Amazon Tightens Return Policy on Kindle Books
Mounting pressure from writers and industry groups spurred a major change in the wake of a viral Tik Tok challenge that was hurting authors.
A change planned to take place by the end of the year will drastically tighten the current return policy for Kindle ebooks, which currently allows a reader to return a book within seven days of the purchase date. Before 2022 is out however, a user will only be able to make an automatic return so long as they have completed no more than 10% of the book, as reported recently by The Author’s Guild. The change came after months of outside pressure from both industry groups and a chorus of protest from authors on social media about a suspicious and widespread rise in returns. In fact some authors, like Lisa Kesslser, were seeing patterns in their sales such that one book of a series would get purchased, only to have it be returned, then the next book get purchased, only to see it returned, and so on. What spurred this terrible consumer behavior? Tik Tok, naturally.
Back in March, a hashtag #ReadandReturnChallenge was trending on the CCP data collection app, where an online scene of readers known as “BookTok” would discuss how purchasers could abuse the platforms’ return policy: simply buy a book, read it within the week, and return it. By May authors were seeing huge spikes in returns, some in the hundreds, as Kessler relayed to Buzzfeed back in June of this year. Huge losses in royalties for the authors followed. This was particularly frustrating given that other forms of entertainment media offered by Amazon like movies or music don’t offer returns once the purchase is made.
While some have have attempted to defend this practice as a legitimate option of consumers choosing to exercise their right to act within mutually accepted conditions, it’s fairly obvious that many if not most of these were not legitimate returns. If you didn’t care for the book, that’s one thing. When you’re completing a book, then moving on to the next in a series or purchasing another title by the same author only to do the same thing over again, it’s bald-faced theft. The move is another welcome change towards a pro-creator direction, after Audible in 2020 similarly revised its ludicrous policy that deducted royalties from authors for any title returned within a year (post-revision, creators got to keep anything not returned after seven days). Let’s hope Amazon continues to be open to author feedback in the future.