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Authors speak out against trend of reading and returning ebooks

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

OK. Plenty of people - maybe you've even done this, Rachel; I don't know - buy clothes and then return them?

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Yes.

INSKEEP: Would you do that? You do that?

MARTIN: I have done that.

INSKEEP: OK. All right. People do it. And if it doesn't fit, of course, that's reasonable. But some authors would like buyers to do that a little less often with books, specifically e-books sold on Amazon.

MARTIN: Yeah, here's the deal. Social media influencers have been promoting what they are calling a life hack, encouraging readers to buy e-books, read them really fast and then return them within seven days to get their money back. Critics of Amazon and its founder, Jeff Bezos, say taking advantage of some generous e-book return policies is a way to slap back at the online retailer.

INSKEEP: But apparently, you're not just hitting the big company. Self-published authors say they're getting hurt. Lisa Kessler writes paranormal romance books and says every time a reader tosses back one of her e-books, Amazon takes back royalties.

LISA KESSLER: Unless you're Nora Roberts or Stephen King, you're making - you know, you're a starving artist. And so when people throw back an entire series, it really wallops the authors. It's a big shock when those all come back.

MARTIN: Kessler posted about her losses on Twitter. Her tweet, Amazon is not a library, went viral.

KESSLER: There were replies to the tweet of people who had 250 books returned, which - to put it in regular, you know, numbers, that's, like, over $800 from an author. I would cry. Mine wasn't that bad, but I would just cry.

INSKEEP: We reached out to Amazon, and they tell NPR they work to prevent abuse of the return policy. But authors say the problem persists.

MARTIN: There is, however, a silver lining for Lisa Kessler. Ever since she tweeted about readers returning her e-books, she says her sales have shot up.

INSKEEP: (Laughter) There. Amazon was good for her after all.

(SOUNDBITE OF L'INDECIS'S "STAYING THERE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.