Kindle ReturnsHow long do you have to return a Kindle ebook after purchase?

6 hours, a day?

I was shocked to discover the answer.

This is from the Amazon Help Site:

Returning Kindle Books

Books you purchase from the Kindle Store are eligible for return and refund if we receive your request within seven days of the date of purchase. Once a refund is issued, you’ll no longer have access to the book. To request a refund and return, visit Manage Your Kindle, click the actions tab for the title you’d like to return, and select “Return for refund.”

Now I know why I am seeing more and more ‘Units Refunded’ on my sales reports from KDP. The logic defies me, but at least I do know now that some of my books are being read my the most miserable readers imaginable. Isn’t it enough that more than 3,500 Kindle ebooks are available for free each day under the KDP Select program? Apparently not for some, who take this most underhanded route.

Of course I have written to Amazon to express my concern at this policy, stating that in seven days an ebook could be read more than three times, but have no doubts that nothing will change in the near future.

I have no issue with this seven day return policy for physical goods, but for Kindle ebooks, it’s just plainly open to abuse.

Another Amazon Kindle Scam
Tagged on:                     

31 thoughts on “Another Amazon Kindle Scam

  • 07/10/2012 at 4:14 pm

    This is one of those things that Amazon does that makes it very hard to take anyone seriously who says Amazon are a good thing for writers. -Not that I think any corporation works for the benefit of anything else than their bottom line/shareholders.

    What I don’t really understand is why Amazon has a return policy for e-books that states a certain time either. I’m sure Amazon are capable of seeing if a Kindle book is read or not. It would be no problem for them to set a limit at lets say 10% of the text, or the size of the free sample.
    Which brings me to another thing that doesn’t really make sense; Why would you have both free samples AND accept returns for anything other than technical (i.e. something wrong with formatting or pages missing) when you can look at the book for free.

    I think you are right in that it is a scam. Whether the scam is to make it more attractive to buy a KIndle, or if it is to artificially inflate their e-book sales numbers, the ones who are paying for it are the authors who lose money.

    • 07/10/2012 at 4:18 pm

      I think this is a continuation of a long standing returns policy of Amazon, which was formulated with physical goods in mind. By applying to ebooks, it has opened the door for abuse though, and this is my concern. I think you raise a very valid alternative in measuring by the percentage that has been read. By that method, I would be happy, even if it was up to 50% of a book.

  • 07/10/2012 at 4:32 pm

    I think the two questions that need to be answered by Amazon are:

    1) Can a book be returned after it is read? I assume they can see when a book is synced and progress is noted,


    2) How many times can an individual buyer return items spuriously before action is taken? I’ve accidentally bought a book, but then returned it within the hour. I never waited nearly a week or read the book first before doing so. Too many returns looks bad for both an author (from a confidence point-of-view) and Amazon itself (from a “hey, it looks like we’re putting out crap point-of-view”). How many is too many?

    • 07/10/2012 at 4:54 pm

      I would like to be positive about Amazon’s reaction Rich, but as we have seen, they have taken no action on ‘trolls’ that are an becoming a disease on Kindle forums and book reviews. As far as Amazon are concerned, while it makes money, I don’t see anything changing and we’ll just have to suffer the beast we have been given to work with.

      With over 60% of the ebook market, it’s impossible as a self publisher to walk away from Amazon KPD. Probably the same for the mainstream publishers as well.

  • 07/10/2012 at 4:32 pm

    This is a horrible ‘blanket’ policy Derek. My work is a novelette, which can easily be read in a couple of hours. So basically, they can just download it, read, and give it back for a refund–all in the same afternoon. If Amazon wants to refund the reader, fine, but the author shouldn’t have to eat that. The money for the sale should stay, the stats for the sale should count, etc.

