Are you scamming the Amazon Kindle store?

For reasons that should be obvious enough to anyone who’s ever worked in retail, Amazon doesn’t exactly go out of its way to advertise its e-book return policy.

In fact, unless you’re a fairly regular customer of the Kindle Store yourself, there’s a good chance you’re not even aware that a Kindle books return policy exists. But there it is, right on Amazon’s website:

Books you purchase from the Kindle Store are eligible for return and refund if we receive your request within seven days of the date of purchase. Once a refund is issued, you’ll no longer have access to the book. To request a refund and return, visit Manage Your Kindle, click the actions tab for the title you’d like to return, and select “Return for refund.”

Sound like a pretty fair policy, right?

Well, not according to Derek Haines, a blogger and self-published author who sells his books through the Kindle Direct Publishing program. In a recent blog post, Haines says he’s been seeing an increasing number of “Units Returned” on his KDP sales reports. As far as he’s concerned, those increasing numbers aren’t due to unsatisfied readers who are returning his books because they didn’t like them, but rather to people who are reading one or another of his books withing the seven allotted days, and then returning them to the Kindle Store for a full refund.

With the exception of Amazon, of course, no one actually knows if that’s the case. But nevertheless, Haines does make a good point: There are more than a few books out there that can easily be read in seven days or less, and there are almost certainly a fair number of not-quite-honest Amazon customers taking advantage of the Kindle Store’s return policy. As for whether or not the policy is negatively affecting self-published authors whose sales numbers are low to begin with … well, I tend to doubt that. Then again, I might feel differently if I had books of my own for sale in the KDP program.

Here’s what Haines has to say:

Of course I have written to Amazon to express my concern at this policy, stating that in seven days an ebook could be read more than three times, but [I] have no doubts that nothing will change in the near future. I have no issue with this seven day return policy for physical goods, but for Kindle ebooks, it’s just plainly open to abuse.

What do you think? Is the return policy good customer service? Or, as Haines suggests, is it an invitation to abuse?

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54 Comments on Are you scamming the Amazon Kindle store?

  1. Firstly, you could argue the same with paper books, however, I don’t hear anyone trying to change the dead tree book return policies.
    Secondly, the following quote may explain the high return rate:
    “In reading 34% of this book I have documented 17 typos, and I stopped counting all the incomplete sentences in teh first 10%…”

    Upon closer inspection, this author has the same few people giving him 5 star reviews for all his titles!!

    It could be that, since Prime members can borrow his books for free, users see $0.00, click buy, then realize that the title costs money for non- Prime members and return the book without reading it.
    If I were the criminal type, I would do the type of scam he is insinuating with expensive top 10 titles, but then again, maybe thieves prefer indie authors :)

  2. I will repeat what I have said before: I believe the number of people who have used the return policy to speed read and return a book to cheat an author/publisher/Amazon is negligible.

    First, Amazon can and has closed accounts for abuse of the return policy. It is simply not worth the risk. If Amazon closes your account, you lose access to all of your books. Don’t think Amazon won’t notice a customer who is returning books on a regular basis.

    I do hear of people returning books for several reasons: 1. The book was purchased by mistake (accidentally hit the buy button), 2. The buyer mistook the Prime Members price of $0.00 as meaning the book was free, then discovered that it was not free and that this only meant it was available in the Prime Lending Library, 3. The price on the book has dropped within the return period and the buyer returned the book to buy it back at the cheaper price, 4. The formatting of the book was terrible, and 5. the book wasn’t what they expected or they didn’t like it (50 Shades of Grey comes to mind here).

    I am tired of authors who assume that their books aren’t being returned because of the quality of the book or the situation it was purchased under, but instead because his readers are thieves. Makes me not want to be one of their readers.

  3. Everything I’ve seen indicates that this is a very small percentage of sales (well under 1% for my own titles), and that Amazon will close the accounts of those who abuse the practice. So if people want to try my books feeling safe in the knowledge that they can return them if they absolutely hate them, that’s fine by me.

