Amazon Kindle’s return policy is causing uproar among authors, and many are campaigning for change. The controversy centres around their system for returning eBooks, which has seen detrimental effects for writers, to the point where authors earnings are taking a hit--even if their publications are popular! This article will tell you everything you need to know about the policy and what it means for authors and their incomes.
What Is the Policy?
As per Amazon’s eBook return policy, readers can return purchases on their Kindle within a seven day window, citing ‘accidental purchase’ as their reasoning. What authors are rightly distressed about is that, for many readers, seven days is ample time to read an eBook. This means readers can subsequently return the eBooks for a full refund, nullifying writer profits and essentially using the Kindle store as a library.
How Are Authors Losing Money?
Though returning texts effectively redacts book sales, authors are losing money beyond a loss of sales. The royalties which are originally paid to authors are deducted from their earnings--but the money which the author spends on Kindle Direct Publishing is not reimbursed, leaving the author with a hole in their pockets and no profit. This becomes a much harsher blow for self-published authors, who retain most of their text’s royalties after managing the publishing process themselves.
Why Is This Becoming a Problem Now?
While this has been a long-standing policy of Amazon’s, it is only recently that it has been abused to the extent of impacting an author’s income. This is due to trending social media posts found across Instagram, Facebook and TikTok which guide readers through the returns process and encourage them to take advantage of ‘free books’. These posts, advertised as ‘life hacks’, are attractive for readers and have since gained visibility and popularity. Unfortunately, while readers may think they are ‘beating the system’ in a victimless and shrewd practice, it is really authors that bear the financial consequences. This is demoralising to writers, who fear the instability of income may hinder future projects and perhaps their profession as a whole.
What Can Authors Do?
Authors are petitioning for Amazon to alter their policy in order to protect authors, and have garnered almost 70,000 signatures to do so. Petitioners have cited the disparity in Amazon’s return policies of other digital materials, arguing that music and films bought online are not eligible for returns. Other eBook retailers have been compared with Amazon to demonstrate the simplicity and vulnerability of Kindle’s return services. Authors have even offered alterations which can help protect author incomes, such as a shorter return window or a limit on how much of a book can be read before the right to returns are voided.
What Has Amazon’s Response Been?
Amazon has responded to the backlash, arguing they have mechanisms in place to prevent the return system being abused. They have assured that the feedback received will be thoroughly investigated, and that its priority lies in providing the best experience for both readers and authors. For now, it appears the most effective tool writers can rely on to manage the issue is the integrity of their readers. While the petition itself is popular, many authors hope that revealing how taking advantage of Kindle’s return policy impacts individual livelihoods (and not Amazon as a business) readers will be dissuaded from habitual returning.