My Facebook went BANANAS this weekend.
And with damn good reason.
I am careful what I speak about online because I think we have a real problem with outrage culture right now, but this is something that NEEDS to be addressed. Not just for authors, but for artists in general.
Elizabeth York is a name you may or may not be familiar with. She’s a biggie in the indie world, and a straight up sweetheart. This weekend, she posted the following:
This one post lit a firestorm across the internet because it once again spotlights an issue authors have been facing for a while now. Let’s be clear, what this reader is admitting to is NO DIFFERENT than ebook piracy. We’ll get into that more in a minute. First, Ms. York’s post from the following day:
I’m writing this post as a plea with my fellow readers and writers. There is a petition going around to try to get Amazon to reverse their return policy on ebooks. PLEASE SIGN IT. As of right now, if I go to Amazon.com and purchase a digital movie or mp3, I cannot return these items unless Amazon can see that no one has watched or downloaded the item. I know this for sure because I woke up one morning and my man cub had been surfing the Amazon Fire Stick and purchased a season of one of the Transformers cartoons ($40) and immediately realized it was the wrong Transformers series. Amazon customer service was awesome and returned the item for me, but explained that the only reason they could was because they could see that no one had watched the video. Had anyone watched it, the return would not have been allowed.
This. Policy. Makes. Sense.
Her final statement to the author is the biggest problem in this whole situation: “We shouldn’t have to pay for the stories in your head.”
Ummmm, actually, that’s sorta kinda the way this shit works.
As an artist, I am a business. What I create (write) is my product. A business should get paid for the product they produce. That’s Econ 101, bitches.
Wil Wheaton wrote a piece a while back regarding how writers should get paid for what they write (sites like Huffington Post run on free content from writers and they make money hand over fist with advertising on that same content) in response to a laughable situation (HP as idiots), but his point holds true in this situation as well.
I don’t know what the going rate is for something like this. At six cents a word, which is SFWAs lowest professional rate for short fiction (not a perfect comparison, but at least something to reference that’s similar), it would be $210. That’s not nothing, but it’s not house payment money. Maybe I should have just taken their fabulous offer of exposure?
I don’t think so, because it’s the principle of the thing. Huffington Post is valued at well over fifty million dollars, and the company can absolutely afford to pay contributors. The fact that it doesn’t, and can get away with it, is distressing to me.
In a case like Huffington Post, you’re giving your content away voluntarily. When an author writes a book, we publish that work with the intention of selling our art.
In ANY OTHER SITUATION, returning an item which has been used completely would not be accepted. You don’t go to the grocery store, buy the makings for dinner, and then bring back the leftovers asking for a refund. You don’t fill your car’s gas tank, drive until it stalls out, and then demand a refund for the purchased gas. You don’t walk into Walmart, purchase a couch, and then return it after your dog has chewed off the legs. These are all examples of items that were purchased and used COMPLETELY. Buying a book, reading it (USING IT!!!!!), and then returning it is the same exact thing.
So why the hell is Amazon allowing it?!?!?!?!?!
The petition that’s circulating on Change.org isn’t begging Amazon to make it so you can’t return ebooks. The petition is asking them to change their policy so readers can’t return ebooks after they’ve been read beyond the 15% mark.
I think we have all accidentally one-clicked something at some point. No biggie. Return it and get the item you meant to. However, if you read an entire book, and then return it, you, sir or madame, are an asshole.
No, Sammy. You’re wrong.
They’re assholes and thieves. Plain and simple.
If you don’t know by 15% in that you’ve got the wrong book, you have other, larger problems happening than your one-click habits….
And habits. This is another thing I want to address. If you can’t afford the ebook, DON’T BUY THE EBOOK. I can’t afford the Aston Martin I want, so I don’t go and buy one. LIVE WITHIN YOUR MEANS. If you can’t control your spending habits, shut off your one-click settings.
As an artist, I’m pissed. We fight tooth and nail to end ebook piracy, and THIS is what people are doing to get around it, something that Amazon doesn’t even allow with any of their other digital content.
So, fellow readers and writers, I’m begging you. SIGN THE PETITION. Share the link with all your reader/writer friends. Make Amazon hear our voices.
By allowing the returns, they are allowing the theft, and therefore, they are contributing to the problem.