  4. I’ve returned two ebooks out of well over a hundred purchased. One turned out to be a re-release nder a new title of a book that I already owned.

    The other was a college text with lots of mathematics and cost far more than a typical ebook. After reading several paragraphs that seemed to end or in the middle of an incomplete thought, I borrowed a copy of the paper book and found multiple instances where the ebook dropped a half-page or more of text just prior to an mathematical equation.

    Unlike the folks on Haines’ site, I don’t think the 7 days policy at Amazon is all that outrageous. I barely caught these two problems within that time limit. I find that I often buy books that I don’t actually start reading until more than a week later.

  5. Considering that ebooks often cost as much as print books but prohibit the purchaser from resale or from transferring to another device or giving the book to somebody else when finished I don’t blame people at bit for exploiting any loophole they can find.

  6. Binko Barnes, I think that people who love books would not abuse of this option, especially since nobody forces them to buy the ebook versus the similarly paper book that they may attribute more value to.

    When you sit down and spend hours or even days reading a book, you usually like or love it (or else you would just stop reading) which, in turn, makes you respect the author and appreciate the time they put into writing the book. You want to support them, and see them continue writing.
    I even feel uncomfortable calling this return policy a “loophole”.

  7. I worked in a bookstore in the late 80s and early 90s and remember a few customers that would buy, read, and exchange books. There is nothing a store can do, really, if they want to kept the return policy available. It’s the price of doing business. There will always be a few cheaters and scammers finding the “loopholes” to exploit.

  8. When I lived in Pittsburgh, there was a B&N in a neighborhood called Squirrel Hill (long since closed, RIP), and there was a guy who would return his books ALL the time. This guy was out of control, and eventually the manager cut him off – or tried to, at least. I probably saw this guy and the manager screaming at each other a half-dozen times because he literally tries to return every book he bought.

    The reality, of course, is that some people will, and do, take advantage of little loopholes like these, but as Vonda Z says, the number is negligible.

  9. It’s also possibly a problem with his books being in the Prime lending library. There are posts all the time (ie: pretty much daily) on Amazon’s Kindle forums from Prime members that don’t understand how the lending library works and have inadvertently bought the book instead. That may be the source of some returns (not all of course) as well as people who bought by mistake when really wanting a sample.

    I think if this were really a big problem we’d have heard of at least one of the Big Six complaining and/or trying to have Amazon do away with the policy as Big Six books are much more likely to be victims of the abuse of this policy.

  10. I think Amazon knows how to manage their business. Having a return policy makes sense for the vast majority of people who have other things to do than buy and return books.

  11. The Big 6 probably don’t complain as they don’t permit refunds once the book is downloaded or accessed. This was verified by other retailers explaining why they couldn’t issue refunds to customers. Amazon takes the loss on these refunds which is why they will close your account if their generosity is abused.

    Paper books can be returned to publishers/distributors for a refund or credit. So the refund policies for them can be more liberal.

  12. @Fbone, I’d like to know more about this verification you mention. Retailers say a lot of things that aren’t necessarily accurate, did they provide any documentation, also interested in how you know Amazon is taking a loss on those? Most retailers other than the big ones (Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Sony) use a distributor like OverDrive or LightningSource and I believe it’s true that those distributors don’t generally allow refunds, but that could be different than the publishers not allowing it. Are other retailers taking a loss as well on refunds? I’ve gotten refunds from Amazon, Kobo, Sony and back in the day Fictionwise for Big Six books (2 from Amazon, 1 from the others).

  13. As an author, I’ve seen roughly 5% returns related to my book on Amazon. I do not apprecaite the Amazon return system. Seven day is plenty of time to read a 400 page book. Futher, anyone who owns a kindle KNOWS that they can access the data folder on the device and COPY the needed book files onto your PC to read the book well after a refund has been issued.

    I do respect that people make mistakes and download accidentally. I also understand that not everyone will like what I write. There are just too many people looking to scam.

  14. I don’t know what Amazon does with the big publishers, but for indie authors through KDP, it’s the author — not Amazon — who takes the loss, as Amazon doesn’t pay us royalties on books that are returned.

