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TikTok is to blame for the new Amazon Kindle update, which will revolutionize the ebook reading experience

Photo by @felipepelaquim / Unsplash

You may have missed all the ebook-return drama if you haven't been following Amazon Kindle news or have been hanging out on BookTok, TikTok's reading-centric community. However, this has now prompted Amazon to alter how it processes digital books.

Since the Kindle has an automatic returns program, readers could get their money back even if they'd already finished the book, which was a popular trend on the TikTok app.

This didn't hurt Amazon like the readers probably thought it would, and it cost the authors money because they were the ones who had to issue the refund. Many ebook authors made public statements protesting this decision, and it appears that Amazon paid attention (see testimonies on Twitter here and here, and a petition about it here).

The Author's Guild, a US-based group that defends the rights of authors, confirmed the news that Amazon is changing its ebook return policy in a recent post. Beginning later this year, you will no longer be able to automatically return ebooks from which you have read more than 10%.

The Author's Guild has decided that, going forward, if you've read 11 percent or more of a book, you can still file a return, but it will be reviewed by a physical person, and that this will serve as a reasonable deterrent to stop people gaming the system.

There are still a few unanswered questions; for example, it is unclear how simple it will be to get a refund through this manual system, and collections of poetry or short stories, which you might jump around in, could tag you as having read over 10% if you just read one excerpt halfway through them. Yet, this is progress in the right direction.

To give one example, if you're reading Edward Gibbon's The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (10% of the book) for some reason, you'll have plenty of material to cover. If you're reading a novella or other shorter work, however, that extra page turn could mean the difference between 10% and 11%.

Because of this reform, opportunistic and bad-faith readers will no longer be able to game the system to get a free read without spending any money, which is great news for authors. The fact that more writers can make a living solely from their writing is fantastic news for the literary world.

But this is bad news for the average reader, who may only get about 15% into a book before deciding it's not for them and asking for a refund.

The readers who poked fun at Amazon's return policy are, of course, to blame; the TikTok craze (and other users who did the same — we can't solely blame this one community of readers) likely magnified a minor issue with Amazon's return policy.

Some users may change their reading habits as a result of this update, paying closer attention than they otherwise would to their book's percentage of completion (which is displayed on Kindle ereaders) before deciding whether to read beyond the 10% mark. Perhaps it's a good thing if it means writers will keep penning their works.