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For reasons that should be obvious enough to anyone who’s ever worked in retail, Amazon doesn’t exactly go out of its way to advertise its e-book return policy.

In fact, unless you’re a fairly regular customer of the Kindle Store yourself, there’s a good chance you’re not even aware that a Kindle books return policy exists. But there it is, right on Amazon’s website:

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. To request a refund and return, visit Manage Your Kindle, click the actions tab for the title you’d like to return, and select “Return for refund.”

Sound like a pretty fair policy, right?

Well, not according to Derek Haines, a blogger and self-published author who sells his books through the Kindle Direct Publishing program. In a recent blog post, Haines says he’s been seeing an increasing number of “Units Returned” on his KDP sales reports. As far as he’s concerned, those increasing numbers aren’t due to unsatisfied readers who are returning his books because they didn’t like them, but rather to people who are reading one or another of his books withing the seven allotted days, and then returning them to the Kindle Store for a full refund.

With the exception of Amazon, of course, no one actually knows if that’s the case. But nevertheless, Haines does make a good point: There are more than a few books out there that can easily be read in seven days or less, and there are almost certainly a fair number of not-quite-honest Amazon customers taking advantage of the Kindle Store’s return policy. As for whether or not the policy is negatively affecting self-published authors whose sales numbers are low to begin with … well, I tend to doubt that. Then again, I might feel differently if I had books of my own for sale in the KDP program.

Here’s what Haines has to say:

Of course I have written to Amazon to express my concern at this policy, stating that in seven days an ebook could be read more than three times, but [I] have no doubts that nothing will change in the near future. I have no issue with this seven day return policy for physical goods, but for Kindle ebooks, it’s just plainly open to abuse.

What do you think? Is the return policy good customer service? Or, as Haines suggests, is it an invitation to abuse?

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