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.


Wendy Sproule said...

I have purchase Amazon e-books regularly over the years and although I am aware of their overly generous return policy I have only returned an e-book once within an hour of purchasing it. I had previously read the book in hard copy and hadn't realized until I downloaded the e-book. My belief is that people do make mistakes when making purchases no matter what that purchase maybe and should be able to return an item. I also believe in a fair return policy and for an item like an e-book the period of time one should be given to return the e-book should be no more than 24 hours....long enough to realize you have made a mistake. It would never even cross my mind to read a book and then return it whether I enjoyed it or not. I recently completed reading your Nessa Donnelly series of books the hours of pleasurable entertainment and historical education I received from this series was well worth the meager price tab. Far more bang for the buck than a movie! I hope that some day soon this issue can be resolved in a way that is fair to the reader and especially to the writer who has put their heart and soul into researching, creating and writing for our (the readers) benefit.

Glenda Bixler said...

Hi...I'll have to think about this...I have told people who have given a low ranking that if they couldn't stand to read it to just return it and not rank it...thinking I was doing a good thing...Now I'm wondering because I easily read a book in a day... Based upon your article, I think I should refrain from telling them to return it...but I probably won't stop harassing those who give a low ranking when I know it's a good book...What say you? Glenda