UK and US author trade groups welcome Amazon’s change to ebook returns
By Porter Anderson, Editor | @Porter_Anderson
“A major improvement”
Jhe main authors’ advocacy organizations in the UK and the US – the Society of Authors Union and the Authors Guild, respectively – praise Amazon today (September 22), which does not doesn’t happen every day.
Representatives of the two organizations say they were informed on Wednesday, September 21 of “a major improvement for authors of books available on Kindle”, according to the Society of Authors. The change would mean that a consumer who has read more than 10% of an ebook on Amazon’s Kindle system will no longer be able to trigger a self-service return for a full refund.
The Company writes, “Amazon has confirmed plans to change its systems to address complaints about its long return windows that have hurt authors’ profits. Amazon’s return policy for eBooks currently allows readers to receive a full refund for up to 14 days, even if they have read the entire book. Use of this refund loophole has been encouraged by TikTok users, with videos on how to return books viewed more than 17 million times.
The ebook return policy and the social media exchange of information on how to return ebooks in the Kindle system has been covered in many places, of course, such as when Deanna Schwartz at NPR wrote about it on June 27, saying, “When an Amazon customer returns an ebook, the royalties originally paid to the author at the time of purchase are deducted from their revenue balance.
“Authors can end up with negative balances when customers return books after the author has already been paid by Kindle Direct Publishing, an Amazon spokesperson said. … For some readers, seven days is more than enough to finish a book and return it after reading it, effectively treating Amazon like a library.
Implementation expected by the end of the year
At the Society of Authors, staff write, “Throughout 2022, the Society of Authors and the Authors Guild have been in discussions with senior Amazon executives about the issue. In April, the Society publicly called for the return window for eBooks to be reduced to 48 hours, backed by authors such as Jeanette Winterson and Ian Rankin. This was picked up by a petition on Change.org which has so far attracted over 78,000 signatures.
Now, in an email to both the Guild and the Company, David Naggar, Vice President of Kindle Books and Content at Amazon, is reported by the Company to have said, “We hear everything you have said in our conversations on this topic and plan to make significant changes… Most notably, we will be disabling self-service returns for any book read above 10%, which will add substantial friction to the process.
Naggar, according to the company, said the change would be introduced “on all Kindle-supporting platforms, including e-readers, computers, and smartphones. He said their developers have “reprioritized the roadmaps of existing products…and believe this improvement can be implemented by the end of the year.”
The Company also points out, however, that Naggar noted that “in Amazon’s view, returns on Kindle products continue to be weak, with no ‘noticeable spikes.’
Information from the Guild tells us that the change should go into effect by the end of the year. After it goes into effect, “customers who wish to return e-books after reading more than 10%,” the Guild writes, “will need to submit a customer service request, which will be reviewed by a representative to ensure that the return requested is genuine and complies with Amazon’s anti-abuse policies.
“This process,” the company states, “will create a strong deterrent effect against readers who purchase, read, and return e-books within seven days, and readers who attempt to violate the policies will be penalized by Amazon’s policies. . The Authors Guild and the Society of Authors, its sister organization in the UK, had raised the issue with senior Amazon executives earlier this year.
In London, the head of the Society of Authors, Nicola Solomon, reportedly said: “This is great news for authors and a perfect example of what unions can achieve by lobbying together.
“We look forward to hearing more from David and his team at Amazon when their new system goes live. In the meantime, thanks to the many self-published authors who first brought this issue to our attention.
And at the Authors Guild in New York, CEO Mary Rasenberger says, “We applaud the dozens of independent authors who have advocated for this change.
“We are also grateful to the Amazon team for listening to our concerns and acting in good faith. The Amazon team also reviews individual author accounts for customer feedback abuse. »
The Guild points out that it negotiated a similar change with Amazon-owned Audible in 2020, in this case agreeing to pay royalties “for everything [audiobook] the title is returned more than seven days after purchase. You can read the Guild’s account of this situation here.
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