If you don’t watch carefully Amazon Kindle news — or spend too much time on BookTok, the reading-focused TikTok community — you might not be aware of the ongoing drama with the return of e-books. But now it has forced Amazon to change the way it handles its digital books.
The TikTok trend encouraged readers to quickly read and return e-books on their Kindle, with an automatic refund program refunding them even if they read the entire book.
It didn’t hurt Amazon as readers expected, and the action actually put the authors out of pocket, since they were the ones who had to shell out for the refunds. Many ebook authors have issued statements criticizing these actions, and Amazon seems to have listened (see Twitter testimonials here (opens in a new tab)and here (opens in a new tab)and a petition change.org (opens in a new tab) about it here).
1/2 Every time you return an eBook to Amazon, the author charges more than what they were paid for the sale. Yes, that means we may owe Amazon at the end of the month. Ever since TikToks went viral, saying “e-books can be brought back”June 3, 2022
U the message is made by the authors guild (opens in a new tab), an American organization dedicated to protecting the rights of authors, has confirmed that Amazon’s e-book return policy is changing. Starting at the end of the year, you won’t be able to automatically return eBooks if you’ve read more than 10% of them.
Going forward, 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 Authors Guild believes this will be a reasonable deterrent to keep people from gaming the system.
There are still some things to be clear about – collections of poems or short stories that you can jump into may mark you as having read more than 10% if you just read one passage halfway through, for example, and it’s not clear how easy it will be to get back through this manual system. But this 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 The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon, that’s over 500 pages. But for novellas or shorter texts, the difference between 10% and 11% can be a single random page turn.
This new change is undoubtedly good for authors, and it means that opportunistic and unscrupulous readers will no longer be able to game the system to get free reads without spending money. Now more authors will be able to rely on their works to support themselves, which is great news for literature.
However, this isn’t such good news for casual readers, who can only really read about 15% of their book before they realize it’s not for them and want their money back.
Of course, we have to blame these changes on the readers who took Mickey, and the TikTok trend (and other users who did the same – we can’t put the blame solely on this community of readers) probably turned this little quirk of Amazon’s return policy into into a big problem.
This update may affect the way some people read books, making them pay much more attention to the percentage of books read (which is displayed on Kindle readers) than they would otherwise, in order to decide whether they will progress more than 10% or not. But if it means authors can keep writing, maybe that’s a positive after all.