If you don’t follow Amazon Kindle news closely — or spend a lot of time on BookTok, the reading-centric TikTok community — you might not be aware of the ongoing e-book comeback drama. But now it has led Amazon to change the way it handles its digital books.
A TikTok trend encouraged readers to quickly read and then return ebooks to their Kindle, with the auto-returns program giving them a full refund even if they had read the entire book.
This didn’t hurt Amazon, as readers probably expected, and the action actually left the authors broke, as they were the ones who had to shell out for the refund. Many e-book authors have published statements criticizing this action, and it appears that Amazon listened (see testimonials on Twitter here (opens in new tab)and here (opens in new tab)it is a change.org petition (opens in new tab) about it here).
1/2 Every time you return an ebook to Amazon, the author is charged back more than what was paid for the sale. Yes, that means we could owe Amazon at the end of the month. Ever since TikToks went viral saying ‘it’s okay to return ebooks’June 3, 2022
On a post made by Author’s Guild (opens in new tab), a US-based organization designed to protect authors’ rights, has confirmed that Amazon’s e-book return policy is changing. As of the end of the year, you will now not be able to automatically return ebooks if you have read more than 10% of them.
In the future, if you’ve read 11% or more of a book, you can still submit a return, but it will be reviewed by an individual, and the Author’s Guild argues that this will act as a reasonable deterrent to preventing people from playing the system.
There are still a few things to clear up – collections of poems or short stories, which you can skip, may mark you as having read more than 10% if you only read a passage in the middle, for example, and it’s not clear how easy it will be to get a refund through this manual system. But it is a step in the right direction.
Analysis: good or bad for readers?
For some books, 10% is a lot of pages – if (for some reason) you’re reading Edward Gibbon’s History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, it’s over 500 pages. But for novels or shorter texts, the difference between 10% and 11% could be an accidental page turn.
This new change is undoubtedly good for authors, and means that opportunistic and bad-faith readers will no longer be able to bypass the system to get a free read without spending money. Now, more authors will be able to rely on their writing to support themselves, which is great news for literature.
However, it’s not good news for your standard readers, who might genuinely get around 15% off a book before realizing it’s not for them and wanting their money back.
Of course, it’s the readers who took the mickey that we have to blame for this change, with the trend of TikTok (and other users who have done the same – we can’t just blame this community of readers) likely turning this little quirk of TikTok’s return policy. Amazon into a bigger problem.
This update may affect the way some people read books, making them much more cautious about the book progress percentage (displayed on Kindle ereaders) than they would otherwise be in order to decide whether to progress beyond 10% or not. But if that means authors can continue to write, maybe it’s a good thing after all.