Amazon’s updated e-book return policy looks like a big win for authors

Anyone who has so far made use of Amazon’s generous right of return for e-books could soon experience a shock. That’s because, after discussions with the Authors Guild, Amazon agreed to block the automatic return of digital books that were read more than 10 percent.

Currently, the problem for authors at Amazon is that customers can return e-books online at any time within seven days of purchase, regardless of how much content has been consumed. This means if you can read a book in less than a week, you can simply return it for free when you’re done, resulting in lost profits for the author.

However, under the new policy, which is due to take effect before the end of the year, Amazon will start blocking the automatic return of e-books that have been read more than 10 times, which will then have to be verified by a representative, to ensure that the return is genuine. The Authors Guild says the goal is to create a deterrent for people abusing Amazon’s current policies and to prevent people from treating Amazon’s e-book marketplace as a surrogate library.

Problems with Amazon’s return policy for e-books date back more than a decade, but recently came under renewed fire after lifehacks about the company’s policies began circulating online. And according to NPR, in some cases, abuse of the company’s returns policy even resulted in some authors having negative earnings histories, which typically happened when customers returned an e-book after the creator had been paid by Amazon.

Thankfully, after both the Authors Guild and the Society of Authors in the UK raised concerns earlier this year, Amazon appears to have finally decided to update its policies, with the Authors Guild releasing a statement thanking the company for that it is “acting in good faith” against returns abuse.

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