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Old 08-15-2011, 06:18 PM   #1
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Amazon's E-Book Return Policy

I looked for old threads on this but didn't see any that jumped out as matches, so I'll just vent a tiny bit.

I have an e-book on Amazon, a memoir about my time in Vietnam, that is about 25,000 words (maybe the Length of The Heart of Darkness) and priced at 99 cents. Sales have been decent, but this month I have had two refunds.

No big deal on one level, but on another it kinds of bugs me because I suspect these guys read the book in a couple of hours and then asked for a refund. Let me hasten to add that I understand and appreciate that the overwhelming majority of buyers are honest and fair. Hell, I never expected to sell much of anything anyway, but you know how it is. Every sale means something.

It just seems like Amazon should perhaps question its refund policy on a book that on the one hand is admittedly not a full-length novel but on the other only costs 99 cents. Wonder if any others have thoughts on this. Maybe I'm out of line. Like I said, I just wanted to vent a bit.

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Old 08-15-2011, 08:17 PM   #2
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The few figures I have seen on ebook returns are incredibly low, 1 percent or less. Even 5-10% would be reasonable. Amazon may be on the lookout for serial returners, but I have no doubt that its return policy is, in general, driving more sales than returns.

An exception to the low return rates might be poorly formatted ebooks. Another might be very short ebooks, although $0.99 for short content is reasonable if you know ahead of time how short it is.
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Old 08-15-2011, 08:37 PM   #3
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I got one return, but from the look of things it looks like someone double ordered my book. At least, that's what I tell myself

Can someone order two copies and just return one? Heh.
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Old 08-16-2011, 09:48 AM   #4
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I'm sure there are people who buy books, read them, and return them with seven days. I'm equally sure that a very large percentage of 99 cent purchases are never read.

Seems to me that it all sort of evens out in the long run.
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Old 08-16-2011, 11:28 AM   #5
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Heck, I've had my free book at Amazon refunded. Made me wonder what was so awful in it to antagonize that reader so. Ultimately you can't fixate on what a few folks do, just focus on the positive sales.
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Old 08-16-2011, 12:04 PM   #6
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Could just be a preference -- maybe they sampled several books on the same subject and went a different route.

I recently bought up several translations of The Arabian Nights on Amazon and spent time comparing them all. I didn't ask for a refund on the free books, but I did leave a 2-star review on one version.

I hope the "author" doesn't feel bad about my review, but it's a PD title and I had issues with the formatting and didn't like the translation.
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Old 08-17-2011, 05:44 AM   #7
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I think it is a good news/bad news thing. I'm selling a high-enough number of books to experience a statistical norm of returned books. It's just that this month seems to be the breakout month for returns. Such is my authorial ego that it didn't occur to me that someone might return a book because they didn't like it. I just figured they are fast readers who use Amazon as their lending library.

I guess the real question I should have asked is why allow book returns at all? Books aren't like toasters that either work or don't work. There is always an implied risk that you won't like the book. One of the reasons I price the books at 99 cents is that I realize I am an unknown quantity so I try to minimize the reader's risk by making the price so low.

That said, Amazon is a super operation that knows how to sell books. I would urge any e-book self-publisher to make sure they are on Amazon if they want to get any sales to speak of.
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Old 08-17-2011, 09:52 AM   #8
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Just my opinion: Keep the return policy, and if it bugs you, avoid looking at that number on your report. (If this proves a major need, I could write an Excel macro to handle that for a small fee. )

Seriously, I think doing a disservice to millions of shoppers just because a small handful might abuse the privilege is just wrong on several levels.

When I got the first return on my 99 cent short work, it put a frown on my face, but I quickly got over it when I realized that >99% of people who bought my work were keeping it, and not because they were stuck with it. They could have returned it, and didn't. That made me feel pretty darned good.

(The second return I got put a frown on my face until I realized that it was me...I hit the buy button on my Kindle accidentally while showing it to someone, and immediately clicked the "I bought this by mistake" link. Maybe that's what happened in the OP's case too. Who knows?)

