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Thursday News: Author Royalty Suit Against Harlequin Dismissed; Petition to change...

Whether Harlequin Authors will win is another question. Piercing claims are notoriously difficult. I’ve only handled a couple of them and the winning claims largely rested on proving that the corporations shared the same board members, the same employees, did not keep regular minutes and intermingled assets. I don’t see those allegations here. Instead, the allegations are that HQE did all the work of a Publisher and thus should be deemed the Publisher. That’s not the traditional evidence of a piercing claim. This is not to say that there aren’t cases out there like it, only that I am not familiar with them.

Amended claims were brought including an explicit piercing claim but the District Court disagreed. The opinion is very brief (and indeed the brevity can be soul crushing to the losing side).

1) The district court felt that the contract language was clearly defined. HBSA was the publisher and not Harlequin Enterprise Limited (HEL). This distinction was important because it allowed Harlequin to pay its authors only 50% on the amount received by the Publisher (HBSA) and not the amount received by HEL, which presumably is a greater sum.

2) The court felt that the breach of contract claim wasn’t adequately pled.

3) Authors argued the amount received by HBSA from HEL for the sale of the author’s books was unreasonably low. Court said that this was speculative (although this is at the motion to dismiss stage where everything is supposed to viewed in a light most favorable to the authors as the non moving party).

4) On the unjust enrichment clause, the authors could only win on that claim if there was an unenforceable agreement. Judge said the All Other Rights clauses covers the publication of ebooks.

The authors could appeal this decision but my guess is that they’d have to find another set of attorneys to do so or pay increased fees. The setup between HBSA and HEL is one devised to benefit the company primarily for tax purposes as far as I can tell. It’s fairly common to have headquarters overseas where it is more tax friendly like Switzerland so ruling that the HBSA/HEL relationship was invalid might be opening a can of worms for the court. This is probably the end of the road for this suit. Yahoo! Finance

Unfortunately some authors do not agree. Authors in support of the petition accuse the readers of stealing and fraud and that reading and returning is tantamount to piracy.  But returns are not unchecked.  There have been more than one complaint on Consumerist by a reader whose account has been cut off because of too many returns.  

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Noelle
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 05:15:17

    There really is a shocking number of returns on Amazon, at least in my experience. Last month, I had over 1000 returns. That was on 13 different titles, but that still seems a lot. I’ve found the shorter the book, the more returns there will be. When my first book came out and I started seeing all the returns, I was horrified, thinking there must be something terribly wrong with it to cause so many people to return a $.99 book. I was actually comforted to learn that it’s common.

    The option for returning an ebook has to be there, though, since people do buy by accident or have other legitimate reasons for returning. So I’ve just been shrugging off the returns and trying not to assume most of these people are reading and returning it.

    I haven’t looked at the petition, but it seems like asking for a shortened return window is a better strategy than expecting Amazon to offer no returns at all.

  2. Rosario
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 06:00:57


    I’ve found the shorter the book, the more returns there will be.

    That doesn’t surprise me. I’ve returned books because they were much shorter than I expected them to be (sorry, I’m not paying £3 for a 25-page story!). Sometimes the length is not clear before you buy, and even when the info is there, it’s often presented as number of words, which is completely meaningless to most readers.

  3. Angela
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 06:06:32

    I’ve also returned books for the reasons Jane states above. Though, I’ll admit I was tempted to return a book one time because it was horribly (read: not at all) edited or proofread. But I didn’t. Because I’d read it. I realize there are going to be people that take advantage of the system, but to allow for legitimate returns you’re going to have people that take advantage. But I don’t think it’s okay to have no return policy either. I’ve, often, mistakenly hit the “Buy” button.

    If they’re looking to get a reduced return time – what would be reasonable? Right now it’s 7 days – which for me is long past by the time I actually get to look at the book and consider reading it.

    I considered signing this petition, but I don’t know what the aim is – is it for no return period, which is completely non-beneficial to me, or a lessened return period, which I just don’t see helping much?

  4. Angela
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 06:09:42


    Sometimes the length is not clear before you buy, and even when the info is there, it’s often presented as number of words, which is completely meaningless to most readers.

    I actually prefer the number of words to be listed. I never know what they’re talking about when they say page numbers. Well, on books that aren’t published in paper anyway. Is it PDF pages; MMPB size pages; TPB; hardcover? Although I guess when you get down to 25 pages it doesn’t really matter. It’s not a long story anyway ;)

    But I agree that the lack of length listed really is frustrating. I hate not knowing what I’m paying for. Even at $1 or $2.

  5. LG
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 06:45:36

    @Angela: “I actually prefer the number of words to be listed.”

    Same here. I didn’t at first, because I had no point of comparison, but once I’d bought a few e-books and gotten a feel for what 10,000 versus 30,000 looked like, I was able to figure out what I was comfortable paying for various word counts. Now I kind of wish word counts were included on print book product pages, too, so I could more easily compare across formats.

