Amazon toughens ebook return policy to thwart BookTok

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Amazon logo. | Artwork by Alex Castro/MovieBeat

Amazon plans to limit automatic ebook returns to cases where people haven’t read more than 10% of the book, according to the Authors Guild. The change, which follows complaints that Kindle buyers were returning titles they had fully read for a refund, is expected to happen by the end of the year.

The Authors Guild says it reached the deal after negotiating with Amazon executives. Individual authors have raised concerns about an increase in returns earlier this year, noting that Amazon will charge them any royalties they earn on the books. Some have pinned the rise of the practice on video platform TikTok’s book community, and in a press release the guild slammed ‘BookTok influencers’ for encouraging people to get ‘free’ books. buying them and then returning them. Previously, Amazon said it had “policies and mechanisms in place to prevent our ebook return policy from being abusive.” The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the pending change.

People can still return books they’ve read largely on Amazon. But according to the Authors Guild, they will have to submit a customer service request which will be manually reviewed and could subject buyers to penalties if they habitually abuse it.

Liberal return policies have always been a point of contention for authors and other creators. In 2020, Amazon-owned audiobook platform Audible tightened a rule that deducted royalties for titles returned or exchanged within one year of the date of purchase. (After the change, authors kept royalties for anything returned after seven days.) Similarly, last year, game developer Emika Games said the Steam Storefront’s two-hour return policy penalized people who made short games by allowing players to buy, complete, and return them.

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