Authors denounce the trend of reading and returning ebooks: NPR

The authors are sounding the alarm over a TikTok trend encouraging people to read and return ebooks to Amazon. Self-published authors say Amazon’s lenient return policy jeopardizes their livelihoods.



STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

OKAY. A lot of people – maybe you’ve even done that, Rachel; I don’t know – buy clothes and then return them?

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Yes.

INSKEEP: Would you? You do this?

MARTIN: I did.

CONSERVATION: OK. OK. People do. And if it doesn’t fit, of course, it’s reasonable. But some authors would like buyers to do this a little less often with books, especially e-books sold on Amazon.

MARTIN: Yeah, here’s the deal. Social media influencers have been promoting what they call a life hack, encouraging readers to buy e-books, read them super fast, then return them within seven days to get their money back. Critics of Amazon and its founder, Jeff Bezos, say taking advantage of some generous e-book return policies is a way to slap the online retailer.

INSKEEP: But apparently you don’t just hit big business. Self-published authors say they hurt themselves. Lisa Kessler writes paranormal romance books and says that every time a reader returns one of her e-books, Amazon takes back the royalties.

LISA KESSLER: Unless you’re Nora Roberts or Stephen King, you’re doing – you know, you’re a starving artist. And so when people reject an entire series, it really crushes the writers. It’s a big shock when everyone comes back.

MARTIN: Kessler posted his losses on Twitter. His tweet, Amazon is not a library, went viral.

KESSLER: There were replies to the tweet from people who had 250 books returned, which – to put it in regular numbers, you know, is, like, over $800 from an author. I would cry. Mine wasn’t that bad, but I was crying.

INSKEEP: We contacted Amazon, and they told NPR that they were working to prevent abuse of the return policy. But the authors say the problem persists.

MARTIN: There is, however, a silver lining for Lisa Kessler. Since she tweeted that readers were returning her e-books, she says her sales have skyrocketed.

INSKEEP: (Laughs) There you go. Amazon was good for her after all.

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