Authors say people return Kindle books after they’ve read them — and it’s costing them

Months after the BookTok acquisition, a discussion about the ethics of returning e-books has resurfaced as authors took to Twitter to highlight how Amazon’s Kindle return policy ended up costing them.

According to Amazon’s Kindle return policy, you can “cancel an accidental book order within seven days.” While accidental purchases do happen β€” for example, when a child or pet accidentally clicks on a book, or you buy the wrong book with a very common title β€” several authors indicated that some people read the book in its entirety before submitting it to Amazon . Customers get their money back, but authors are charged a fee for restocking the book.

In a viral tweet about the surge in returns, author Lisa Kessler said that so many of her books have been returned lately that she now owes money to Amazon. Another, posted by author K. Bromberg, highlighted the practice and pointed to TikTok as one of the reasons for the surge.

On request Kessler explained that Amazon β€œis coming[s] back to remind us of our royalties every time we return.”

Rebecca Crunden posted a screenshot of how her royalties look after someone via the Indie Book Spotlight Twitter, which highlights self-published authors and smaller publications returned one of their e-books; the number in the minus.

“I’m noticing an increase in returned e-books to Amazon after two years of virtually none.” Author Chad Ryan wrote. “If people on TikTok tell you that it’s cool to treat every bookstore like a library, you’re being misled. Amazon doesn’t care. They hurt authors; especially the little indie guys like me.”

The conversation also made its way to TikTok as some developers sided with the authors.

@dtaylorbooks_ #greenscreen don’t be a piece πŸ’©. #booktok #donreturnbooks #supportauthors #returnpolicy #books ♬ Monkeys Spinning Monkeys – Kevin MacLeod & Kevin The Monkey
@kittykendallbooks The Ultimate Sin! #booktok #booklover #femaleauthor #smutauthor #romancebooks #amazonbooks #kindleunlimited ♬ Bitch – Ana Infante

For authors and readers who refer to Amazon’s policies, the problem with people abusing Amazon’s Kindle return policy is not legitimate mistakes in the purchase, but treating Kindle books as if they were library books treat. It’s even more egregious for them when other book-borrowing options like Amazon Unlimited (a monthly subscription service that lets users borrow and return books) or public libraries (many of which have an e-book component for cardholders) are available to people are available use. In either case, authors are not penalized when customers return books; For example, Amazon Unlimited pays authors royalties based on the number of pages read.

It’s not immediately clear if new videos about returning eBooks have been circulated in the form of a “Kindle hack,” but it was the subject of discussion on BookTok a few months ago as a debate over whether returning a fully read Kindle -Books could be viewed as “stealing”. Some, who believe the claim is nonsense, compare returning a book you don’t like to returning a top that doesn’t fit, or discounting a meal if you find a mistake in your food.

@mckenseareads words matter and giving back is NOT stealing. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean it’s stolen πŸ€¦πŸ»β€β™€οΈ #booktok #returningbooks ♬ original sound – mckensea 🐳

Others offered a more nuanced discussion, noting that even if returning read e-books wasn’t considered stealing, it was still something of a faux pas.

“Is it illegal to return a book? No,” said Emily Hemenway. β€œShould you return a finished book? As a famous bowler would say, it’s not wrong, you’re just an asshole.”

The discussion also flared up again in late April, but as TikToker @emmaskies noted, most of the ebook return videos revolved around the discourse, not the hacks themselves.

@emmaskies I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS IS A REAL MULTI-SIDED CONVERSATION??? #booktok #bookreturns #discourse #bookreader #fantasybooks #romancebooks ♬ Original sound – Emmaskies

A Change.org petition urging Amazon to change its Kindle return policy to protect authors has been signed more than 55,000 times since its launch in April.

“If you’ve read the book, you’ve USED UP the product,” the petition reads. β€œReturning a book after reading 10-20% is one thing. But once the book is read [its] may not be returned in full. End of discussion.”

We reached out to Amazon for comment and clarification on their policy.

*Initial publication: June 6, 2022 2:08 pm CDT

Michelle Jaworsky

Michelle Jaworski is a staff writer and television/film critic at the Daily Dot. Covering entertainment, geek culture and pop culture, she has covered everything from the Sundance Film Festival, NYFF and Tribeca to New York Comic Con and Con of Thrones. She lives in Brooklyn.

Michelle Jaworsky

https://www.dailydot.com/unclick/amazon-kindle-e-book-returns-tiktok/ Authors say people return Kindle books after they’ve read them — and it’s costing them

Jaclyn Diaz

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