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All Things Writing & Publishing > Should refunds be allowed for ebooks?

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message 1: by Segilola (new)

Segilola Salami (segilolasalami) | 405 comments As a self published author, I dedicate a considerable amount of time soliciting for reviews for my books.

In addition to the reviews, retailers like Amazon have a look inside feature that allows potential readers to read the first few pages of a book to see if it meets their needs.

Now if after reading the reviews and the first few pages a reader decides to buy that ebook, should that person then be entitled to a full refund? Considering that an ebook is a digital product that once received is theoretically consumed immediately.

In the UK for instance, there are a lot of retailers that do not give cash refunds, instead they give you a gift card/credit note to use to make another purchase. One of the conditions for refund is that the product has not been used and is returned in its original packaging undamaged if you simply change your mind.

But with a digital product, reading the book in my opinion is consuming it. No one goes to a restaurant, eats a plate of food completely and asks for a refund. So why should ebooks be any different? Wouldn't it be in line with what other retailers are doing to say that a gift card be issued to be redeemed against another book written by an author?

I have read of one instance where a reader buys a book, reads it, enjoys it but still asks for a refund.

What are your thoughts on this?


message 2: by Aaron (new)

Aaron Kennedy | 11 comments One of the issues with Ebooks is the potential for a "corrupted copy." It's entirely possible to get an ebook where the formatting is so bad as to be unreadable. Not necessarily through the Author's fault, but through the transmission medium (like Amazon).

Additionally, there is also the possibility of "not as advertised" which with electronic media is possible. Getting 40 pages when you expect 300+ for $4.00 might trigger a refund demand.

Unfortunately, some people will abuse any system.

So, should refunds be allowed? Yes. Should they be the exception. Absolutely.


Tara Woods Turner | 2063 comments The retailer must always, always give the customer the benefit of the doubt and assume that he/she is honest. In addition, the less hassle free the return the more buying confidence the customer has. With digital book sales you are missing a sale opportunity for sure but retailers will always side with the customers.


message 4: by Segilola (last edited Oct 20, 2016 08:13AM) (new)

Segilola Salami (segilolasalami) | 405 comments Interesting points you make Aaron, but in those instances, shouldn't it be a case of replacement?

If a copy is corrupted, I would think the reader would ask the retailer to 'push' another copy to their device? If the page count was advertised as 300+ pages but what was delivered was significantly less, again, unless there actually are only 40 pages for instance (which in my opinion is misselling) then surely it would be a case of asking for another copy?

Until recently, it never even occurred to me that you could ask for a refund on ebooks.


message 5: by Segilola (new)

Segilola Salami (segilolasalami) | 405 comments Tara wrote: "The retailer must always, always give the customer the benefit of the doubt and assume that he/she is honest. In addition, the less hassle free the return the more buying confidence the customer ha..."

Sure no doubt, but like some brick and mortar stores, wouldn't it be better if it was a credit note/gift card refund than a cash refund?


Tara Woods Turner | 2063 comments I do think that would be better but either way the retailer is going to debit that sale from the author. In the retailer, customer, author food chain we are at the bottom.


message 7: by Segilola (new)

Segilola Salami (segilolasalami) | 405 comments it's a shame though :(


Tara Woods Turner | 2063 comments Also, despite the preview some books just aren't what they promise. Audible actually has a great listen guarantee and you can return a book for any reason, even if you simply didn't like the ending.


message 9: by Marie Silk (last edited Oct 20, 2016 09:08AM) (new)

Marie Silk | 1020 comments Amazon is very customer oriented, which is a good thing imo. Also they put those 1-click buttons on the product page that are really easy to accidentally click on. I have almost clicked on it a dozen times when all I wanted to do was read it on Kindle Unlimited, so I have to read carefully to make sure I get the right one.

I think many refunds are probably from accidental buying, and others are from people who just didn't like the book. I would think the exception is that people who are just trying to get free books. I was also shocked when I found out that my ebooks could be returned!

A few of my books are refunded every month (out of several hundred), which is always a bummer of course, but there's nothing I can do about it. I guess it is lucky that I'm not technically "out" anything like shipping costs, just a little pride :D.

What I would like to see is an explanation, since I have to choose a canned explanation the few times I have asked for refunds (not on ebooks). The reasons should look something like this and can be seen by the author:

1. I thought book was free
2. I did not finish the book because I didn't like it
3. Poor quality writing/formatting
4. Bought on accident
5. Bad file

At least this could take some of the guesswork out of it for us :).


message 10: by Segilola (new)

Segilola Salami (segilolasalami) | 405 comments a few years ago, when I bought a video game (not a fan, so don't buy for personal use) the terms from the retailer was that it was not eligible for a refund should I simply change my mind. so why are books different?


message 11: by Segilola (new)

Segilola Salami (segilolasalami) | 405 comments Marie wrote: "Amazon is very customer oriented, which is a good thing imo. Also they put those 1-click buttons on the product page that are really easy to accidentally click on. I have almost clicked on it a doz..."

