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Speedreaders Lose, Authors Win in New Amazon Ebook Policy Change

Amazon will accept your ebook return, but only if you haven't read more than 10% of the book.

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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos holds up two Kindles at a press conference in 2012. The ebook reader was originally released in 2007.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos holds up two Kindles at a press conference in 2012. The ebook reader was originally released in 2007.
Image: David McNew (Getty Images)

Amazon has switched up its return policy for those who purchase ebooks on its marketplace. The tech company will only accept ebook returns from users who have read no more than 10% of the book.

I am not an ebook reader as I much prefer the tactile and olfactory sense of flipping through the pages of a bound book. No matter how pretentious I may be, I do now share empathy with the ebook community as Amazon has revamped its return policy for digital literature. Previously, the tech giant has allowed customers to return ebooks they purchased after seven days via cancellation of their order, but a new policy influenced by the Authors Guild now only allows customers to return books that they have read less than 10% of.


“The Authors Guild is proud to report that our discussions with Amazon’s senior executive team concerning the platform’s policy that allows readers to return ebooks online within seven days of purchase, regardless of the amount read, have resulted in a major breakthrough,” the guild said in a press release. “This process will create a strong deterrent against buying, reading, and returning ebooks within seven days, and readers who attempt to abuse the return policy will be penalized under Amazon’s policies.”

Customers that want to return a book that they have read more than 10% of will have to submit a specific request to a customer service agent that will undergo a review process, which will likely be a lengthy and annoying process to dissuade these kinds of returns. This new policy appears to be a way to thwart quick readers who will consume a book within a week, only to return it for their money back. More specifically, on BookTok, which is an informal subsect of TikTok creators and viewers that are avid readers, content creators explained how to game Amazon’s return policy in a trend called #ReadAndReturn according to Vice. But while this new policy may seem like a greedy move by a tech giant to prevent loss of revenue, it is actually incredibly helpful to self-publishing authors selling their work on the platform.


Authors that self-publish ebooks on Amazon are actually hurt by returns as royalties that are paid to the author are deducted from their earnings. In other words, if an individual book is returned then its treated as if it has no longer been sold, therefore the author doesn’t get to keep the money they made from it—this can sometimes even lead to a negative earnings balance, according to NPR. Authors have been rightfully frustrated and concerned about this previous policy, with paranormal fiction author Lisa Kessler stating on Twitter that “Amazon is NOT a library.”

The Authors Guild says that this new change will go into effect later this year.