  15. Speaking of return policies have you guys heard about the new one at Audible? They’re giving you 365 days…

  16. I agree that returns are highly questionable. Amazon provides a preview, letting the reader get a substantial excerpt so they can see the quality of the writing, the editing and of course the story. I don’t get a lot of returns but I do get some and I do suspect that at least some of these returns are people taking advantage of my authors and me. Can I prove it… of course not. Still, I price my books affordably just so people won’t be tempted to game the system. So it’s annoying when they game it anyway.

    Rob Preece, Publisher

  17. Vanda Z said, “Amazon can and has closed accounts for abuse of the return policy.”

    This has to be wrong. At least I hope that it is wrong. If you bought (not rented) 200 eBooks and Amazon summarily closed your account, that would be a significant deprivation of property without due process. Surely, one would have some recourse, no?

  18. “deprivation of property without due process”? Amazon is not obligated to provide due process – that’s a legal right restricting interactions between a citizen and the government.
    Amazon is only required to uphold the contract that they and their customers have agreed to – a contract that Amazon wrote and, as part of which, Amazon reserves to itself the right to rewrite at any time. Try google-ing for “reserve right modify suspend discontinue” if you want to see the ugly side of those contracts.
    But this is hardly unusual. Try replacing the word “amazon” in that search by “barnesandnoble”, “walmart”, “netflix”,… and you will find much the same. If you want to scare youself, try the same search with the name of your local telephone company, electric company, etc.

  19. Yeah, they don’t really advertise the e book return policy! Even though I
    visit the Kindle store but I have never really noticed the return policy.

  20. Right or Write // October 11, 2012 at 1:40 pm //

    What I think some people may fail to realize is that even though a return policy within itself is fair (poor editing, wrong book downloaded, etc.) when the purchaser is allowed to read the entire text and return it, sometimes they in fact will and they will do this repeatedly under multiple accounts that they have created on amazon. So, even if one or two accounts are closed due to possible abuse of the return policy, they have another one waiting in the wings. It does in fact seem like a lot of work, time and headache to the average person – because most of you responding are not criminally minded. The people that do this regularly, do not think the way you do, however. This policy is in fact being abused and there is one person I know for an absolute fact, who purchases books and returns them within 3-4 days after reading the complete book. She does this with most of the kindle books she purchases and has yet to have her account closed.

  21. I’ve even known of women who will purchase expensive dresses for special occasions, wear them once, press them or have them dry cleaned and return them. They see nothing wrong with this. “I could never afford a dress that expensive, and the company can easily sell it again.”

    Well, perhaps a resale is possible, but the first buyer is the one who should be paying for the dress. Whatever happened to integrity?

  22. @Right or Write, you may well be more correct (right) than you imagine. The criminally intent could remove the DRM and return the book amassing a vast collection of illicit eBooks. Imagine the Scrooge McDuck of eBooks with a digital swimming pool of eBooks.

  23. I’m sure a few people scam. But for my own returns (about .5%, which isn’t too bad, though it always makes me wince), I suspect it is mostly due to sex! (I write romance.) Because I definitely have many more for the first book in the series. Yes, it surprises me. You can “look inside” the book (but not see the “steaminess” of the sex scenes, as they don’t happen that fast unless it’s erotic romance), but the reviews clearly say things like, “the sex was hot!!” My assumption has been that somebody gets to the first sex scene, screams and drops her Kindle in disgusted horror, and pushes the “return” button as quickly as her shaking fingers can manage it. Of course, if they LIKE the sex scenes, they are much less likely to be returning Books 2 and 3!

    I like my theory anyway. :) Because I know it’s not typos. Don’t have any of those (she says confidently).

  24. Yeah, they don’t really advertise the e book return policy! Even though I visit the Kindle store but I have never really noticed the return policy.

