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Amazon tightens its ebook return policy to thwart BookTok

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Amazons logo. | Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Amazon plans to limit automatic returns of ebooks 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 had read in full to get their money back, is expected to happen by the end of the year.

The Authors Guild says it reached the deal after negotiations with Amazon executives. individual authors expressed concern about an increase in yield earlier this year, noting that Amazon would bill them for any royalties they earned from the books. Some attributed the rise of the practice to video platform TikTok’s book community, and in a press release the guild accused “BookTok influencers” of encouraging people to get “free” books by buying them and then returning them. Earlier, Amazon said it had “policies and mechanisms in place to prevent abuse of our ebook return policy”. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the pending change.

People can still return books they’ve read larger volumes of on Amazon. But according to the Authors Guild, they must send a customer service request that is manually reviewed and buyers can be fined if they regularly abuse it.

The liberal return policy has been a perennial point of discussion for authors and other creators. In 2020, Audible, an audiobook platform owned by Amazon tightened up a rule those royalties withheld for titles returned or exchanged within one year of the purchase date. (After the change, authors kept royalties on anything returned after seven days.) Similarly, last year, game developer Emika Games said: that the Steam store’s two-hour return policy penalized people who made short games by letting players buy, complete, and return them.

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