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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Shawn’s frustration with Amazon’s Kindle Return Policy

I’m really considering taking my titles off the Kindle. The way some of their customers abuse Amazon’s return policy on eBooks really pisses me off.

I’ve had several instances where customers have bought books, held them for several days and returned them. One held a title for close to a week. This clearly constitutes theft of service.

What makes me even angrier is Amazon’s indifference to publishers like myself. After writing Amazon’s customer service they say they have protections to prevent theft, but do they really?

It’s not that hard to crack a DRM code and make copies for oneself. It’s even easier to take an author’s work and upload it to a BitTorrent or filesharing site.

Depriving authors out of their income. I’ve been out of work for five years now and I desperately count on that royalty money (as small as it is) to pay my bills and eat. 35 cent royalties ain’t much, but put it all together and I can do something with it.

What’s most frustrating to me about Amazon’s customers is how they’ll spend over $200 on a pair of sneakers or $500 on a game console, but will get all pissy about spending 99 cents on an eBook.

Even more infuriating are the lazy customers who don’t read synopses or previews then get upset when the story is not to their liking. All the god damn tools on Amazon that give you a hint to what the book is about and you dumb STILL SPEND MONEY? Then want a refund when the book isn’t what you expected?

Are people that CHEAP that they’ll demand a refund on a 99 cent eBook? What’s crazy to me are that the same people who just dropped $200 on a pair of Air Jordan sneakers or $400 on a video game console and another $240 on games for said $500 game console will all of a sudden become stingy as an old miser over a 99 cent eBook.

God Damn.

Seriously, what is wrong with some of these Kindle customers? I thought reading was supposed make you intelligent? But some of these Kindle customers are dumb as a box of rocks when it comes to that device. What? You’re telling me people can’t scroll down a page and to find out what genre a book is in? They can’t click on a cover that says LOOK INSIDE and read a preview?  They can’t look at a cover and find out what the story is about?

But they can click buy anyway without thinking critically about their purchases.

I’ve seen people take more time and consideration to think about a TV or a box of cereal before buying it on Amazon than their eBook purchases. I have to wonder if they’re just downloading content just because it’s there? Or are they making informed choices?

I’m thinking they’re doing the latter and not the former.

What’s super aggravating is that if you buy an MP3 off Amazon or stream a movie on Amazon, Amazon won’t let you get a refund.  If you buy a DVD and open it, you can’t get a refund. If you buy software or a video game you can’t get a refund.

Why? The Music industry won’t allow it. The Hollywood studios won’t allow it. The Video game industry and the Software industry won’t allow it. If people played their music or streamed their shows and got a refund after they started watching them, they’d take their business to another retailer.

 Amazon values their business. They fear them taking their content and the traffic it generates away from their site.

But they don’t value the business of the self-publisher. Amazon doesn’t think we generate enough foot traffic to their site.

When it’s clear we generate a lot of it. Self-publishers move a large majority of the books and eBooks on Amazon. And we the self-publishers deserve the same respect that Big Music, Hollywood, and the Video game industry receive, not the double standard that’s in place today.

Amazon calls that customer service when someone can get a refund from a self-publisher like myself who produces digital content.

Shawn calls it STEALING. If you can’t get a refund for other digital content like mp3s and television shows, you shouldn’t be able to get a refund for an eBook.

Amazon is the only place where eBooks can be returned. Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Google Play and Apple DO NOT allow refunds on eBooks. Even other e-tailers who offer eBooks don’t allow refunds on eBooks. One small eBook textbook seller doesn’t even allow them after you read past a certain point.

Why? Because they don’t know what the customer has done with that file. And it’s not fair for publishers like myself to take a loss at some customer’s attempt to get over.

Clearly the technology is there for Amazon to prevent customer theft on the Kindle. But either Amazon is too cheap or too lazy to implement it. If a small retailer of textbooks can find the 20 percent point in an eBook to say the book has been read, why can’t Amazon?

I really like the Kindle. That’s where I get most of my sales these days. But I just get frustrated at the handful of Amazon customers who abuse Amazon’s eBook return policy. Amazon customers have every option to sample a book and try it before buying. I offer free titles throughout the year through their KDP Select program so a reader has the option to sample entire books and see what my writing style is like. The way I see it Amazon digital customers have every option available to them before they click the buy button so there’s NO EXCUSE for them to ask for a refund.

 I don’t want to take titles off the Kindle. They get the most traffic out of all the eBookstores. That traffic is the primary reason I’ve been using them for the past year as the primary point for launching new titles over their competitors. But Google Play, Smashwords and even the craptacular Nook are looking like better options for launching new titles.

 Amazon needs to get it together regarding the Kindle and their double standard regarding self-publishers. We deserve the same opportunity to be compensated for our content that the big studios and game industry do.


  1. Who says it's not Amazon. Not giving you a bad thought, just extending equal treatment.

  2. You don't need Amazon. I say let them keep playing games. Google's a little too big for me to take publishers for granted. It'll be a pity to lose business because you didn't want to do simple programming.


  3. Not cutting them off yet Vic, but I'd love too. I'm trying to get to the point where I can pay for a wehbost and sell my books on my own site. Right now I still use Smashwords and While I have a Google account, I haven't put a book up there yet because I just don't trust them. Hosting my own site is part of my five-year plan,I'm just trying to get the money together to make that a reality.

    Just a matter of time and money ...

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  5. I feel your frustration too. I have a book that tells students how to get the best out of a powerful calculator. Unfortunately I get returns from just one country: India. I've no doubt whatsoever that these bastards are reading my book and then returning it after they have learnt everything they need from it.
    I don't get this from any other country.

  6. This is why I stopped writing Kindle books. Its ridiculous. I feel like some people read your book, steal the info, then re-write it in their own kindle book or something. Or they just read it all and get the value from it, then return it. Its unfair

  7. Just as a hint: Amazon is really hard to navigate to find interesting content. Actually, Amazon is hard to use to find a trash bin of a certain size.

    So in practice, I do use a price comparison site (that has better selection tools, at least for some types of goods, not ebooks, sorry), that then links me back to amazon.

    E.g. for many authors it's very hard to find all their books. (My guess: Amazon would need to disambiguate authors itself, because typically publishers won't make a difference between Jon Doe the writer of physics text books and Jon Doe the writer of Kindle Comics. And yes, computers could do that, but then Amazon would have to spent some effort into this.) I usually get even books by authors that are clearly spelled differently.

    I know some authors have their own "Amazon page", but these are IMHE the exception from the rule.