    Honestly, they should nix the policy for eBooks under a certain price point altogether. $2.99 and below doesn’t require a major financial investment (most people pay more for their cups of coffee these days), and there is no ‘inconvenience’ for the customer in terms of having to ship a book back, etc. Basically, they consumed a creative work and didn’t enjoy it. Which generally translates to, “They didn’t read the blurb, the reviews, or just bought it on a whim.”

    Museums won’t refund your money if you didn’t enjoy one of the paintings. A restaurant isn’t like to refund your money after you’ve eaten your meal and decide it wasn’t the best chicken you’ve ever had. And so on.

    • 07/10/2012 at 4:49 pm

      I have three novellas available EJ and these are the ones that seem to get the majority of returns. I could easily conclude that they have been read, enjoyed, and then returned for a refund. I just wonder if these creatures also have the audacity to post reviews of their ill gotten gains?

  • 07/10/2012 at 5:11 pm

    While I think it’s an unethical practice any way you slice it, this demographic you’re complaining about likely did the same thing with physical books from Amazon, since the same policy applies to them. Worse, there is no way to track the physical book version. So where do you draw the line?

    Frankly, I’m seeing this topic pop up more and more, and it’s turning me off of authors. Ignore the pirates and thieves: when you deal in electronic products they are a fact of life. Worry about your paying customers and make them feel welcome and loved. Posts like this one don’t do that, and add to the environment that treats legitimate customers like thieves.

    • 07/10/2012 at 5:22 pm

      In fairness Patrick, I think most authors pay a hell of a lot of attention to their readers. More than has ever been possible in the past. But most authors are not business people nor IT specialists, and it’s a whole new area of expertise to learn. On top of that, Amazon have so many rules, policies and changes to these quite regularly, it’s impossible to keep up.

      I think by raising issues like this, at least it assists authors in understanding that it’s not an easy business to be in.

      • 07/10/2012 at 5:35 pm

        Raising the issue (Amazon allows returns for seven days, even on ebooks) is different from the witch hunts I’ve witnessed (“the most miserable readers imaginable”). Talking about the first one opens dialogues, with both readers and other writers, the second creates a subclass of reader which might include legitimate readers who returned one of your books.

        Beyond that, Amazon has bowed to pressure from authors before. Talk about the policy itself, and while it’s a bit backwards for digital products (Most placed don’t allow ANY digital returns, and those that do limit it to a day or two) so that a better return policy is available. Or even better, since KDP is essentially consignment sales, let the publisher of KDP products set how long they want to allow returns (The same way you pick DRM, Text-to-Speech and a number of other elements of your publishing scheme) and print it on the sales page with the other information.

        The only catch here is Amazon would require the 7 day period for anyone participating in the 70% royalty option.

  • 07/10/2012 at 5:40 pm

    Not everyone starts reading right away though. What if they don’t realize how awful a book is until a few days later? Or don’t realize they accidentally purchased something through the 1-click-buy without meaning to.

    My understanding is that Amazon DOES keep track of those that habitually return, and abuse can cause them to lose the privilege.

    I really don’t think it’s fair to call it a scam. Does that favor the customer? Absolutely. But most businesses that I’m willing to spend my money at DO value and favor their customers. It just makes good customer service sense.

    • 07/10/2012 at 5:47 pm

      I’m glad to hear that Amazon do keep track Kelly, and I am certainly not against a fair return policy. I know mistakes can be made with ‘one click’ purchases and this is a reason why refunds should be possible. I just think a week is a little long when so much product information is available upfront.

  • 07/10/2012 at 10:56 pm

    How did contacting Amazon work out for you? Did they sent you the usual BS, evasive, non-reply they send everyone?
    Accepting returns on ebooks is an invitation to allow the authors to be ripped-off. I have paperbacks in several bookstores in my area and I told them that I will accept no returned books under any conditions. I am not about to let people buy the book read it and then return it. It should be the same on Amazon, no refunds on ebooks, period.

