A bit of a hotly contested topic today. You may or may not know that Amazon allows returns of ebooks. This essentially means that you can read it then give it back. Most if not all of the authors i know think that this is entirely unfair. Print books do not allow returns when the book has been read but it is easy to tell this as the spine will be creased. Essentially people are able to read our books for free! How is this any different to piracy? Amazon is providing readers with a way around the system to read work they don’t pay for.
Their return policy states that you can return the ebook within 7days which is more than enough time to read it in its entirety. Amazon has come back to say that they are aware of the issue and have measures in place to stop it. This is in the form of a ‘serial returns’ policy. It states that if a person has returned allot of ebooks they will have a block placed on their account. There is no material to say what ‘allot’ is but one user reported that they received a warning after 30 returns. That’s 30 authors who have not been payed for their work.
Amazon claims that the reason for their return policy is so that porly formatted or edited works can be returned. But having submitted a book to Amazon i can tell you that their formatting guidelines are strict and i would be suprised at any author who could get it published without following the guidelines. Most people will open it and realise in the first 2 pages if its not right, so why do they have 7days to come to this conclusion. How about changing it to 24hrs Amazon? Barnes & Noble and Sony both do not allow returns, nor apparently does Kobo.
there have been petitions to stop this policy which are signed by thousands of authors and publishers but customers are still winning out. Well of course customers dont understand why we don’t want this policy. They see authors as the fat cats, whats one books royalty to you? Well folks we don’t get paid that much, most authors cant quit their day job, ever. For one ebook we make approximately 50c after tax and publisher fees (my books are listed at 99c so i get about 30c per book). We might sell 5000 in the life of the book, that’s $1000. Not exactly life changing is it. If we sell the book for $5.99 (high end) then we make about $2.60 on it that’s $13,000 for 5000 copies (a good sale for the life of the book). If you consider that we might publish one book a year that’s not even minimum wage.
Author friends have told me that people are returning about 50% of their books on Amazon. So that’s $7000. Have you tried feeding your family, or yourself on $7000 a year? I know i couldn’t.
In my opinion this policy has to change to work with the times. When ebooks first hit the scene i can understand people being hesitant to buy them hence the policy. But now that nearly all books are available in this format there is no need for such a relaxed view on it. One day, that’s all you need to know if a book is formatted correctly or to realize that you actually wanted the print copy and return it.
So remember us authors when you return our work. You wouldn’t return a coffee when its finished, so don’t return our books.