Ian Rankin ‘appalled’ by Amazon over e-book return policy which he says robs authors of royalties
Amazon, whose 2021 revenue was $469.82 billion, is allowing e-book customers to receive a full refund within 14 days of purchase, even if they’ve read the entire book.
Writers’ union, The Society of Authors (SoA), has called on the Seattle-based company to reduce its return window to 48 hours, after the online retailer was criticized in an online petition signed by more than 33,000 people for offering refunds on e-books to customers who have finished reading.
Nicola Solomon, Managing Director of the SoA, said: “Seven days is more than enough to read an entire e-book and trade, and it’s not fair to deduct the author’s royalty for books that have been or could have been read.”
She argues that royalties should only be deducted for accidental purchases.
Rankin, author of Edinburgh-based Inspector Rebus, said: ‘I am appalled. Writers have a pretty hard time trying to make a living.
“If someone can read your book without paying you anything for the privilege, you’re sunk.”
Jeanette Winterson says Amazon boss Jeff Bezos “never cared about books, bookstores, or writers.”
The award-winning English author, whose best-known novels include Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit and Frankissstein: A Love Story, told The Sunday Times: “Jeff Bezos started selling books because they have a long shelf life. life, are easy to pack, and their ISBN system is an algorithm’s dream.
“Man never cared about books, bookstores or writers.”
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E-book royalties for authors typically represent about 25% of “publisher revenue”. This compares to around 7.5% of the recommended retail price for physical books.
As a result, some authors claim that there has been a huge increase in the number of customers returning their eBooks.
Authors say it’s a growing problem, with one writer saying more than 100 copies of his books were returned last month, compared to less than 10 in the first two months of 2022.
The trend may have been spurred by TikTok videos showing how easy it is to return an e-book. Some users provide tutorials on how to return the books after reading them, and one such video has been viewed over 17 million times.
An Amazon spokesperson defended the policy, saying, “Our eBook return rates are consistently low and we have policies and mechanisms in place to prevent this from being abused.”
They said, “Amazon aims to provide the best possible experience for authors and customers. We allow e-book returns up to 14 days after purchase.
“Our goal is to inspire reading and we recognize the important role of authors. That’s why we launched Kindle Direct Publishing and other recent initiatives like the Amazon Literary Partnership, which supports authors and various literary groups.