Sunday, May 01, 2016

Amazon Kindle Policies: Are They Injuring Writers?

Amazon's seven day return policy on ebooks is getting a lot of negative press, with good reason. It is very easy to finish a novel and return it after you've read the book. Avid readers can finish a book or more a day. So why is Amazon being so generous with readers, at the expense of writers?

I could easily make a case that Amazon's return policy is designed to force writers to give them exclusive access to their books. The policy works very well to make Kindle Unlimited a necessity for writers and small publishing houses. Being paid for pages read is far better than having readers download your book, read it, and return it to Amazon. No matter what price point a book has, Amazon's policy makes it free to anyone who wants to game the system.

Let's face it. Lots of people want to take advantage of any loophole they find. So, for honest readers and writers out there, the online petition to end Amazon's seven day return policy seems like a no-brainer. The policy allows for legal piracy of an author's intellectual property. Nearly seven thousand people signed a petition against it.

Amazon considered the number insignificant. They have no plans to change their policy. So what else can be done?

So, what do we do? As a writer and publisher, it is impossible for me to ignore Amazon. Selling ebooks without having them available on Amazon is akin to living without oxygen in your blood. Sure there are other gasses out there, but your body won't survive without oxygen. Kindle sales are the oxygen supply that keeps independent presses and self-published authors alive.

I personally think that Amazon tried to cover the piracy in Part B of their policy. This is the part I don't think most writers are familiar with. Amazon monitors the number of returns by individual readers and if they exceed 30 returns, they are prevented from returning any more books.

I still don't like the policy. I don't believe readers should be able to return ebooks.


Amazon allows readers to sample the book before making a purchase. This is more than sufficient to let a reader decide if they like the writer enough to buy their book. If a book doesn't live up to the sample, they can write a review and let others know what they didn't like.

Also, 30 returns is too many. A reader who returns that many books isn't much of a reader. The high number of returns allowed means that book pirates could simply team up and each keep the number of returns below the cut off point. Maybe, instead of asking them to end the policy, we should try to get that number reduced or limited by frequency. I don't know if that would work. Perhaps what we really need is for Amazon to be broken up. As things stand, they have a virtual monopoly in the ebook market.