On February 2022, euronews.culture reported about a survey circulating concerning “Amazon changes its policy on ebook returns.” There’s also an embedded TikTok from @ranchernikii with another TikTok link to Brooke_and_books questioning this all.
Meanwhile, this past couple of months for those following such hashtags as #AmazonIsNotALibrary, you’ll find upset Indie authors complaining about the skyrocketing returns of ebooks. This was all prompted by the circulation of TikTok videos showing how to return ebooks on Amazon. As far as we can tell, this TikTok firestorm started around March 2022, but clearly the topic was already out on TikTok possibly as far back as 2021 or even 2020 during the pandemic lockdowns. Larger media outlets have since picked up the story in the last couple of months, such as BuzzFeed.
This issue is like the 1999 Napster days of sharing music, which ended up with an “injunction” against them by the Recording Industry Association of America for bypassing the standard purchasing methods. The odds of being able to return a piece of music bought at a store back then would be difficult, and the same would be true for a physical book unless there’s an obvious defect. Thus, all sales were final. With Napster the main problem was the constant and repeated sharing. This is not the case with today’s Amazon, or even Apple’s iBooks. But the ability to return ebooks has been around since 2017 for Apple and at least 2019 for Amazon based on a YouTube. It’s only recently with TikTok’s spam-like algorithm has this return policy become a major problem for many indie authors, and probably even smaller publishers.
In the long term, what we see occurring in the digital publishing world if these trends continue unabated:
- Much longer books and audio files being created with the attempt to make it harder to consume with in the return period.
- Major publishers leveraging deals with retailers like Amazon, making certain popular titles excluded from return policies.
- The indie market creating a zero-cost product that has only half the book, which requires you to purchase the printed product to read the rest.
- Indie Authors encouraging more direct sales and use of a specific reading app available on both iPhone and Android.
What’s Our Opinion?
Obviously, we would prefer you not return items unless defective (like it’s not loading properly).
But we don’t control the policies of Amazon or Apple, so as a consumer you are free to follow their policies. If either Amazon or Apple choose not to honor the return, that’s not our problem. We’re not selling a hyped up computer game like a certain gaming company did.
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