to correct it.

  • M. Eigh

    In the case of a technology book that contains critical know-how, Amazon’s return policy does hurt the authors.

    To better elaborate my point, I am going to use the analogy of boiling a pot of water. Let’s assume that nobody actually knows that the water will boil at 100°C and I am the only one who discovered it. I wrote the book and published as a Kindle ebook. The majority of the buyers are totally awed by what I discovered and put my book to use and benefit from.

    But there is a small group of people out there who actually tried to heat a pot of water up but never really brought it to a boil. They just thought that water will keep heating that way and nothing really changes, until they see my book. They buy my book and realized the only thing they need to do is to wait till the water temperature to rise to 100°C. That is pretty easy for them to do and remember.

    So they return the book.

    There is no proof but I suspect that kind of scenario has happened to my latest book for a couple of or a few times. My book, KDP’s Best-Kept Secret Revealed: How to Embed Videos and Widgets in Your Book Description, is at http://amzn.to/1evdevT. Take a look to see if you agree.

  • Rick Gualtieri

    I’m an author and you won’t find my name on the petition. I’ve worked in retail and I understand how return policies work, along with processes to stop abuse. I’m comfortable Amazon has it covered. Even if I weren’t, though, I also understand why Amazon dominates in their space, it’s because of how consumer friendly they are. This in turn only helps my sales. Even if I do get a few people abusing the system, who cares? That a book can be returned if it was purchased by mistake or if it just stinks gives people more reason to take a chance on a new author – there’s virtually no risk.

    I consider Amazon’s policy nothing but a good thing for this industry.

  • Kate

    I have no problem with a return policy — I’ve used it more than once. But I think seven days is a bit excessive. ALSO, I wonder if there’s some way for Amazon to see if a person has finished reading the book? I’d think that should make a difference.

    If someone returns a book after reading the whole thing, it’s sort of like eating a whole meal and then refusing to pay for it versus taking a few bites and deciding it’s inedible.

  • New Reader

    how long after amazon block you will they give you back the option to return books.

  • T.O.

    Having been flagged as a serial returner of Kindle ebooks by Amazon.com, I have posted below a shortened version of the comment letter I provide Amazon.com that sums up my personal experience and opinion re: this issue. I intend to make no further comments. However, if publicly sharing my personal experience forewarns other sincere but un-witted Kindle customers, the effort was well worth it. As follows:

