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Amazon is tightening its ebook return policy to thwart BookTok

Amazon is tightening its ebook return policy to thwart BookTok

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Automatic returns only apply if you’ve read 10 percent of a book or less

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Amazon’s Logo
Amazon’s Logo.
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Amazon plans to limit automatic ebook returns to cases where people have read no more than 10 percent of the book, according to the Authors Guild. The change, which follows complaints that Kindle buyers were returning titles they’d fully read to get a refund, is expected to take place by the end of the year.

The Authors Guild says it reached the deal after negotiating with Amazon executives. Individual authors raised concerns about an uptick in returns earlier this year, noting that Amazon would bill them for any royalties they earned from the books. Some pinned the practice’s rise on the book community of video platform TikTok, and in a press release, the guild blamed “BookTok influencers” for encouraging people to get “free” books by buying and then returning them. Previously, Amazon said it had “policies and mechanisms in place to prevent our ebooks returns policy from being abused.” The company didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the pending change.

People can still return books they’ve read larger portions of on Amazon. But according to the Authors Guild, they’ll need to send a customer service request that will be manually reviewed and could subject buyers to penalties if they habitually abuse it.

Liberal return policies have been a perennial point of dispute for authors and other creators. In 2020, Amazon-owned audiobook platform Audible tightened a rule that deducted royalties for titles returned or exchanged within a year from the purchase date. (After the change, authors kept royalties for anything returned after seven days.) Similarly, last year, game developer Emika Games said that the Steam storefront’s two-hour return policy penalized people who made short games by allowing players to buy, complete, and return them.

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