TikTok Book Scamming

Leave it to "trends" on TikTok to come up with terrible ideas. The latest viral trend, on the social network that's definitely not funneling data to China (we promise!), is to buy Kindle books on Amazon, then return them within the allowed window for a full refund.

Claire Woodcock at Vice has more of this awful idea.

The #ReadAndReturn challenge drew attention to Amazon’s Kindle return policy, which states that readers can “cancel an accidental book order within seven days.” But what’s been presented as a literary community “life hack” is hurting romance-fantasy authors like Lisa Kessler’s bottom line.


As someone who's personally published many books on Amazon, this is infuriating. The worst part of this trend is the fact that Amazon charges fees to the author for "digital delivery". Their 30% royalty cut is on top of the delivery fee. So if you buy a book and then return it, Amazon gives the money back to the buyer, but STILL charges their delivery fee. This means you owe Amazon money because of the return.

For all of Amazon's data they have on customers, I don't understand why they can't use an algorithm to limit returns based on behavior. Even so, why is a return window on a digital book an entire week? Voracious readers can easily get through a book and then some in that amount of time. Without any data science being used, Amazon could (and should) just shrink the return window to an hour. Returns should be for people who accidentally bought a book. Nothing more.

What I don't understand about this "trend" is how this is something that people are doing instead of using their local library. Most libraries DO lend eBooks sent directly onto a person's Kindle. I use Libby / Overdrive all the time to borrow books for free. I get them for 21 days and can always renew them.

Amazon isn't a library. The Library is the library.