Exactly Marie, an 'I accidently clicked on 1-click' purchase is the only logical excuse in my opinion. If the author has taken the time to garner reviews, then that should tell the reader whether or not the writing was poor quality. There are several steps from adding book to cart to making payment for one to realise that it is not free. I wouldn't ask for a refund at a restaurant if I chose to not finish my meal

Oh well, fingers crossed, there aren't that many readers who just want a book for free


message 12: by Marie Silk (last edited Oct 20, 2016 09:16AM) (new)

Marie Silk | 1020 comments I should add that I have seen Facebook "street teams" post that a book is free, then when I go to the link, it is full price.

I did my first countdown deal ever last month and struggled with the time zone settings. So I thought my book was still on sale and advertised it as 99 cents for the day on a tweet, only to find it had just gone back to full price. I felt soooo bad! Also had 4 refunds of that book on that day. Oops!


Tara Woods Turner | 2063 comments Segilola wrote: "a few years ago, when I bought a video game (not a fan, so don't buy for personal use) the terms from the retailer was that it was not eligible for a refund should I simply change my mind. so why a..."

A video game or dvd can easily be cloned and resold as bootlegs. It is not impossible to do this with a digital book but it is more difficult and not nearly as profitable. People want blockbuster films and Black Ops 7, not the latest thriller or romance, so to speak, as the latter is so cheap there is no barrier to acquisition. It's economic supply and demand.


message 14: by Segilola (new)

Segilola Salami (segilolasalami) | 405 comments Tara wrote: "Segilola wrote: "a few years ago, when I bought a video game (not a fan, so don't buy for personal use) the terms from the retailer was that it was not eligible for a refund should I simply change ..."

hmmm good point


Tara Woods Turner | 2063 comments It can be disappointing but a low barrier refund policy increases customer confidence and conversation. In the end this is better for authors, imo.


Leviathan Libraries (leviathanlibraries) Tara wrote: "Also, despite the preview some books just aren't what they promise. Audible actually has a great listen guarantee and you can return a book for any reason, even if you simply didn't like the ending."

I love this policy on Audible, and have taken advantage of it. (Though never when I've listened to a book all the way through.) I got a Peter Straub book, I'd listened to a sample, and while I didn't care for the guy's voice, thought I could get used to it.

Turns out he did a monotone THE WHOLE TIME. Nope.


Leviathan Libraries (leviathanlibraries) Marie wrote: "Amazon is very customer oriented, which is a good thing imo. Also they put those 1-click buttons on the product page that are really easy to accidentally click on. I have almost clicked on it a doz..."

I would happily check a box or something like that to make it clear to an author why I'm returning a book. I think it makes perfect sense.

Though, TBH, I've never returned a digital copy of a book.


message 18: by Segilola (new)

Segilola Salami (segilolasalami) | 405 comments Lilyn G. (Scifi and Scary) wrote: "Tara wrote: "Also, despite the preview some books just aren't what they promise. Audible actually has a great listen guarantee and you can return a book for any reason, even if you simply didn't li..."

ahahahhhahhahha


message 19: by Nik (last edited Oct 20, 2016 12:23PM) (new)

Nik Krasno | 13428 comments I don't think I ever return stuff, but I cherish the thought I can (and I'm not talking about books here).
I understand that it's annoying and there might be cases of abusing the system and getting a free ride, but I'm not that particular about 2 dollars and people would rather get a refund, if they want...


message 20: by Segilola (new)

Segilola Salami (segilolasalami) | 405 comments I rarely do return things myself and I am yet to return an ebook. In the last 14 months since my first book went live on Amazon, I think I have had only two refunds as far as I am aware. Could be more but I very rarely track transactions.

Anyone have any idea why authors get screwed over left, right and centre? It seems we are always at the bottom of the food chain in everything


message 21: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 13428 comments Segilola wrote: "Anyone have any idea why authors get screwed over left, right and centre? It seems we are always at the bottom of the food chain in everything..."

Because of poor bargaining position...


message 22: by Segilola (new)

Segilola Salami (segilolasalami) | 405 comments how can we make our plight better?


message 23: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 13428 comments Segilola wrote: "how can we make our plight better?"

Maybe by focusing on enjoyment side of writing?


message 24: by Segilola (new)

Segilola Salami (segilolasalami) | 405 comments ahahahhahahahah OK kool


message 25: by M.L. (new)

M.L. Until recently I didn't know returns were allowed for ebooks, and I doubt if many people bother to return, but sure as long as there is a time limit on returning, that's fine.


message 26: by J.J. (new)

J.J. Mainor | 2144 comments Marie wrote: "Amazon is very customer oriented, which is a good thing imo. Also they put those 1-click buttons on the product page that are really easy to accidentally click on. I have almost clicked on it a doz..."

