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  • Kristina Elyse Butke

Amazon Responds to Read and Return


An open book with handwriting in it on a cement background - Amazon Responds to Read and Return
Photo by Kiwihug on Unsplash

I wrote a post called "Read and Return, or, How to Hurt Authors" that described the process of readers getting through an entire book and returning it during Amazon's generous return window to deliberately game the system. This practice hurt authors and often resulted in negative balances in their accounts, due to still being on the hook for eBook delivery fees while losing the royalty completely.


This isn't new news anymore, but I thought I'd type an update on what Amazon has done to combat this.


According to the 9/23 issue of Publishers Lunch:

In a win for authors and publishers, Amazon will adjust its ebook return policy to restrict returns on books that have been more than 10 percent read. The Author's Guild and the UK Society of Authors advocated for the change with Amazon's senior executive team. The AG writes that the new policy will take effect by the end of the year: "Any customer who wishes to return an ebook after reading more than 10 percent will need to send in a customer service request, which will be reviewed by a representative to ensure that the return request is genuine and complies with Amazon's policies against abuse."

This means that if you've read more than 10% of a book and decide to return it, you need to fill out a customer service request. Returns will still be allowed if the request complies with Amazon's policies, but if the return is considered without merit, it won't go through.


The question is, what is a return that complies with Amazon policies? I'm sure there's a place to look that up. But what does that mean for readers? I know some people return books because they thought the book was bad and just didn't like it. Some readers return books because there was triggering content with no content warnings, and couldn't read book further. Are these instances ok for returning books?


I think within 10% of the book, you should know whether or not you're going to like it, at least, in my personal experience. That means if you bought a 420-page book, you've got 42 pages to determine if you should keep reading. I think that's fair. I usually give up pretty quickly when I recognize a book isn't going to work for me.


For the instance where readers can run into triggering content if no content warnings are shared, I think that's a reasonable instance for return, but I don't know if Amazon will consider that to be the case. Right now, if content warnings are not included in the book, sometimes the author will post them on their website or in a Goodreads comment (I've found them buried in the Goodreads reviews before). But that means readers have to go digging for them, and I don't know if that's the best way to go about it.


No matter the circumstance, on the whole I'm appreciative of the decision Amazon made to try to combat this trend. I hope it shows real results and authors can continue to rightly be paid for their work.