Is Amazon Returning Books Without Users Actively Understanding This?

Recently, I wrote about the divergent financial realities of readers and authors. In that post, I called out readers who return books for refunds, as those refunds come directly out of the authors’ paychecks.

HOWEVER, after I wrote that post, another issue was brought to my attention via Facebook and specifically via a public post from Stephanie Heinritz on Facebook on June 16, that:

Did you know, if your readers have purchased your title within the last seven (7) days, that ‘Permanently Delete’ button in the iOS app DOES NOT DO WHAT IT SAYS IT DOES? No if a reader has purchased your title within that window, this button also INITAITES A FULL RETURN. 😳 The cherry on top? The Kindle iOS app – you know the one with 3.6 MILLION user downloads on Apple alone – offers your readers ZERO alternative within the app to remove the title from their library without registering as a full refund, and of course a negative profit on your back end, if they are within that seven (7) day window. I also checked this on my account from my repurchase, which I marked as read, and it does the same thing for FULLY CONSUMED CONTENT.

Heinritz then goes into further detail that *after* that initial 7 day window, the “Permanently Delete” option works as most of us would expect – it simply removes the book from your Kindle Cloud entirely *without* initiating a refund.

While Heinritz’s commentary is apparently exclusively about the iOS Kindle app, I personally tested the charge against Amazon’s own Kindle App on the most recently available Kindle Fire 10… with identical results, as seen here:

So what can readers do?

First, you need to understand very clearly that this is happening. As of this writing, if you use the “Permanently Delete” option on a book on your Kindle / Kindle App within the first seven days after purchase, Amazon is initiating a full refund, and that refund ultimately comes not from Amazon, but from the Author’s royalties for that book (as we’ll see momentarily).

I personally recommend never using the “Permanently Delete” option to begin with. “Remove Download” will instead remove the book from your device… but keep it in your library. Maybe you’ll want to come back to it someday. More importantly for the purposes of this commentary, Remove Download will not initiate a return of the book. Ever. At least as the apps currently work as of this writing.

If you *must* use “Permanently Delete”… wait a month or so first. Please. Because if you use that option within the first 7 days, the net effect of this return is actually a *negative* balance for the author, as detailed in this twitter thread in particular from Quenby Olson that has gone viral over the last 18 hours or so as of this writing.

And hey, maybe if we as a book community put pressure on Amazon to address this, they might actually do so? While I am a professional software engineer as my day job and I *suspect* this shouldn’t be an overly hard fix, I’ve never worked for Amazon and can’t say definitively how much effort would be required on their end to fix this issue. But I can say without hesitation as a reader that, to me, it seems like the right thing to do, and that the current practice seems shady to me. (To be clear, without making any actual legal claims regarding whether or not this actually constitutes any breach of any legislative or regulatory act. I am simply noting from a commonsense perspective that in my personal opinion, this is wrong and needs to be fixed.)

What say you, readers?

Which Kindle Should I Buy?

I have them all. Seriously, every new model Amazon currently sells. 😃

And ultimately it comes down to personal preference and economics. 🙂

If you don’t mind the same glare/ eye strain you get from your phone and want something that can do… well, pretty much everything your phone can do without a cell connection… you want a Fire. Those come in 7, 8, and 10” sizes, with about a $100 price swing from smallest to biggest. They all pretty well do the same things in the same ways, and are pretty interchangeable.

On the eReader side, you get devices that are basically dedicated readers. They have Audible support via bluetooth, but the text to speech reader is horrible. (If you want a text to speech reader, go with Fire. Fire’s T2S capabilities are pretty damn awesome.) They all now have a front lighting capability that is different from the back lighting of your phone/ Fire and that is generally easier on the eyes.

The Kindle (base) is the cheapest option with the least features and no add on capabilities. You get a device that can hold a few hundred text based books or a few dozen Audible books at once, but you can swap on and off from your Cloud anywhere you can get a wifi connection. If economics are a prime concern, you’re really not going to get a bad device here, the next ones just have a few more bells and whistles. But again: this one is perfectly fine.

The Paperwhite adds splash proofing. (Amazon calls it waterproofing, but DO NOT SUBMERGE these devices. Learned that one the hard way. It also comes with about 4x more memory, and even in the base model Paperwhite (roughly 50% more expensive than the base model Kindle above) you’re going to be able to hold low 4 digit text based books on the device at once, or low triple digit Audible books on the device at once. This one has add on capabilities (up front, you can’t add these on later) to increase the memory to 16x that of the base model Kindle and to add “Free3G” capabilities (4G in most of the US) that allow you to swap from the cloud anywhere you can get a (AT&T) cell signal. Both of these add ons combined will raise the price of the Paperwhite by roughly double its base model, up to right at the price of an Oasis at $250.

The Oasis adds on to the Paperwhite base model a “warm light” feature that allows you to customize the lighting from the white/ blue light of the base model Kindle and Paperwhite to a brown/ orange hue – or anywhere in between. It also adds physical page turn buttons – the only device Amazon makes with this feature. And it adds an “ergonomic back” that basically means that one side of the device (away from the page turn buttons) is so thin it is little more than device casing and screen, while the “guts” of the device + the page turn buttons are on the other side. Note that some cases can negate this effect, so if you get this device be *very careful* of any cases you buy for it if this is a primary benefit for you. Oasis base model starts at about $250 and has the same add-on capabilities as the Paperwhite, but here those add ons will increase the price to around $375.

NOTE: As best I can tell, the Free3G upgrades are not currently available on either the Paperwhite or Oasis as of this writing on January 9, 2021. Due to notices on the Amazon site noting that they will be available in 6-9 months, my best guess – and it is purely a (somewhat educated) guess – is that this is due to supply chain/ manufacturing issues due to the COVID-19 debacle.

I have them all and regularly use them all. I don’t really have an actual preference, though I will note that my Fire 7 seems to drain battery faster than the others, even in similar usage conditions. Ultimately, it really does come down to personal preferences and economics, so just take the above and make the best decision for you. 🙂