Returns can be discouraging, but you have to look at them as a percentage of your overall sales. Your few returns out of several hundred sales isn't bad in the grand scheme of things. My own books don't get much love when it comes to reviews, but when it comes to the paid sales, I'm like you in that my returns are a very low percentage of the sales.

Allowing returns is a way to build trust. Especially if you're a new author, you're asking people to take a chance on you with no history behind you. Why do you think all those "as seen on TV" items offer full refunds if "you're not completely satisfied?" It's because they have so much confidence in the product, they're confident you'll keep it. If you don't like the product, then it's better they have that outlet to get their money back rather than run around ranting about how they got ripped off.


message 27: by J.J. (new)

J.J. Mainor | 2144 comments Segilola wrote: "a few years ago, when I bought a video game (not a fan, so don't buy for personal use) the terms from the retailer was that it was not eligible for a refund should I simply change my mind. so why a..."

It's not that video games are different from ebooks, it's that the retailers are different. And sometimes it's the suppliers who dictate the policies through their own. Whereas even traditional publishers will guarantee their physical books and take back unsold copies no questions asked, video game companies might only take back product if it's damaged, screwing over the retailer when it comes to returns for other reasons.

Not saying that's it specifically, but having worked in retail I have watched suppliers toughen their return policies to limit how much they give back to the retailer.


message 28: by Segilola (new)

Segilola Salami (segilolasalami) | 405 comments That's the thing though, there's something to return. How do you return a digital copy that you have saved a copy of?


message 29: by J.J. (new)

J.J. Mainor | 2144 comments I know it doesn't make much of a difference in terms of what you're saying, but if you buy the product, you have the ability to go back to the site and download it again should you lose the copy saved in your Kindle or on your computer. You can't do that if you file for a refund.

But maybe how you could look at is that you're selling an experience instead of a physical object. What you're issuing is a guarantee that they'll enjoy the book. Carnival offers a similar guarantee on their cruises. Granted you have to claim your refund within 24 hours of the start of the cruise and they boot you off, but theoretically, you could enjoy a 1-day minicruise and get 110% of your money back if you were so inclined.


message 30: by Segilola (new)

Segilola Salami (segilolasalami) | 405 comments hmmm great comparison JJ, that makes so much more sense actually. so full refunds can be offered say within 7 days of making a purchase. I would be comfortable with that


message 31: by Marie Silk (new)

Marie Silk | 1020 comments I'm not positive about this because I've never asked for an ebook refund before, but I'm assuming they pull it off your kindle account, like the way they take kindle unlimited books off your kindle when you borrow a new one.

Still, I get why refunds on ebooks are frustrating of course.


message 32: by D. (new)

D. Thrush | 32 comments I agree with Marie in message 9 about authors knowing why their book was returned. I had someone return a book just 2 days ago and I wish I knew why. Did they purchase it accidentally? I'd rather have someone return a book than get a bad review.

I actually returned a book a few months back because I wasn't enjoying it. I made myself finish the chapter but it just wasn't good in my opinion. I've too often powered through a book hoping it gets better only to feel cheated when it doesn't. Then I feel I have to do a review after all the time I've spent.

I think it's appropriate to return a book if you find it riddled with errors or not consistent with the blurb or it's just really awful. But, as an author, I find it frustrating when it happens to me and wish I knew why.


message 33: by Codex (new)

Codex Regius (codex_regius) | 26 comments A few days before I have observed an US site downloading three of my books from KDP and returning them on the same day. Two days after, the same with a fourth book, this time, one that is published in a different language. I strongly suspect that this was an eBook pirate. That's why I think downloaded media should be excluded from returning, like CD-ROMs are (in my country) excluded from returning once you have opened the package.


message 34: by J.J. (new)

J.J. Mainor | 2144 comments Not that it can't be worked around, but it is on you to DRM protect the ebook to try and prevent that.


message 35: by Segilola (new)

Segilola Salami (segilolasalami) | 405 comments i tried the drm option with amazon once, and it gave me some complex notice that I just reverted back to without drm


message 36: by J.J. (new)

J.J. Mainor | 2144 comments Personally, I find DRM a turn off when it comes to DVDs and video games because it doesn't stop determined pirates, but it does punish they paying customers who make the studios successful. You have a legal right to make copies of material you legally own, and DRM has become more of a tool to block your right and force you to buy a product twice if you want a back-up copy or you want to convert a DVD to play on a mobile device.

I once saw someone suggest that you might want to consider pirating your own book on the torrent sites. Those pirating material aren't going to buy it anyway, so you're not really losing sales, but if those pirates like your work, they'll talk about it, and some of their friends who listen to their recommendations may be the people who pay instead of pirating. The idea is to think of it as distributing promotional copies to try and generate buzz.


message 37: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan | 7213 comments Well, I have just discovered that one of my US market downloads was returned and refunded.

(Bummer - I said, or words to that effect.)

But - it's just attrition... I don't mind if it happens occasionally.


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