This rant is specifically about serial returners of ebooks at Amazon.com – it’s not about returns of ebooks anywhere else or the return of paperbacks, because this is not much of a problem right now. But, the problem of serial ebook returners at Amazon is getting worse – despite an alleged crackdown on them in January this year.
What is a serial returner, you ask?
A serial returner is a habitual returner of retail merchandise – in this case, ebooks. They buy and return them, one after the other.
While there are legitimate reasons for returns, such as a defective product, there is no reason for someone to go through an entire author’s or publisher’s list, buying and returning books in succession.
Why are they doing this?
Like other criminally-minded people, they’re doing it because they can. And, they can because Amazon is allowing it to happen.
Serial returning is piracy and like all other pirates, they are dishonest people who don’t mind committing fraud, especially if they can do it within Amazon’s Terms of Service and not get in any serious trouble.
Petition to Stop E-book Refund Fraud at Amazon at Change.org
Authors upset about returns, in general, have signed a petition at Change.org requesting Amazon.com to, at least, stop taking returns on books that have been read. Although, it doesn’t specifically address the problem of serial returners, who sometimes go through an author’s entire series of books in a set, buying and returning them, it’s something.
The following link goes to a very short article, called Return to Sender: Why Return Ebooks?, which is proceeded by a bunch of comments about the above petition. The article isn’t much, but some of the comments are interesting. Some justify this form of piracy just like pirates always justify their nefarious activities to the victims. They say, “Live with it!” – “It’s not really hurting you.” They, also, justify theft of books when they cannot afford them, although ebooks are extremely affordable (many between .99 and 2.99).
But, the best comment is # 14 by Ekatarina Sayanova who says:
“Returning an ebook because you don’t “like” it is promoting what essentially amounts to piracy. Whether or not you will like a story is the chance you take. Caveat emptor. Besides, you can download a free preview. If you buy the book after reading the preview and don’t like the book, tough. Get over it and move on.”
“The only valid reason to “return” an ebook would be if the file was corrupted and you were not able to access it on your ereader, or it did not display properly. A refund would be issued only if, after downloading the second file, the file still didn’t work properly. Because free previews are available, there is absolutely no reason to be permitted to return an ebook for a full refund.”
“Here’s what everyone is refusing to understand: Those returned books are resold and the author does not make a single penny on the resales. The sale of a copyrighted work without royalties paid to the author is piracy – plain and simple. Amazon gets away with it because of a loophole in the law or because they are (paraphrasing) “too big to prosecute”.”
“I’m an editor. I bust my professional rear end working with my author clients to get the best possible story out to the readers. I’m not a charity and cannot work for nothing. Those who complain about stories that need editing – guess what? Piracy is one of the reasons why authors (indy authors especially) sometimes can’t make enough to hire professional editors. (Don’t get me started on what small publishers charge authors for editing.) There is nothing we’d like better than to see to it that every ebook sold went out without errors and read as smooth as the finest brandy feels going down the throat. It isn’t going to happen if the author can’t make money because the work they sweat blood over is being sold without them getting compensation.”
“So, the next time you return that ebook because you don’t “like” it and you didn’t take the time to read the preview, or simply because you just don’t “like it” , or because you think you can get away with something, remember that book is someone’s livelihood. How would you like to put a year of your life into something and see it stolen out from under you? Hmmmmmm?”
“I didn’t think so.”
I just couldn’t have said it any better!