Thursday, April 4, 2013

How Do You Feel About Amazon's E-book Return Policy?



There's been a petition going around this week about Amazon's e-book return policy. As I understand it, if you purchase an e-book on Amazon you have the option of returning it within a seven day time period if you're not happy with that purchase. As a side note, before I continue, I would LOVE to see the same kind of return policy with movies I rent at home or pay to see in theaters. Once you click that rent button on demand, you're stuck with the fresh hells of Jennifer Anniston without recourse. Most of the time you're better off flushing a five dollar bill down the toilet. I've always thought it would be fair if movie theaters or on demand gave a fifteen minute window for people who decide they don't like a film, where they would give refunds for those who don't want to sit through it. However, Hollywood nailed this a long time ago, they trained the consumer that they are stuck with what they get, and no one ever questions them. No one.

But I digress. This is about Amazon's e-book return policy, not Hollywood ripping us all off once again with a "Wild and Wacky and Zany" experience "You'll Never Forget." This is how Amazon's policy reads:

Books you purchase from the Kindle Store are eligible for return and refund if we receive your request within seven days of the date of purchase. Once a refund is issued, you'll no longer have access to the book. To request a refund and return content, visit Manage Your Kindle, Click the Actions button next to the title you'd like to return, and select Return for refund, or contact customer service.

I've never actually returned an e-book at Amazon, so I'm not familiar with the process. And that's because I vet my books before I buy them. I rarely do impulse buying, and I know I'm rare in that sense, so I'm not commenting on impulse e-book shopping. I just need to know what I'm buying before I make that purchase. And I have yet to find, in my entire life, a book I wanted to return based on the sample I read and the back cover copy I read before I made the purchase. Just last night I bought the new Maya Angelou book, Mom & Me & Mom. Before I bought the digital version, even though I love all Maya Angelou books, I read the free sample on Amazon. I got the prologue and the first two chapters for free. What more would I need to know to see if I liked the book? (I love it so far; review to come soon) That free sample was far better than any Hollywood trailer I've seen.

But I do realize that not everyone out there is like me, and that many do make impulse purchases where they might not even read a book within seven days. I also know, from my self-published books, that my own returns have always come within 24 hours and I haven't had that many (knock wood). I think it's something like 2 books out of every twenty I sell on Amazon. So I can't really comment on the seven day policy myself because I haven't had that happen to me as an author. When there is a return it's always within 24 hours. As for my books with publishers, I have absolutely no idea how or when...or even if...my books are returned because I've never asked for that information from them. So far, no one's complained (knock wood again; you never know).

Now there is a petition going around to get Amazon to change its e-book return policy. Here's a link to the page where people are signing. As of right now, 2,185 people have signed it.

It is understood that if a customer goes into a store and purchases a tangible item, that item can be returned to the store within a specified amount of time for a refund. In this case, nobody is out of anything. The customer has their money back and the store has the original item purchased. But if Amazon sells our e-Book(s) and allow customers to keep that product for seven day (more than enough time to read it) and then, give them the option to return it for a refund, the consumer has already read our work and we’re out of the amount of money charged for that item. Is this fair or not? This is like going into a restaurant, buying a meal, then asking for a refund after you’ve already eaten it!

I haven't signed the petition yet because I'm completely on the fence about it at this point. I can't be more honest than that right now. As a consumer, I like knowing I can return a book within a certain time frame just in case I'm not happy...or if I made a purchase by accident (I hear it happens). I also hear that Amazon doesn't permit the same readers to do returns too often, and if they suspect something unusual they check into it. I'm not sure about that, so don't quote me. And, I don't like the way Hollywood and Cable companies do things. I've always resented their ability to control the consumer.

I have had cases where readers have purchased my self-pubbed book, "Chase of a Dream," and they've clicked the abridged version by mistake. I portended this when I released CoaD in both unabridged and abridged versions, and I planned in advance to deal with readers as issues came up. I've worked with the public all my life and I know how to expect anything. In each case, the reader e-mailed me and told me what happened. I was more than happy to send them the correct digital version in the format they needed and they didn't have to do any returns anywhere. They were more than happy and I haven't had any issues so far.

But I'm not really sure about any of this, not even as an author, because I haven't experienced (as far as I know) that many returns. As a businessperson all my life, the customer always comes first. But other authors claim they have experienced tons of questionable returns and publishers claim the same thing. So I'm curious to see how this turns out. I'm also curious about how many signatures it will take before Amazon addresses this issue. 2,185 sounds like a lot, but it's really not that much. I would imagine in order to get Amazon to make a change of any kind, it's going to take a few million signatures at least.

I once read somewhere that there was data about how the people who'd purchased the digital versions of "Fifty Shades of Grey," had only read part of the e-book and they hadn't finished it. Here's an article that supports this claim:

Data collected by Kobo, the firm which makes ebook readers sold by W H Smith, shows that only 18,000 readers using the system who rated the book after buying it have finished it so far – just 10.5 per cent of a total of 170,000. Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2187022/Fifty-Shades-Of-Grey-Its-really-FIVE-Shades-analysis-reveals-finishes-bestseller.html#ixzz2PXwmNb3W
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

If this is true, and companies like Amazon can track digital readers this way with a system like this, that would solve the entire e-book return issue, privacy issues aside. If they know for a fact the reader did read the book in full, they wouldn't be required to give them their money back at all. But again, this could be a privacy issue a lot of people don't want to deal with.

4 comments:

Barb said...

I used their return policy because I couldn't get the books to download correctly. It wasn't because I didn't like the book or wasn't satisfied with it!

ryan field said...

Thanks for commenting. That's a good example of how things don't always work the way they should with e-books. I almost clicked on the hard cover book for Mom & Me & Mom the other night because I wasnt' paying attention. I caught myself just in time.

Shelagh said...

The only time I've ever returned an eBook to Amazon was when the book I downloaded was not the book I'd paid for. I don't have a problem with Amazon restricting refunds. If I buy a paperback and don't enjoy the story, I wouldn't dream of returning it, so I don't see why it should be any different for an eBook.

ryan field said...

I wouldn't return a paperback either. I never have.