  • 07/10/2012 at 11:09 pm

    I own a Kindle, and because of it I’ve gotten back into the habit of doing something I had let fall by the wayside for years: Reading. In fact, if it weren’t for the Kindle, I would not have read any of the books I’ve read in the past six months.

    But the truth is, I’ll often buy a Kindle edition if it’s on sale at a special price. But I may not get around to reading it for quite a while. I haven’t returned anything yet, but I can easily see where it might happen.

    I’m sorry, but I don’t think seven days is that big of a deal. There will always be those who will try to beat the system regardless of what the product is. Worse, you have no hard numbers or data as to how this policy has affected you. It’s all supposition on your part. I am for the most part squarely in the author’s corner. But this just smells kind of whiny to me unless you come up with some hard facts instead of dreaming up possibilities. You sound like you’re the new RIAA.

    • 08/10/2012 at 8:34 am

      You’re perfectly correct Joseph, my post is based on pure supposition. But the reason is because Amazon are one of the most secretive companies around and are infamous for not revealing data or information. As with any question I ask Amazon, it is answered with a ‘copy and paste’ reply that says nothing at all except to refer to their policy which I included in my post.

      My concern is not with them having a refund policy. Depending on laws in different parts of the world, I am sure it is a legal obligation. I just think that 7 days is open to abuse, and combined with the lack of action taken by Amazon against the ‘one star’ troll reviewers that have become increasingly active recently, I believe Amazon could do a lot more to refine their Kindle platform for the benefit of readers and authors.

  • 08/10/2012 at 12:14 am

    There should be no refunds after 6 hours, if it has taken you more than a quarter of a day to look at something you bought, too bad. there is information about the book, if it was enough to make you buy it then too bloody bad, i watched a lot of film trailers and went to the movies or bought a DVD based on the cover to find out it was crap, but no one else gets a refund.

    If you went shopping I would give you twelve hours to get home and looks to see if you got the wrong one. But read what readers say about themselves, a book in a few days, so absolutely not 7 days. There must be a no refunds button you can click, if not piss off Amazon and go elsewhere, remember, they hold millions in cash earning interest even on refunds so they don’t give a rat ass that the author got jack shit. If you cop this crap, then you deserve this crap.

  • 08/10/2012 at 12:24 am

    Hi Derek!

    As long as the percentage of buyers who do not return is larger than the percentage who do then you should be ecstatically happy, yeah?

    Wherever there is a system there’ll be someone trying to beat it. The system in this case is one that you can’t really change so don’t waste your time worrying about a tiny proportion of the returns you’re getting (most of your returns would be legitimate, I’m sure). Instead, take your dog for a long walk and when you get back sit down and write another chapter to your next best seller.

    Kind regards,

    • 08/10/2012 at 7:44 am

      Hi Steve. You’re right in what you say. However as can be seen from the comments on this post, many were unaware of the issue, and even though I may have added some attention grabbing lines, I think it’s important that newly self published authors know what the rules are. From the reaction I have had on here and other forums, it’s clear many did not know.

      As Kelly, a previous commenter said that she believes Amazon do keep tabs on those who return repeatedly, I would hope that the practice is monitored. But as Amazon have yet to limit review ‘trolls’, I’m not overly confident.

      But one part of this issue still bugs me. Why is it possible to return a free ebook for a refund? lol

      • 08/10/2012 at 9:16 am

        But one part of this issue still bugs me. Why is it possible to return a free ebook for a refund? lol

        Yeah, that does seem a bit odd, not that Amazon allows it, but that anyone would bother to return a free item. Still not worth losing sleep over though. :-)

  • 08/10/2012 at 1:15 am

    you can’t be serious??? the chances of an accidentla purchase are remote, very remore, one in a thousand if you are lucky, no other site has these amount of returns, and anything else is theft, so its ok if a take a car for a test drive so i can do my shopping and then take it back?? I don’t think so, no pirates and no thieves, I work hard at what i do and I expect to be paid for every item that leave my store, e store or physical store.

