Amazon changes Kindle refund policy to protect ebook authors in response to TikTok trend

A rising trend on TikTok has forced Amazon to change its returns policy (@felipepelaquim on Unsplash)
A rising trend on TikTok has forced Amazon to change its returns policy (@felipepelaquim on Unsplash)

Amazon is changing how it handles the returns of ebooks on its Kindle store, after a Booktok trend left authors in trouble.

A swathe of TikTok users who create content around books, a genre known as Booktok, were encouraging their book-loving followers to download and read ebooks quickly. They could then return ebooks on their Kindle and count on a full refund from Amazon’s automatic-returns program.

However, instead of trillionaire company Amazon footing the bill for these returns, as was perhaps expected, the costs actually fell back on the authors themselves.

Ebook authors had to refund the cost of the books and several made public statements condemning such actions.

The pleas of the authors have now apparently been heard, as confirmed in a post made by the Author’s Guild, an American organisation designed to protect authors’ rights.

Starting from the end of 2022, readers will now not be able to automatically return ebooks if they’ve read more than 10 per cent of them.

If you’ve read 11 per cent or more of a book, you can still file a return, but it will be reviewed by a physical person, as part of attempts from Amazon to prevent the practice of returning books upon finishing them.

It’s not yet clear how easy it will be to get a refund through the manual system, or how it would work with books like collections of short stories, where a reader may reasonably jump through it without actually reading 10 per cent.

It’s perhaps more surprising that it’ has taken Amazon this long to put something of its kind in place, a full15 years after the Kindle store launched in November 2007.

For example, Steam has a similar policy for PC gamers, offering refunds for less than two hours of play or 14 days after purchase.

Nonetheless, this is a positive step towards protecting the livelihoods of ebook authors, who don’t tend to make huge amounts from their digital offerings in the first place.