  25. Like Rob Preece, I have seen an increase in returns, mainly with some of our best selling romance and erotic authors. But this week, while checking our dashboard on sales of our recently released books, I noticed one book sold 20 copies and 10 returns. And this author is NOT in the KDP program. Then my gaze continued scanning and noticed other returns of KDP books now…

    The 7 day return policy is great perhaps for other products but for digital, where one can easily read or copy and then upload to a piracy site) they, being Amazon, should allow publishers a chance to offer an updated file if the reason was unsatisfactory formatting. In our case, all of our books are in top shape where formatting is concerned. Or Amazon should have a place where reasons for returns are placed beside the ‘return’ tally in our dashboard.

    Amazon may lose money as one member mentioned here, but ‘if’ some of these books are purchased on the sly, read, and then returned, it is the hard work of the author who is losing out, along with the editors and cover artists who worked on that book and depend on their share of royalties in this business.

    Seven day policy to return a digital file is just a tad too much.

  26. Thanks for the comment, Lea. I’ll admit that I hadn’t considered the romance/erotica angle in terms of the Amazon returns. Let me ask you this: With all your (very well-reasoned) points in mind, what would you suggest as a solution—or even a partial solution? I tend to think that moving the return policy from seven days to, say, three or four, would probably go a long way toward curbing the problem. But Amazon certainly can’t have a shorter return period for romance and/or erotica titles than any others, can they? That just wouldn’t feel right. Also, as a commenter here rightly pointed out, sometimes the average reader doesn’t necessarily look at a new e-book as soon as they’ve bought it; sometimes it takes a few days (or even a week or more) to do so. I know that’s often the case with me, at least. And in the case of a mistaken purchase, three or four days is just nowhere near enough time for most people.

    I will say that I really like your idea about asking customers who are returning books to explain the reason for their return. Maybe if that was made into a required field, returns would go down, publishers with poorly-formatted books would eventually be found out, etc. What do you think?

  27. @Dan actually they already do this, certainly at least Amazon UK. You’re required to select a rerun reason from a dropdown menu such as accidental purchase, unwanted purchase, found cheaper elsewhere etc.

  28. @jmb – Thanks for the comment; I didn’t realize that. Actually, I was referring to a comment from another commenter, who suggested that (among other ideas) requiring a ‘reason for return’ might cut down on returns in the long run, and I agreed. Looks like we were both wrong!

    And yet, I’ll bet I can tell you the reason the commenter I was referring to didn’t know about the drop-down menu, either: Like most people, s/he has probably never returned an Amazon e-book. I’ll admit that this is nothing more than a wild guess, but I’ll bet the percentage of Amazon customers who’ve returned an e-book even once is really low. Which is yet another reason the return policy isn’t actually a problem, but rather a smart custom-service policy.

  29. I personally have returned books quite a lot and not to scam them but rather because I have found better prices elsewhere, or there were more kindle options and I wrongly chose the higher price or even found the book in question for free (such as at project gutenberg). But to be honest I don’t buy indie author books, the few I have tried had so many typos etc that I just could not go on reading the books and then gave up all together. I don’t usually read the extracts that are available because I prefer to have the whole book and have 7 days to decide if I want to keep it or not. And trust I don’t read the books in 7 days and then return it. If I already finish the book I keep it! The authors that are so worried about this policy, well, maybe they shouldn’t sell on Amazon.

  30. I just returned a book about a week ago (Archive of the Airwaves Vol. 1) because the formatting was so horrible it was giving me a headache to read – extra carriage returns, misspelled words, even wrong information. This was from a small, media-oriented publisher, so there’s no excuse for that sort of product. If I’m actually spending $9.99 for a book, be it an e-book or a DTB, if better at least be readable.

    Believe me, I’ve wanted to return some e-books I’ve bought because they were just crap, but they don’t let you return freebies.

  31. Sometimes the first book in my series is returned, and I get that. It’s a matter of taste. It’s rare enough that it doesn’t really hurt my sales, especially as the price of book one is so low. The second book in the series is pretty much never returned. However, the third book is the shortest book in the series and you could easily read in in twenty-four hours– I have seen that book purchased and then returned within a reasonable amount of time to read it. Also, I feel like after you’ve read 100,000+ words in the series, taste isn’t so much the issue. Perhaps they were accidental one-click purchases, but it does make me wonder if a handful of people read it and returned it to save money.

