Smart eBook Return Policies


Returns can be a thorny issue for e-stores of all stripes. They are costly to process, cumbersome to handle and sometimes indicate a disgruntled customer. For this reason, most ecommerce stores are careful to balance their concerns over profits and losses with the customers’ right to returns.

While many people know how to sell an ebook online via Shopify, Amazon or Kindle, a lot of sellers are still unsure how to process returns for ebooks. This is a sensible concern. eBooks aren’t physical products, so e-stores need to be sure they aren’t being ripped off by stingy readers.

Below we will discuss smart ebook returns policies to make sure everyone is content.

Consider the Duration of Ownership & Set Limits

When a shopper buys a product and it doesn’t fit their needs or expectations, they return it.

Simple as that, right?

Well, yes and no. The customer can’t just return a product after a year and a half of heavy usage. That’s simply not fair to the seller. In most cases, ecommerce websites enforce stipulations on returns. Perhaps the tags need to still be on the goods, the product has to be in fine condition (unless poor quality is the reason for the return), and the product needs to be returned within a select period of time.

These same rules can be applied to ebook returns. For instance, Amazon allows for ebook returns and refunds if a request is made within seven days of the purchase. Ecommerce stores need to put these stipulations on ebook purchases to avoid customers purchasing, reading and returning – effectively stealing the content for free.

Offer an Exchange Rather Than a Return

Another smart ebook return policy is to offer exchanges rather than returns.

One of the convenient things about e-readers from a seller’s perspective is the device syncs with the buyer’s virtual library. So, if a consumer is dissatisfied (or made a purchase by mistake), the seller can simply pull the ebook from the device and refund the ebook in question.

Then again, not all ebooks are read on e-readers. Some are downloaded as PDFs. In this case, the reader effectively owns the title and there is no way to tell if the electronic book is deleted from the device’s local memory.

In these cases, it is still better to offer an exchange rather than a return. Just provide the customer with an ebook of their choice – of equal or lesser value (unless they pay the difference) and allow them to keep both ebooks.

You should explain the exchange works once per purchase. That way you avoid serving the buyer multiple books for one price tag.

Keep Track of the Number of Returns & Reasons for Returns

Are you seeing a lot of returns on the same title?

Would you know if you were?

Be sure to track the number of returns per user and per ebook. This will inform you whether you have a penurious reader on whom you need to keep an eye; or whether there is a problem with a specific ebook, such as formatting errors or plain-old bad content.

Offer eBook Rentals as an Alternative to Returns

Seeing lots of returns? It might be helpful to consider ebook rentals. A lot of readers only leaf through a book once. After that, they don’t really need it on their devices anymore.

For this reason, some e-stores offer ebook rentals, which cost less than purchasing and removes it from the e-reader after completion. It doesn’t work for every ecommerce store and some publishers simply won’t allow this for their books, but it’s something to mull over if you can do it.

Take a Look at Your Fine Print

In the end, most of these tips boil down to adjusting your fine print. When a shopper makes a purchase from an ecommerce store, they agree to a number of conditions including adhering to returns policies.

Update your ebook returns polices. And, make sure customers understand the rules and regulations you put down. That way, both parties have parameters within which they can work.


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