04 June 2016

Addressing Amazon's eBook Return Policy

I am reprinting, with permission, my author friend Linda Rettstatt's recent blog post about Amazon's ebook return policy. As my son just informed me, it is INHERENT in this self-absorbed, entitled generation to believe that everything on the Internet should be free: free information, free music, free art work, free fucking everything. Well guess what, duckies? Ain't NUTHIN' in this life that's free, and you will someday, somehow reap the rewards of stealing other people's work, be it books, music, or term papers. Karma is a bitch, and though it may be an exercise in futility, I will personally call you out on your thievery, especially when you download an ebook, read it, and then return it to Amazon. If you want to read a book and return it, go to the fucking library. 

All right, here is Linda's far more gracious post:

As authors, we want our readers to be happy with the books they purchase. We work hard to craft stories that will engage and satisfy the reader. We recognize that, occasionally, a reader purchases a book that does not meet their standards or hopes and they want a refund. Okay, that shouldn't be a big problem.

But it is a problem with the current return policy at Amazon.com with regard to ebooks. They basically treat an ebook like any other product and allow up to seven (7) days for return. Now let's be honest folks, most of us can read an ebook in seven days. And I have, to my horror, seen people openly post on Facebook that they repeatedly purchase ebooks, read them, and then return them for a refund. Surely anyone with an ounce of sense knows how wrong this is. I recently checked and found that a short story of mine that is 19 pages long and sells for 99 cents had two returns. Really? Now I can understand if you accidentally purchase the same story twice. But it doesn't take more than seven days to read 19 pages. If it does, you have a bigger problem.

I decided to take the bull by the horns (though it might end up being much like Don Quixote battle windmills) and address this with Amazon's Senior Counsel and Senior Manager of Customer Services. I'm posting the letter I sent (sans names) in hopes that it will encourage my fellow authors and possibly even some readers who see the impracticality of this return policy to likewise address this issue.

* * *
I am an author published through KDP and with CreateSpace on Amazon.com. I am writing to you regarding the return policy Amazon currently has in place for Kindle ebooks. Your policy currently reads in part as follows: Books purchased from the Kindle Store can be returned within seven days of purchase.

I personally think that a seven day return on an ebook is much too long. You generally know within reading a small percentage of a book that you don’t like it. I recently reviewed my sales and found a short story that is 19 pages long and sells for $ .99 and had two returns. Let’s be realistic. It does not take seven days to read 19 pages. Authors are facing an uphill battle with this every day. I have personally observed people on Facebook proudly announcing that they purchase ebooks, read them, and then return them before the seven days have expired.

I am begging Amazon to please review and revise your return policy with regard to ebooks. I know Amazon has the capability to track the percentage of the book that’s read. There should be no reason for anyone to not know 10% into a book if they don’t like it or have already read it. By allowing such great flexibility with a return policy, you are allowing readers to essentially steal our property.

It seems to me that your return policy for ebooks is based on a general product return policy. But ebooks are not the same as other products such as purchasing a vacuum cleaner or a pet carrier. I feel that Amazon is showing disregard for the authors who list our books with you and are being driven by the desire to only please the customer. There has to be a balance in place.

Tell me this: If you worked for the past two weeks and, when it was time to be paid, Amazon said, “We’re not going to pay you. We changed our minds about the work you did,” would you be happy? Would you think that’s fair? This current ebook return policy is no different.

I am realistic enough to recognize that Amazon is the driving force behind self-publishing today. What I am asking for is that Amazon show a little more respect for the authors who use their service. We have enough to do to battle piracy sites out their trying to give our work away. We don’t need Amazon to be doing the same thing under the guise of a return policy that does not fit the product.

Please take this into consideration and find a fairer way of allowing people who purchased an ebook twice, got a defective file, or realized a few pages in they didn’t like the book to return it without giving them free reign to read the whole thing and get a refund, thus shorting the author out of their due. I’m sure Amazon has the ability, both intellectually and digitally, to come up with a reasonable solution to this issue.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Respectfully,
Linda Rettstatt
Author, Writing for Women

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