Is Amazon adequately concerned about author’s demands?

Authors are up in arms against the Amazon e-book return policy that allows buyers the option to return an e-book within up to seven days of purchase. However, the return policy which has been there for a long time has attained notoriety of sorts in recent times after many shared a ‘hack’ on social sites like TikTok and Facebook about how the same can be used to claim a full refund on an e -book that you have bought, read, and then returned to Amazon within the seven-day window.

However, authors are claiming this trend is leading them to end up with even negative balances at times. That is because the royalties that the authors earn when someone buys their e-book are deducted from their earning balance once the e-book is returned within the seven-day period. While the Amazon return policy acts as a cover against accidental purchases, for many, that is enough time to read the e-book in its entirety. That is prolific reading and is commendable though not quite so when that is costing authors their livelihood.

Authors point out that readers who believe availing of the free return policy is a means of fooling Amazon are in reality stealing the author’s resources and livelihoods. That’s because the retailer isn’t taking up the risk that it is allowing its buyers but is passing it on to the author. For the authors, the lure of Amazon being the biggest player in the e-book or audiobook segment having a pan-world presence is hard to miss. However, it is also the only company that has the most lenient return policy.

Take for instance Kobo or Apple iBooks, both require buyers to get in touch with the respective company’s customer service to find out if their e-book purchases are eligible for a refund. Further, as NPR pointed out, Barnes & Noble or Smashwords do not accept any return request of any e-book sold via their channels.

As the authors have also pointed out, Amazon does not have a return policy such as the one it has for its e-books and audiobooks for other digital content sold via its platform. That includes digital copies of movies or movies, both of which can’t be returned once bought. Authors have expressed dismay in the way Amazon is treating e-books and audiobooks differently from movies or music in spite of those being digital content at its core.

Maybe it’s time Amazon reviews its return policy for e-books and audiobooks and comes up with something that takes into consideration valid concerns of both the authors as well as readers. Perhaps it would be best to allow readers a shortened time frame, like 48 hours to return a book. Or to make the e-book purchases non-refundable if the buyers have gone through, say 20 percent of the book.

Amazon however is justifying its stand and said the flexible return policy is aimed at offering the best possible ‘experience for customers and authors’. The retailer also said they have the necessary safeguard in place to prevent such policies from being misused and takes into account regular feedback from both customers as well as authors to ensure concerns of all parties are adequately addressed. It remains to be seen if the retailer is able to take care of the author’s demands or is just waiting for the trend promoted by several TikTok influencers to die a natural death.

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