When it comes to returns, ebooks can be kind of tricky. On the one hand, you want to offer your customers some sort of a guarantee so they’ll feel good about buying from you. But on the other hand, it’s all too easy to read an ebook and submit it for a refund. When crafting your ebook return policy, you have to find a way to bridge the divide between being an empathetic seller and setting yourself up to be ripped off. Here’s how other sellers approach the situation.
Generous Return Policies
Amazon: “Books you purchase from the Kindle Store are eligible for return and refund if we receive your request within seven days of the date of purchase. Once a refund is issued, you’ll no longer have access to the book.”
Google Play Books: “You can return most books bought on Google Play for a full refund within seven days of purchase. If they don’t work, you can request a refund at any time. If you return a book it may be removed from your library and you may not be able to read it.”
Audible: “Say you downloaded a book you overheard someone on the train raving about. After giving it a try (and learning your lesson about eavesdropping), you decide you need a do-over. Not a problem. You can exchange it for something new. You have a whole year from the purchase date to return a book. No questions asked.” (It should be noted the small print of Audible’s return policy offers refunds as well as exchanges.)
Authors Tend to Disagree
Some authors feel those offers are too lenient. In fact, a group of writers selling through Amazon filed an unsuccessful petition to get the policy changed. They asserted seven days is more than enough time for someone to read an ebook and return it for a refund. They also noted Amazon’s “Search Inside the Book” function makes three chapters available, so a customer should have a pretty good idea of whether or not they will like the ebook before buying it.
Blocking Serial Returners
While not publicly stated, Amazon counters this by blocking customers who appear to be abusing its return policy. The company’s judgment is usually based upon the number of returns a customer racks up within a certain time period.
Meanwhile, Audible spells it out in no uncertain terms: “Audible reserves the right in its sole discretion to limit the number of refunds allowed by each member, including, but not limited to, in cases where Audible suspects abuse of the program.”
The takeaway here is when you sell ebooks online, it’s important to configure your site to keep track of customer activity to ward off those who would take advantage of your concern for your patrons.
Barnes and Noble Just Says No—Period
Barnes and Noble does not permit returns of any digital product. “NOOK digital content and other downloaded purchases, including but not limited to downloadable PDFs for SparkNotes and Quamut products, gift cards, and shrink-wrapped items that have been opened, are not returnable.”
Whether you decide two hours, seven days or 365 days are enough for a reader to make a judgment; it’s important to keep in mind customers will always feel better making online purchases when they have some recourse if things go sideways.
With that said, if you decide to go the “No Refunds/No Returns” route when crafting your ebook return policy, post it conspicuously on your site so your shoppers aren’t blindsided. It’s also a good idea to provide previews or chapter excerpts to minimize the potential for returns.