    That said, there’s not much to be done. I accidentally purchased a book I was trying to borrow once, so I wouldn’t want them to change their policy. I just hope that they close accounts that have a pattern of repeat returning.

  32. Returns on my novel are low and yet I still love Lea Schizas’ idea of having a reason for return listing beside the notice of return. As a small business person, knowing why something is returned – even if returns are few – is very helpful to maintaining a quality product and pleasing customers. Happy customers are the life’s blood of any business, including writing.

  33. I’ll put my hand up and say that I returned a Kindle book last week. I’d bought it on the strength of dozens of rave reviews, and the Prologue that was available to download as a sample looked OK. But the rest of the book (which I couldn’t finish) was appalling drivel – possible the worst prose I’ve read in 50+ years! So I returned it, more as a matter of principal than to get my 99p back. I still can’t believe that all those people thought it was a great read because it was worse than any schoolkid’s essay. It’s a shame because I took a chance on a previous cheap top-tenner and actually enjoyed it. It’s definitely taught me to be more cautious in future, but if I buy any more “popular” stuff that turns out to be unreadable tosh, sorry but it’s going straight back to Amazon.

  34. I am experiencing an increase in returns through Amazon Kindle as well. Considering my books are priced $3.99 and under, I think this is terrible. I agree with the posters above. There needs to be some kind of policy change. That is what the preview feature is for. I believe the policy as it stands now allows many to take advantage of the available books.

  35. It’s not the price, Rose. My return rate is actually lower than before–and yes, lower for the later books in the series, though not nonexistent. It’s about 1%. But a good 1% of people do return the first book, which costs a whopping 99 cents. Who knows why. Because it was a mistake, because they can, because there’s too much sex, because nobody expresses his love for a woman by hitting her in it–where’s the romance in THAT? Another of those things, like “why do so few people review?” that just, I believe, go with the territory. Hey, it’s one way Amazon is encouraging readers to take a chance on new writers, right? Which is all good.

  36. When it comes to Kindle books, there should be a twenty-four hour return policy. Kindle books are received instantly. Therefore, twenty-four hours is plenty of time to browse the book and assure the content and quality are acceptable. Additionally, the “look inside” preview should provide a clear picture of the author’s abilities.

    I’m sick of competitive indie authors buying and returning my books, only for me to find that they are re-writing their books to include much of my key content. If they’re going to steal my work, then they should at least 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 word is getting around and some readers are gaming the system.

  37. I believe the return policy should be changed to 48 hours. That is still more than plenty of time to read a book, even a 1,500 page novel which would take between 10-12 hours to read. People might still game the system with the smaller window, but I believe it will be a lot less frequent & people will be willing to be more honest. 7 days is way too long a time to read and return a book or several book. I agree that these people’s accounts should be suspended and possibly even banned from Amazon in egregious circumstances. I believe I only return 2 kindle books. One was an accidental purchase and 1 wasn’t the quality I expected.

  38. *I may have submitted post already, not sure. Thanks*

    Having been flagged as a serial returner of Kindle ebooks by, I have posted below a shortened version of the comment letter I provide 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’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 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,

  39. I’m not at all sure that restrictions on giving or loaning an e-book itself (as opposed to just making an extra copy of same) are legal, under the first-sale doctrine.

    Also, since obviously 0 < book royalties < 100%, both the author and Amazon lose money with each return.

    As for due process, that may be a limitation on government…but that's because deprivation of property is a power of government. Private individuals or companies can't just go around taking other people's stuff either.

    Amazon's contract may well allow it to close your account, and even to refuse to let you download your own ebooks, send you copies or refund your money for same. But if it does that without good cause — including fair procedures to find out the facts, as opposed to just acting on someone's say-so or a staff member's gut feeling — they'll (they should?) get a big surprise. Courts will modify what they consider to be unconscionable contract provisions and/or contracts of adhesion.

