Friday, April 5, 2013

An Open Letter To Amazon

Update: One more thing, we're all focusing on the pirating which is a concern, but what about all the people who simply buy the book, read it and return it? That's still a loss for the author.


Hi,

I contacted you earlier because of the three returns I had overnight. My initial concern was that readers were complaining about something. I was confused as I spent a great deal of time and money making sure both books were meticulously written and professionally edited. But then I googled why ebooks get returned and found forums that stated people just don't want to pay. And why should they when you make reading and returning oh-so-easy?

Then I had another thought. I used Kindle Select for a reason this time, and it wasn't the ability to give my book away for free. Back in the fall, I uploaded a copy of my first book to Smashwords for a test. I then unpublished it and republished on it's release day. That test sold a copy, and before the book officially released it was pirated. I didn't complain about it. I chalked it up to discoverability and a learning lesson. This time I chose to publish only with you! Because you're Amazon. The best. I planned to use a pre-order page to create the links for the blog tour, and at least postpone the inevitable until release day. Then you told me kindle direct doesn't offer this. That was okay, because you're Amazon. The best.  I priced the book at $2.99, because pirates hate paying. While I'm the kind of author who has never turned down a request for a reviewer's copy, pirates don't even leave reviews! But thanks to your seven day refund policy, my book--which has not officially released yet--has had 21 illegal downloads since it went live on your site this morning.

Just thought you should know how helpful this policy actually is. And you can expect this to be copied to my blog and fb tweeted and retweeted.

Thank you,
Beth

UPDATE: They responded. 
Hello Beth,

Thanks for sharing your feedback about our current Kindle content refund policy. I'll share your input with the appropriate folks for consideration.

Customers can return any item purchased from the Kindle Store within seven days of purchase.

We've found this time frame is a good compromise for customers and publishers, and allows us to provide the best experience for both.

You can view our Kindle content return policy at the following link:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=200144510#content

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.

Please be assured that we actively monitor for abuse of this policy.

In order to avoid unauthorized copying of digital content we give publishers the option to enable DRM for their works. Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology is intended to inhibit unauthorized access to or copying of digital content files for titles.

As an author or publisher, you choose whether to apply DRM to your content, and when you do, we respect and protect that DRM.

Please see the information posted in the License Agreement and Terms of Use and the Kindle Store:

http://www.amazon.com/kindlelicense

I checked our records and found that your book, "The Other Marlowe Girl" has made two sales which were also refunded. I'm unsure about the 21 downloads you're referring to.

If you would please write back with more information, we'd be glad to help you as soon as possible. You may reply to us by visiting this page:

https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/contact-us

Thanks for using Amazon KDP.

My response: DRM was enabled. Also, I would like to point out I read 3 books the first 3 days of this week. A 7 day return policy allows Amazon to be used like a library, especially taking into consideration poor quality and visual quality can easily be determined by downloading a sample.

36 comments:

  1. That's just awful, Beth! They have to fix this.

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  2. Wow! What is up with some parts of this industry? The fact that even such a loophole exists is awful. Thank you for bringing it to our attention.

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  3. That just sucks! Sorry you are having to deal with this. :(

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  4. Sorry you're having troubles, Beth. One of my publishers has a petition at Facebook for Amazon to change the 7 day return policy. That gives people time to read the book then return it. I don't know if it will do any good or not.

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    1. Beverly, do you have a link to this?

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  5. Yeah this is crazy. People will take advantage. Which makes me wonder what kind of reader does this??

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    1. Pirates & people who don't want to pay.

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  6. I feel your pain, Beth. There should be a price limit for Kindle returns. Anything under $5 should be restricted from returns or some kind of compromise needs to be reached.

    Pirating is out of control too. Scribd has even burned me lately.

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    1. I agree. It usually takes a few days to get a return on credited back to a card, so maybe if Amazon forced them to spend $10 they'd be less inclined to buy it for stripping.

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  7. I've had two purchases on my new book (Without A Voice), and one return. My first book (A short book of fairy tales) was also pirated a short time after it went up. It was up on Amazon with a slightly altered title, the same author name and apparently the content unchanged. I found six other affected books in a cursory search.

    They can't figure out that two books with the same author, the same title and identical content are up on their site? The fact that all of these pirates are taking advantage of the same company's policies should tell us something.

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  8. Wow, thanks for pointing out the glitches.

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  9. So sorry that happened to you. BTW DRM is a joke. Pirates know how to disable it. For some people 7 days is an eternity but for a slow reader like me 7 days is about what it takes to finish a 200-300 page length novel. That being said again the pirates don't care and will just buy and return it after stealing it

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    1. You make two really good points. I agree that DRM is a joke and takes about an hour to strip. It also prevents legit readers from reading in some cases. But you also say you're a slow reader and it takes you about seven days to finish a book. Most book stores won't let you return a book after it's been read.

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    2. As they shouldn't. Though I do agree though that if the book is not what it is supposed to be. I remember years ago there was that infomercial with the guy selling a book that claimed to have miracle cures for all these different diseases. Turns out there were no cures in the book at all. He then sold people information to other telemarketers etc. That would be one of the few cases where I think a book should be taken back.

