As a writer, I have made my books available for free, as many authors do, and that is my choice. I have donated royalties to charity. My choice. Similarly, like most writers, I have worked for free, and again this has been a personal decision. I have also downloaded ebooks that were on free promotion on occasion (although I generally pay for the ebooks I read). Whether or not authors should/shouldn’t offer their work for free is another topic for debate.
But getting a refund for a book after you have read it? That’s a different matter. Yes, I agree if a book has been badly formatted or is full of typos there is cause for dissatisfaction (although hopefully this should have come to light when you checked out the sample pages of the book before buying). And sometimes you might click the Buy button twice by mistake.
However, is it possible to abuse the system? Amazon say that they can check for serial returners and they would certainly have the data to do this. After all, it isn’t good business for them (or the writers, of course). Like many authors, when I read my sales reports there are occasions when a reader has returned one of my titles for a refund. It would be really helpful as a writer to have some feedback on why this is. In researching this topic, one author mentioned an average figure of 2% returns. More data would certainly be useful.
I am making an assumption that the returns rules apply because of the consumer protection law for distance selling. After all, the Amazon policy also applies to paper books, in which a reader has up to 30 days to make a return, so this is not really an issue about ebooks. However, what concerns me is the basis for returning a book. What if it is formatted correctly and well-written but you don’t like it? Has anyone ever taken a book back to a bookshop on the basis that they didn’t enjoy it?
Is a book simply a commodity? Can we apply the same argument to other “creative” items. If we don’t like a piece of music we get a refund on the download or cd? If we’ve been to the cinema and we thought the film ended badly, do we insist on a ticket refund? What does this mean for creative producers like writers and composers? Is it right or fair?
If you are a writer, reader or a creative producer, what do you think?
For a range of viewpoints check out: