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'Amazon is NOT a library': Indebted author criticizes readers who return finished e-books

Author Lissa Kessler explained how she owed Amazon money at the end of the month because readers returned her e-books after reading them. She called for the returns policy to be changed.

'Amazon is NOT a library': Indebted author criticizes readers who return finished e-books
Image Source: (Front) LdyDisney / Twitter (Back) Hannelore Foerster / Stringer / Getty Images

An author stirred a conversation online when she revealed that she owed Amazon money at the end of the month. According to Lissa Kessler, readers of her e-books had returned them once they had finished reading them, which meant she had to pay out of her own pocket for their returns. Other authors chimed in with their own experiences, calling for Amazon to prohibit customers from returning finished e-books. Some authors, including Kessler, suspected the trend emerged from "BookTok," a genre of TikTok videos created for and by bibliophiles. Some readers were shocked to learn that customers would be allowed to return e-books and would choose to do so, Bored Panda reports.


"[This is] just a reminder that Amazon is NOT a library," Kessler wrote in a fiery tweet. "When you read and return a book, it COSTS the author... It is June 1 and I owe Amazon at the moment because people are reading through [my book series] the Muse series and returning the books when they finish. Authors need to eat too." Within moments, her post had reached hundreds of people. So far, her tweet has been retweeted more than 28,000 times. It has also received more than 124,000 likes.


A fellow author agreed with Kessler. They stated, "I would rather people did not steal my books. They have come up with a new way: return an Amazon e-book after reading and make the author pay the fees for a returned book. So the author gets negative royalties. Charged to have someone steal your book is a bit much." Kessler traced the trend back to BookTok. "I discovered that in March, there was a TikTok video instructing readers about this loophole in Amazon’s return policy allowing them to read books quickly and return them," she explained in an interview with BuzzFeed. "It even had a hashtag, #ReadAndReturnChallenge, but I do not think they realized that Amazon was turning around and deducting money from the authors."


Some folks did not even realize this was an option. For instance, a fellow Twitter user responded, "I was today years old when I learned about this new level of cheapness. Libraries are literally a thing. You do not even have to physically visit one anymore. I am truly sorry this has happened to you." An author stepped in to explain why writers lose out because of Amazon's misplaced returns policy. "When you buy an e-book, the author is charged a delivery fee," they shared. "That comes from the royalty we make on a book. If you return it, Amazon does not refund the delivery fee. So now I am negative because you decided you do not want to pay for e-books. Stop it."


To prevent customers from doing this in the future, readers and authors alike had a couple of suggestions. One person recommended, for example, prohibiting customers from returning an e-book after they have read 35% of it. Others suggested that readers could use libraries or alternative means to access books. "People are really like this? Get OverDrive or Libby and connect to your local library system if you do not want to actually buy e-books," one user shared. "IT IS FREE. It is not that hard to be a decent person."


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