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    3. I read a book last year that wasn't what it was supposed to be. I can see giving a refund for that. I was totally disturbed by it. (I didn't know about this policy so I didn't ask). But that has to be a rare circumstance. And it would have to be really outrageous, I think. Like the situation you cited deserves a refund, but I once bought a YA book that sounded like a romance but wasn't. I don't think that deserves a refund. However, I later bought a YA book mislabeled as NA that was supposed to be a romance and turned out to be very graphic and about the sexual abuse of a minor. I can see getting refund for that.

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    4. Oh I agree completely! BTW what do you think about the fact that Amazon now owns goodreads? I'm not happy at all

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    5. Amazon has a lot of fake reviews. Goodreads has been more reliable...it will be interest to see what happens now..

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  10. Seven days is reasonable for an item which must be sent through the mail. A person downloading a book would likely know immediately whether they had made a mistake. This policy should be adjusted based on the reasonable response time of a person realizing they downloaded the incorrect item.

    Of course, pirates would complain.

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    1. Yep. But Amazon doesn't just want to refund for the an incorrect download or accidental purchase. They also want to download for poor content quality and poor visual quality. On the surface, this sounds like a good thing, but we're forgetting Amazon allows sampling of ebooks. (All of them as far as I know). That means if there is a content issue or formatting errors, you would know before you bought it. The only people using this policy are people looking for something for nothing and pirates.

      But I think Faith made a good point above about restricting refunds to a specific $$ amount.

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  11. It just blows my mind that people will buy a book, read it, then return it. Where is the honestly these days? I'm SO sorry!!

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    1. In my case, I'm pretty sure they didn't read it. They just stripped it, put it online for free and asked for a refund.

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    2. There have always been dishonest people. We just have a better forum these days for getting the word out there. I work as a customer service cashier for a major retailer. We have a very lenient return policy. I have seen some of the grossest things ever brought back. Used items full of mold and muck. Just the other day we had a woman return a coffee urn that she said wasn't used. Opened it up to find a diaper inside! So it saddens but doesn't surprise me that people read and then return books.

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    3. Oh that is gross! I think the thing that surprises me is that most bookstores wouldn't allow a read book to be returned, and that books aren't the kind of thing you usually use twice (unless it's non-fiction). When I think of novels I've re-read it comes down to The Twilight Saga and The Perfect Chemistry Series. And that's it.

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    4. I actually have a number of books that I've re-read more than once. These days I don't do it as much as I did when I was younger and had all the time in the world to read. Though every couple of years I get the Potter itch and have to reread all of the Harry Potter books.

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  12. Since I (and apparently you too) didn't even know there was a return policy, I think this is a problem that will only affect you in the beginning when pirates and thieves are racing to get your book (and everyone else's). In another couple of months, I'm sure your sales will increase and there will be very few returns. But, yeah, 7 days is too long.
    I'm surprised you actually reached a person at Amazon. When I ordered 2 books last year and they never arrived, I never found any way to complain or ask for my money back - they just kept giving me a page about contacting their shipper, who told me that as soon as the books are sent, they have no way of tracking or insuring they get there. And considering, Amazon won't download to Africa, there's now no way I can get books from them at all. But that's my problem. I'm sorry about yours. :-(

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    1. Lexa I had major problems with Amazon in the past. In fact I wrote a blog post a few months ago about them double charging me. I had to jump through hoop after hoop to get them to give me my money back. They kept claiming it was my bank and my bank had proof that it was double charge. I ended up not only being double charged but I recieved two overage fees because of them. I emailed them daily and posted several times on facebook complaining. They finally called me and made things right. I had to dispute the double charge at my bank. Amazon paid for my overage fees.

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    2. I ordered a camera from Amazon and never received it. They refunded my money the very next day. I'm shocked to hear this. I don't know why. They seem to do whatever they want.

      @Lexa--Amazon sells no ebooks anywhere in Africa?

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  13. I frequently get a handful of returns during a month, and agree, people should download a sample if available and then buy the book if they like what they've gotten. And I don't get "accidental purchases." Either you click the "buy it now" button or you don't. What's hard about that?

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    1. I've accidentally hit the buy button before, but then it asks you to confirm it...

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  14. One would think it would be in Amazon's long term business interest to address this problem in a manner other than the "Oh well, crap happens" approach they currently have.

    I checked their return policy page and found while purchases for books has a seven day window, purchase from Kindle store for apps, MP3's and Instant Video have a no return policy. The book policy seems like an invitation to pirate or read/return.

    I just don't know, maybe I'm too old school to realized Amazon's genius.

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    1. I later learned that the person who pirated my book pirates on average 50 books a day including some national best sellers. Some of the webistes fizzie uploads to are allowing other users to "donate" for the free books.

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  15. I'm with Courtney. Before I read this, I had never considered buying a book, reading it, then returning it. It blows me mind that people would do that! If you love books ... how could you do that? If you want to read a book without paying, go to the library. I agree what's also been said about a price limit for the seven day return policy. I've bought books that I've been disappointed with, but when it's less than $5 to buy it then I always think Oh well, lesson learned, avoid this author.

    It's like if you go to the movies. If you end up not liking it, you can't go back to the customer service and get your money back. You had time to see trailers and read reviews to decide whether you'd like it or not (in a books case, read the sampler).

    I'm sorry this happened to you. It's shocking Amazon doesn't have a better plan for it. Like you said, they're Amazon. The best.

    And pirates are horrible.

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    1. I never really hated piates. I assumed most of the were just young people or otherwise broke and really wanted to read the book. I never thought for a second that someone would download 50 books/day! A Day.

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