    I don’t buy e-books unless I can find information about the length of the work either on the store site or on the author’s website. However, I had one instance in which the e-book I purchased turned out to be vastly shorter than the product page word count indicated, because an extra zero was accidentally included. I didn’t ask to return the e-book because I didn’t think to.

  6. Noelle
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 07:15:58


    I’ve returned a couple of books for an outrageous price per page too – I think that’s a legitimate reason for a return, especially if there is no indication of the length in the product description.

    Even my shorter books that cost less than a dollar with the length clearly indicated (both in the description and with Amazon’s estimated page count) still see a far higher return rate than my long books like Escorted, so I do think the shorter length might encourage more read-and-returns. I could certainly be wrong, though. I honestly have no idea why there are so many returns and am just glad I’m not the only one who see them.

    I think Amazon’s estimated page count averages about 300 words per page–at least it has for my titles. I’d never thought of including word count, as well as page count, in the description, but that’s a really good idea.

  7. Jane
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 07:43:16

    I’m not sure how I feel about shortening the return policy period but I am interested, @Noelle Adams, whether there are a significant # of returns after the 7 day period. I buy a lot of books and don’t read them for months but I don’t believe I’ve returned books after the 7 day period.

    From a reader’s standpoint, we have such limited rights when it comes to ebooks it is frustrating to see our return policy endangered.

  8. Lynne Connolly
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 07:55:17

    The man who wrote about being a self-publishing failure? Bright boy. His book came out on the day the post went up, and he’s gained tons of hits from the article. I bet his book isn’t a failure now. I think it was a clever marketing ploy.

    Shortening the return period, I’m in for that. No returns seems a bit draconian, but giving the buyer time to read the book before they return it is like an unofficial lending library, one that benefits nobody except the person dishonest enough to do it. Legitimate returns for the reasons mentioned above, fine. Buy your book, glance through it to see if you want to keep it, (enough to spot formatting, grammar, length problem, make sure you’ve not mistakenly bought the same book twice), read a chapter or two, return it or keep it.

  9. Noelle
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 08:09:49


    I wish I could draw some conclusions about timing with returns, but all I see is the number of purchases for a title each month and the number of returns for that title each month. There’s no way to tell when the returner purchased the book, so I don’t know how many (if any) are returning after the 7-day window. The only thing I’ve been able to track in timing is that I don’t see any significant numbers of returns until a couple of weeks after the title has released. I’ve assumed this just means that the people who buy the book right away are my committed readers who aren’t inclined to return the book.

    Looking at my monthly reports, I can understand why writers are upset by the number of returns, but I’m a reader of ebooks too, and I’ve returned a number of them for what I hope are legitimate reasons. I definitely don’t think eliminating the return option is the way to go.

  10. Juliana Stone
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 08:18:10

    I haven’t read this petition in full yet, but I think their aim is to lower the return window from seven days, to I think two. I’m not sure how I feel about that yet, because as a reader and someone who only reads ebooks these days, I’ve returned a couple for various reasons. But I’ve never returned a book that I’ve read.

    I think if they could come up with a way to prevent ‘read’ books from being returned it would cut out the people who buy, read, and then return because they can. But, in all honesty, there will always be those kinds of consumers and I think it’s just a part of the process.

  11. Christine
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 08:27:27

    I don’t believe I have ever returned an ebook and I buy all my books now that way and have for years. Unless an author is an autobuy for me I always read the first chapter (or chapters) before committing (unless it’s a free book). I find with the “samples” available I have avoided some books I would have hated. Also, I would never return a book because I ended up not liking it. If there was something wrong with it I would. I’ve also never ended up with a novella by accident so I haven’t had that problem either. I do understand where the authors are coming from. As a consumer I don’t want the option of returning taken away from me but I don’t doubt there are people taking advantage of it. The same people who probably wear clothes, keep the tags on and return them. I do know a zillion years ago when I worked in a bookstore they allowed the return of hardcovers and paperbacks. Some shameless people would come in with paperbacks that look like they survived the 30 Years War and the manager would still take them back even though they were supposed to be in resalable condition. Unfortunately there are always people working the system.

  12. Tabitha
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 08:52:04

    I never knew you can return an e-book for any reason other than accidental purchase. Though it makes sense that you should be able to return an e-book just like if you purchased a print copy in store.

    I hadn’t looked into the refund rules for ebooks and I should have because there are a number of books I would love to return because of poor editing or shorter than the word count listed. It really frustrates me when the book is already short enough but there were excerpt after excerpt of the author’s other works (or other authors) to make the book appear longer and I paid $7.99 for the book. I feel really shortchanged then.

    I don’t often read a book immediately after purchase. I buy a lot on impulsive and some books no longer appeal to me even a few hours after I purchase it. So by the time I get to read a book its long past the return period. That’s on me though for not checking the book out before the return period ended. At the same time, I think there should be more than a day or two for returning ebooks – at least the same amount of time you could return a print copy to the store. Whether print or digital, the book would still be the same length and the copy would be returned to the store (for ebooks, removed from the device) so why should the return policy differ for digital?