    Not to mention that closing someone's whole account would seem like an overreaction. I would think that first a warning letter, then if it didn't work "Sorry, no more returns for six months or your next ten purchases, whichever comes last" would be a good targeted remedy. And if that doesn't work, "Sorry, no more returns ever."

    Besides being returnable to the distributor or publisher for credit, paper books have another feature: It's very hard to return them without interacting with a person. Ebooks can be returned much more shamelessly, in the privacy of your own home with a click or two.

    Last but not least, I wonder why different digital goods have different return periods. Google Play allows a grand total of 15 minutes (until a couple of years ago, it was 24 hours) to return a paid app for a refund…of course, individual developers can choose to grant refunds any time.

  40. I think this returns policy is needed, there has been multiple times I have scrolled through the kindle library on my iphone app looking for a new book to buy. The problem is that; the app contains one click buying which enables the buyer to press a single button and the money will be taking instantaneously. For the bright people among us you would have already understood the issue here- I go to scroll and the buttons for one click are directly beside the bar to move the screen, this ends in me having to pay for a £7 maybe £8 book that I don’t want as I didn’t mean to press the button. This being said; it’s upsetting to hear that I’m being accused of fradualent purchases because of a select few who decide to use this loophole to fradualently return their books..

  41. Since Amazon is capable of sync’ing the “last page read” between your devices, they can presumably tell if you’ve read the whole book before returning it.

  42. I think Stefan Vorkoetter’s point is a good one — they should be able to tell if you’ve read the whole thing, and disallow returns after, say, reading a third. But, then again, I guess someone would find a way to circumvent that also!

    I’ve been reviewing this thread because I am interested in publishing on kindle, but a contact I met said they don’t like kindle because of the number of people who read and return.

  43. Of course, people who download, crack DRM, and keep a copy as they “return” the store version wouldn’t appear to have “read” the book at all. But then, if people do that too many times, that will show up as a pattern of its own.

  44. @Ellen, I’ve been published on Kindle since 2011, and the number of returns have been minuscule. Yes, they happen, and yes, they are disappointing to see in the report, but it’s not been enough to worry about. I’m pretty sure all of mine have been pirates because someone buys all my books one day and then returns them the next. It’s only happened maybe three times though, so I just shrug and move on.

  45. Stefan & Ellen,

    Last page read is not a reliable indicator of how much of the book was actually read. Books with footnotes often place those footnotes at the end of the e-book, so follow one footnote and you’ve “read” the last page. In some books, the table of contents is actually set at the end of the e-book.
    And I have purchased ebooks that took me straight from the cover page to the last page of the book. Yesterday, I was reading from a collection of short stories and partway through one story near the moddle of the collection, my Kindle app took me straight to the middle of a story near the end of the collection. Luckily for me (because I purchased this book more than a month ago), a Kindle app on a different device with a different operating system was able to follow the pages straight through.

    Amazon wants, above all, their e-book buying customers to stay satisfied so they will keep buying. That means that they either have to make returns easy or they would have to set up a far more elaborate return-with-written-justification procedure that would likely wind up being a lot more work for the customers, for Amazon, and probably (because it’s the nature of corporations to spread the pain) for authors as well.
    Would the authors complaining about Amazon’s return policy be happier, for example, with a policy that, after one or two allegations that your book did not work on a particular kind of device, Amazon would remove your book from the market until you could convince them that the claims were bogus or that you had fixed the problem? Think what fun you could have every time Amazon releases a new Kindle devide or updates the versions

  46. Generally, it is easier to pirate digital content than it is to license (“buy”) it, plow through it quickly or break the DRM, and then return it for a refund.

  47. @Gustopher, true, but as far as I’ve been able to tell, the pirates get the content in the first place by buying and returning. I still don’t worry about it since those were by no means “lost sales,” but it is disappointing to see sales on one day which disappear the next.

  48. Juli, the sales _too_ the pirates aren’t lost sales, but the people who then download the pirated copies instead of buying your books, do represent lost sales. The only somewhat satisfying thing is knowing that most of the sites from which people will download stolen copies of your material also tend to infect their computer with adware, spyware, ransomware, or worse. (I know this not because I download pirated material, which I don’t, but because I’m always looking to see where pirated copies of the software I have written can be found.)