    A what point did we start building systems for morons who can’t see what they bought???/??? on a physical book for those of you who don’t know, a publisher pays the author 10 percent average of wholesale price which is around 5 dollars for mass produced books, or 50 cents a copy, there should be at least a 50 cent charge payable to the author for being a dickhead and waiting their time, further it isn’t cost free if just one of you realized there are sales volume on most ebook site limits, and returns do not give you back the extra sale within your limit, so you pay, yes pay the site for a book you did not sell. if i sold a 100 books on ebay and 50 percent were returned, i cant sell 50 more. Screw the dummies, in fact anyone who returns more than 3 books should be banned from the site forever as a thief. once you are careless or stupid. twice is not likely but possible, 3 times is deliberate or someone who should not own a credit card

    • 09/10/2012 at 1:22 am

      I had an instance when I was using my husband’s kindle for the first time (having never used one before) where I accidentally bought several books that I thought were a certain price… and then an hour later (when all the confirmations came), realized that they were far more expensive than I had thought I had bought them for. At the actual price, they weren’t worth the purchase price to me.

      I hadn’t read them… and I was glad for the policy which allowed me to return them. Saved me from my husband being quite perturbed at me.

      But sure, as you say… perhaps that just makes me stupid. *shrugs*

  • 08/10/2012 at 9:27 am

    I notice that the bulk of my purchase-read-returns happen with my YA titles. It’s maddening, but I think if the technology had been available when I was a teenager I might have done the same thing. (On the other hand, even back then I had a hard time letting go of any book — so I dunno!)

    As for the adults … shame on them.


  • 08/10/2012 at 11:20 am

    As an addendum to this post, I have received further information from Amazon that raises an issue I hadn’t considered. It would appear from their reply that there are occasionally a problems with a book’s description not being reliable. Amazon did not say misleading, but I would venture to say that this could happen as well. In this case, I would certainly agree with their refund policy.

    They also mentioned in their reply that they monitor abuse.

    This is a quote from the relevant part of their reply.

    “We may also issue refunds for reasons we deem appropriate, which may include accidental purchases, dissatisfaction due to poor visual quality, or a book’s contents not matching its description. We actively monitor for abuse of this policy.”

    While I still think that 7 days is a little generous for ebook refunds, I do hope that from Amazon’s response to my concerns, they will monitor this carefully and not only protect their clients, but also their authors.

  • 09/10/2012 at 12:45 am

    Amazon’s current policy on returns is open to abuse. Even if Amazon are monitoring returns it is possible to create a new account, ‘buy’ an ebook, remove any DRM and save the ebook. It can then be returned for a refund and the unprotected book shared. Limiting the time for returns would probably help little unless it was a matter of a few minutes – long enough to return a book purchased by accident.

  • 17/10/2012 at 2:20 pm

    I’m curious about this policy. I thought Amazon put in a blocker that once you read a certain percentage of the book (say over 50%) it’s impossible to return. Is this not the case?

    • 17/10/2012 at 2:42 pm

      No TEdun. The advice I received from Amazon indicates this is not the case. So you can eat it all, then return it.

      • 17/10/2012 at 2:53 pm

        Thanks for replying Derek. An interesting issue there. I recently downloaded a self-published ebook. After reading five pages and barely getting through it I knew this book wasn’t satisfactory for me. So I returned it. Granted, I made the return within two hours but sometimes I download a bunch of books and don’t get to a specific one for days. If I don’t like the style of writing or it’s poorly written I still think I should be able to return it. I don’t abuse the policy by reading the book and returning them. I just feel I like I should get my money’s worth.

  • 18/01/2013 at 2:36 am

    I’ve never believed Amazon was good for anyone except itself and certainly not for writers in the long term. I’ve always believed that books and writers were never more than a cheap incentive for Amazon to draw more customers to its website. And the cheaper it could get us, the more Amazon likes it.

Comments are closed.