Something’s been on my mind lately and in order to get a better understanding of the situation I thought I’d ask you e-reader users for your thoughts. So in this post I’m going to discuss ebook returns.
Now I have perhaps a slightly different perspective on the situation as a self-published author. That’s why I really want to hear from others whether your an author or a reader. Have you ever returned an ebook and why? Was there terrible formatting issues that made you barely able to read the book or did you just not like the book? Or what other reasons do you have?
I’m going to really head this discussion off by first stating how I regard book returns. Simply put, I’ve never returned a book. Ever. There have been many ebooks I’ve bought that I thought I’d like but I ended up hating. Many of these are DNF (did not finish) books. Some of these DNF novels are traditionally published by well-known authors and some are self-published by both big and small known authors. It’s always really disappointing to find a book blurb you like and buy the book. If you’re like me then you even read the sample of the book first to see if you like the style of writing. So, it’s always crushing when you’re partway through and for some reason or another you can’t finish this darn book. But I’ve never returned a book.
I think I’m still set in the ways of buying paperback books. To me buying paperbacks is always such a gamble, the same can be said for ebooks, except I don’t get as mad because ebooks prices are usually priced lower. If I get DNF book and paid $3.99 compared to $7.99 plus tax, then I’m not as mad about it. If you all remember from the days of buying book in bookstores, you might recall that they have a strict no return policy. For one, they can’t accept books back because otherwise they’d become libraries with people reading scores of the latest, hottest titles for nothing. Maybe it’s because I’m still used to buying my books in paperback, and still do on occasion, that when I get a bad book on my ereader, I don’t even think to return it. At all.
After all, part of buying a new book is the gamble of choosing. That’s why we all juggle around the cover, the blurb, the first page we read in the store or in the online sample. We want to carefully place our money on a solid bet. Sometimes it’s a dud and that’s frustrating as hell. But, it also gives us fodder for snarky reviews to tell your friends and family.
So I don’t return books. Never even thought to do it.
But as a self-published author and someone who reads a lot in the self-published forums as well, I see talk about ebook returns. Now, I’m not going to bother trying to speak for anyone else because I don’t have the right. So all of these thoughts are my own. A trend I’ve noticed as an author published on Amazon, where ebook returns are allowed, is that people seem to buy my books, read them, and then return them. You can track the number of returns throughout each of my series and in my standalone titles. I consistently see the same number of people buy and return each of the books in my series month after month. They must be enjoying them, is my first thought, because they read all of them. They also don’t want to pay for the books which I think is wrong. I have created a book (and have several free novels to offer), I have priced it at a very low price point, and if you are enjoying the books then aren’t they worth the $3 for that novel that would cost you $7.99 to buy from a big publisher?
Of course I think so. Of course I think my books and other authors like me deserve to have their books paid for if an individual likes the book. I also happen to think, and this may be where it gets sketchy for some, that even if you didn’t enjoy the book you shouldn’t return it. To me it seems like it’s cheating a system. At least in my case, I have free stories for the beginning of each of my series, so you can try the story to see if it suits you or not at zero cost. So if you do like it and decide to read the rest of the books, and you like the next and the next and the next, don’t I deserve to earn my royalty off that book? If you were buying my book of a shelf at a Borders (how I miss Borders and their Seattle’s Best coffee!) then you wouldn’t have that same privilege.
I pose the question to you readers: Why is it okay to return an ebook? Have you ever done it and why or why not? Is it okay to only return expensive ebooks or just the cheap ones? Have you ever returned an ebook you liked?
Now to be completely fair I want to state that the number of returns to the number of sales is very small (based off my personal experience). So it’s a small number of people who do this. But I do see it consistently in readers buying each of the books in my series and returning them. I also hear about this trend in the forums I mentioned with other authors.
Is this fair? Is this ethical? Does it matter?
I don’t know and a part of me understands this isn’t a big deal, but the other part wants to understand when is it okay to return an ebook and why. Please, share your opinions and let me know what you think!
T. A. Grey
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