  49. @Stefan, I’m not convinced that the majority of people who download pirated copies are lost sales. I’ve seen lots of analysis of piracy, and I tend to think the people who pirate, in general, are people who wouldn’t have bought anyway. In fact, I’m not sure many of them even read more than a tiny percentage of what they download. Which is why I don’t lose any sleep over it. Nor do I choose to spend any time tracking down the sites and sending take down notices. There’s other ways I’d rather spend my time. Although I admit I did get an odd thrill the first time I happened across my books on a pirate site. I figure books with no audience at all never get pirated, so someone cared enough to pirate me. :)

  50. As long as people cannot copy and distribute or change any of my ebooks before or after refunding, then I don’t really mind. I write as a retired psychiatrist, and my books/poems will/can benefit the reader – one way or another, though I doubt they will have much to ‘say’ to those who want a rapid refund!

    If people want to ‘cheat’ any author of their recompense for many hours of hard work, then that is a problem for their own consciences and memory.

    Amazon Kindle ebooks can be sampled, so there is no honest excuse for purchasing an ‘unwanted’ ebook or getting a refund, other than if it doesn’t download correctly onto the buyers computer/Kindle.

  51. @Audrey, it’s not always possible to tell from a sample. Some authors don’t use the best practice of putting back matter at the back of the book. I’ve had samples where the entire sample was review blurbs, dedications and the table of contents. I got maybe one or two pages of the actual book, and that’s not enough to make a reasonable determination.

  52. Yup. It’s appalling. I know people who buy clothes, wear them with the tags on the inside and then take them back. What makes anyone think it won’t happen with eBooks if you let it. I had no idea such a policy existed. A book bought, should be a book owned. If you want to ‘re-sell’ it, that’s another thing. That’s probably fine. But once you’ve bought it, you should keep it. And really keep it, considering how much cheaper Kindle books are than hard copies. Pleasing the ‘customer’ in the digital age is going to leave all artists STARVING!

  53. Re the ‘SAMPLING” concept, that’s even worse. When I go to the bookstore and am faced with a book that is 450 pages long, I can read the first page or two while standing there… but i have no idea if I am going to like it after page 20. If I buy it, I buy it. I don’t take it back. Libraries are there and function as book testers if you like. You can take out 12 books and decide you want to read only one all the way through. But you are paying for that privilege with your local taxes. A book ‘seller’ is not a library. Authors have to be able to make some kind of a living. When I buy eBooks, I often just buy it on a whim or because I like the idea of the book. That is my choice. Sending it back saying I did not like it after reading it for 7 days to decide, is absurd.

  54. Full disclosure:
    I’ve bought more than six thousand books via Amazon Kindle alone.
    I’m a self-published author.
    I’ve returned a book or two or maybe more than that. Maybe even five.

    I actually came across this post when trying to get a good handle on what people think constitutes a reasonable reason to return ebooks.

    When I have made the choice to return an ebook in the past, it’s usually because either the formatting made the book unreadable (sometimes an issue when authors take a previously published print book and don’t reformat it properly) or if the book was grossly misfiled (book ending up being literary thriller/suspense rather than paranormal romance).

    I don’t return books I dislike or even books I wanted to throw at the wall even if I desperately wanted to. I will, however, return a book that was marketed as romance with the requisite happily ever after and then receive a book that ends up being a literary exploration of a woman and the person with multiple personality disorder she falls in love with (and gets abandoned by).

    Someone made the comparison of eating a meal at a restaurant and then refusing to pay for it, but I don’t think it’s a “scam” if I’m been baited and switched. This is actually something that comes up a bit in romancelandia, where routinely people claim books are romances to get the romance reader crowd and then end up not delivering on the basics of a romance story (HEA).

    In that case, that’s not something you can figure out by reading samples or even necessarily reviews because most people (oddly enough) don’t tend to give out ending spoilers in their reviews.

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