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Old 08-17-2011, 10:34 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by G J Lau View Post
I guess the real question I should have asked is why allow book returns at all? Books aren't like toasters that either work or don't work. There is always an implied risk that you won't like the book. One of the reasons I price the books at 99 cents is that I realize I am an unknown quantity so I try to minimize the reader's risk by making the price so low.
The return policy is not based on binary-ness. There are some books that I buy that I simply don't want on my account any more -- I don't want to be reminded of their existence. I read an excerpt by an indie author once that suddenly went into VERY squicky trigger territory for me, so I didn't buy that book -- but if it had been outside the excerpt, I definitely would have stopped reading and asked for a return.

Other people return books because the quality is low, or the grammar and spelling are atrocious. Does the book still "function" as a book? Yes. Does that make it worth keeping? No. The return policy isn't based on work/doesn't-work -- it's a promise from the store to the customer that if what they are purchasing isn't what they THINK they want, then the customer has a grace period under which to get their money back.

Believe it or not, the return policy increases sales, because the purchaser is taking less of a chance when they buy your book. Because they know they CAN return it, they buy on spec and 99% of the time, they keep your book. If you took the return policy away, you'd lose the buy-on-spec buyers and I don't think many indie authors can afford that.
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Old 08-17-2011, 11:07 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by anamardoll View Post
Believe it or not, the return policy increases sales, because the purchaser is taking less of a chance when they buy your book. Because they know they CAN return it, they buy on spec and 99% of the time, they keep your book. If you took the return policy away, you'd lose the buy-on-spec buyers and I don't think many indie authors can afford that.
Good point. Let me say again I think (a) Amazon runs a good operation and (b) the 97 percent who keep and (I hope) enjoy the book are what matter most. Sales are good. Life is good. I'll quit kvetching and get back to writing.
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Old 08-17-2011, 11:09 AM   #11
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Just to second the point that return policies boost sales, I will buy from Amazon over other distributors, even though I usually shift the format to epub and read on a different device. The return policy is one of the reasons.

In contract, I despise the Android market, which has a 15 minute return policy.

I've probably returned two books since 2007, both accidents of hitting the buy button when I didn't mean to.

I've surely returned 10 Android market apps because the 15 minute review didn't convince me it did what it said.
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Old 08-17-2011, 01:49 PM   #12
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As a reader, I appreciate being able to return a book I know I won't read. For instance, I got caught up in the hype over Water For Elephants and one-clicked, despite my usual policy of sampling first. When I sat down to read it and realized it was written in present tense, I went right to Amazon to return it. I *LOATHE* novels written that way. It might be a great story, but it's "not for me."

I've also one-clicked Kindle books when I intended to click the Sample button. It happens. Don't assume those who return books are dishonest.
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Old 08-17-2011, 02:17 PM   #13
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God, yes, the Google Market 15 minutes is bollocks. One notepad application I purchased to sync with my Google Docs took 3 hours to "authorize" my purchase before the app would work, and after that I was well after the 15 minute mark. Fortunately, I ended up liking the app, but otherwise it would have been such a waste.

I'm also frustrated that there seems to be no way to delete an app from one's Market list after it's been bought. Without getting too triggery, I have a "pregnancy tracker" app that I will never ever use, and I would prefer not to see it every time I open my Market list.
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Old 08-17-2011, 02:20 PM   #14
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As a reader, I appreciate being able to return a book I know I won't read. For instance, I got caught up in the hype over Water For Elephants and one-clicked, despite my usual policy of sampling first. When I sat down to read it and realized it was written in present tense, I went right to Amazon to return it. I *LOATHE* novels written that way. It might be a great story, but it's "not for me."
Off on a tangent here...

I didn't really like WFE very much either, but not for that reason. I actually found WFE to be one of the few stories where the movie was better than the book. (They combined two characters, which reduced the confusion a bit, made the main character more likable in his older state, etc)

Anyhow... what I really wanted to ask, though, was what do you find so off-putting about writing in the present tense?
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Old 08-17-2011, 02:22 PM   #15
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Lots of people don't like present tense writing. I'm not a fan, but I did love The Hunger Games and those were present tense.
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