    I am submitting a letter of comment regarding my personal experience with Amazon.com’s, Inc. (hereafter “Amazon”) Kindle ebook return policies and my being flagged as a serial returner (high return rate of ebooks) upon which Amazon acted.
    In sum, I believe a lack of transparency and public disclosure of Amazon’s overall Kindle ebook return policies contributed to my high return rate because I believed customer satisfaction was a legitimate reason for ebook return; the publicly disclosed return policy provided no further guidance, description, or warning (hereafter “guidance”); and, as an individual customer, I received no forewarning of exceeding an internal Amazon return threshold for Kindle ebooks.
    The publicly disclosed refund policy provides NO further guidance such as maximum number of acceptable returns per time period, limiting the reasons for a return, or restricting a customer’s viewing an entire ebook after purchase. The internet refund process provided the option of “other” that a customer can mark as the reason for a refund. While the process appears “automated,” none of my individual ebook return requests were questioned/denied as improper in and of themselves.
    At present, I have 206 books in my Kindle ebook library; I made my first purchases in Spring 2012, mostly sci-fi romance and erotica categories. I have copiously utilized both sample previews and customer reviews; however, more often than not, preview of an ebook’s opening pages is inadequate and customer reviews are “hit or miss.” My Kindle Fire and my Kindle library represent a significant investment of my “entertainment” budget. I approximated my Kindle ebook return rate to be 60% of purchases for 2013 and 40% of purchases for 2012. I do not dispute the high return rate.
    Prior to purchasing a Kindle and transitioning to ebooks, I thoroughly previewed paper books from front to middle to end prior to purchase in the actual store regardless of the price or condition of the new or used books. For new books, I purchased one or two books every few months overwhelmingly from my “trusted authors” list and very rarely purchased a book from [to me] a new author. Furthermore, in this day of digital media, people can “preview” in its entirety many games or movies by renting the items first and songs by listening to the radio first.
    Amazon’s return policy, as I understood it before this incident, was a big inducement to purchase a Kindle and Kindle ebooks, even over a coworker’s personal recommendation of a Nook.
    The incident is as follows: The week of November 17, 2013, I discovered my internet return option was disabled. After briefly researching, it appeared that I un-wittedly exceeded Amazon’s internal return threshold. Following up on my inquiry, customer service representatives’ ultimate answer was the restriction is not temporary but the “matter may be revisited in the future,” no further guidance as to return policy except a generic “be careful of what you purchase,” and no information regarding the un-descriptive public policy or why potential violators were not forewarned. No assurance as to future access to my Kindle library was provided.
    In sum, having outlined the above information, based on the basic public return policy without further guidance or forewarning; this customer believed that customer satisfaction was integral to the Kindle ebook purchasing process and a legitimate reason for returning a Kindle ebook. Consequently, after a thorough preview after purchase (given the nature of an ebook), I kept ebooks that I was satisfied with (some ebooks were returned for other reasons), and I returned ebooks that I was dissatisfied with. My buying habit was never with the intent to cheat Amazon or authors or to exceed any public or internal return policy.
    I believe the publicly disclosed statement of Amazon’s Kindle ebook return policy, as standing, is not transparent and does not sufficiently disclose Amazon’s serial returners policy. I believe, at the very least, forewarning potential violators of its internal policy would engender better customer and vendor relationships (for un-witted customers such as myself) while also addressing the legitimate concerns of both Amazon and authors regarding serial returners.
    Other vendors have, while also monitoring customers’ return rates, publicly disclosed and better described their serial returners refund policies. Examples include Best Buy, Wal-Mart, and even Google play books provide that “[r]efunds will not be granted in situations of purchase abuse.” Today, creditors and even pay-as-you-go cellular phones forewarn customers before they exceed a limit.
    As it now stands without further guidance on its refund policy, to purchase ebooks with Amazon, under the “fear” that the next return request could result in account closure and loss of my Kindle library, is equal to purchasing ebooks from another vendor with a transparent no-returns policy. I shall return to my prior paper book buying habit of buying only from my “trusted authors” list and severely reduce my willingness to purchase from new authors.
    Now better informed on the matter, I certainly do not seek leave to return to a buying habit that may violate vendors’ return policies [even internal ones] or may be detrimental to authors. I now know that Amazon’s return policy does not provide for customer satisfaction. While some who may read my comments will conclude “good riddance to a bad customer,” I will note that, even accounting for my prior high return rate, less than ten (10) of my kept Kindle books were from my old “trusted authors” list [due to their new book release rate]. The overwhelming majority were by new authors, several of whom I have added to my new “trusted authors” list and have made/will continue to make several purchases therefrom.
    After this incident, I join other customers and authors who encourage Amazon to either substantively change or, at least, better publicly describe and disclose their serial returners policy. At the very least, I believe that forewarning potential violators of an internal return threshold is a more positive, productive process than as now stands. If I had been forewarned, I would have immediately thereafter complied with Amazon’s internal return policy without my trust as a customer in Amazon as a “customer-centric” vendor being destroyed in the process. Thank you,

    • K.E.

      I think a 60% return rate is incredibly high. I don’t read as much as you do, but I have never returned a book in my life. I also do not read the beginning, middle and end before I buy a book…then what would be the point of buying it, if I’ve already pretty much read the thing?

      I actually was surprised to hear that people returned books. I suppose I put it in the same category as returning a half-eaten sandwich and expecting to get all my money back. If I didn’t like the sandwich, I just don’t eat at that particular establishment again or don’t buy the same sandwich.

      Wondering what you would consider ‘excessive’ returns, if 60% is not excessive to you? And can you imagine how much trouble this causes Amazon to reimburse someone repeatedly for consumed goods? And straighten out the accounting at the other end?

      I don’t mean to pick on you, but reading your situation it seemed very outside the norm of what most readers are doing.

    • Jacinta

      Wow T.O You have just described my reading habits also.
      I too like to thoroughly peruse a book before reading it and though I love my kindle, I do find it frustrating that we only get 10% in a sample.
      I also return a lot of books, I read a LOT of books too and I find it stupid that people winge about returns.
      Seriously, if your book is good and I love it, I won’t return it. Simple.
      If I had to pay and keep every book I ever read then I would be very broke. Reading is my drug and the reason I chose amazon (kindle) was for its returns policy.
      With paperback books, if I didn’t like them after I had bought them, I resold them or took them to an exchange. You can’t do that with ebooks, so I think amazons policy is great, and it has helped me find many new authors (mostly indies) whom I would never have found otherwise.
      I did not know amazon had a limit. I must be very close to it as I would probably return about half the books i read also, and have been since I bought my kindle 2 years ago.
      I don’t really know what to do now, maybe I should just start buying books from authors I know and love only and not return any more.
      Whatever the case, everyone is entitled to their opinion but people who think that amazon should change their return policy are missing one vital point:
      Change the policy and you’ll lose your customers. You will lose me.
      But whatever, I’ll just keep buying paperbacks from published authors I love.
      No skin off my nose.

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