  13. Cassie K
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 09:10:58

    I am a Senior Editor at Champagne Book Group and a member of a digital publisher networking loop and we are constantly talking about the volume of returns that there’s no way they are only for the reasons cited above by Jane and others, which are legitimate reasons. There is an uptick of ebooks being returned and while no one reading on this site would return an ebook after reading it, there are many, many, many others who are and do.

    As an author, I’m in favor of changing the return policy despite the fact that I haven’t had an ebook return. I realize people have different book buying budgets but if you are clicking on the wrong book, making mistake purchases and unaware of the page size, I realize this will NOT make me popular but in light of the new commenting policy, I hope I won’t be eviscerated but I’m sorry – pay attention to what you are doing. Sorry. I buy a LOT of books from Amazon and I’ve never returned an ebook and I have even had some of the above happen to me. Return policies favor the consumer at the expense of the business. I’m 49 and I’ve worked in retail as well since I was 17. I’ve seen things accepted for return that should never have been. If every consumer was as honorable as DA readers, we wouldn’t need to change a thing. But too many are not DA readers.

    BTW, the above is my personal opinion NOT CBG’s opinion. The publisher has her own.

    Now, one thing I don’t know is how many are being returned with a certain time frame and I will go back to the group of publishers and see if anyone is tracking that. Good question!

  14. Mary Beth
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 09:27:23

    @ Cassie K. – Basically I agree with your remarks. I buy LOTS of books and I simply do not think that it is appropriate, or frankly ethical, to return a book simply because the reader did not like it. However, I have returned ebooks not only for the reasons that Jane mentioned, but also because I have been confused by reissues with a different title that I already own. This is a frustration for me and I do wish that Amazon would give me a reminder that I do own this book. Sadly, that would most likely be impossible, but it certainly would be great!

  15. Laura Florand
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 09:29:08

    I tend to look at the returns issue from this standpoint: you’re the author and the publisher now, and the publisher gets an exponentially greater number of returns from booksellers, in the form of totally destroyed books. And additionally, I worked in a bookstore as a teenager, and there were always a few people who would read the whole book in the store rather than pay a dime. I think a certain percentage just goes with the business. Some people are just that way. But that said, I’ve only got one novella to judge from at this point, and it’s averaging about 10 returns per thousand copies sold (and some of those were for a genuine formatting issue that occurred on the Nook and which we had to fix), so I think I’m pretty lucky. I do understand the frustration of authors who deal with a lot of them, especially if they are sure that there are no issues a reader could object to. My impression is that this occurs the most in erotica, although that’s just anecdotal, I don’t have any real statistical evidence. And that it occurs more when the book is in some sale (such as with Bookbub) and is therefore reaching a much greater number of impulse buyers than your own readers who are tracking you down.

    Also, my understanding was that Amazon did already know whether a book was read all the way through or not–don’t they track all of that?

  16. Sunita
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 09:45:39

    As usual, I’ve been wondering how incentives for readers/buyers will change if the returns policy changes. I’ve returned two books out of the many ebooks I’ve purchased at Amazon, both within 24 hours. One was because I hit “buy” instead of “sample” and immediately returned it, while the other was an academic monograph that I couldn’t see enough of to know if it was what I wanted (and it was too new to have reviews). In the latter case, I didn’t make use of what was in the book before I returned it.

    So I don’t return books as a rule, but I have in the back of my mind that I *can*, and that Amazon’s policy is relatively generous. If the window was shortened to 24 or 48 hours, I would probably buy fewer books. I don’t always start reading a book when I download it, so unless I was sure I wanted to buy it I would just put it on my wishlist. But I don’t look at my wishlist that often, and when I do I often can’t remember why I put something on it, and if it doesn’t continue to appeal, I delete it.

    Maybe I’m unusual in my patterns, but if I’m not, then I think fewer people will buy books on impulse or without more information than they require now. The question for authors and publishers, then, is whether the reduced sales to non-returners are greater or lesser than the reduced returns.

  17. Jody W.
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 09:47:27

    Those of us with….ahem….a low-enough volume of sales can sometimes see a pattern of returns where a series of books is bought and returned one at a time, after being presumably read. I can’t imagine that a person would mistakenly purchase book 1 of a series and return it and then some other person would, like clockwork, mistakenly purchase book 2 and return it, and so on.

    I have seen a lot of theorizing, now that this petition exists, that a high volume of returns automatically means the person’s writing sucks, CLEARLY, and he/she would be better off worrying about that. That actually links, in my twisted brain, to the article by the self-pub failure, who was pretty witty and self-deprecating but nonetheless got chastized in the comments by people who claim if he isn’t selling, it’s obviously because he sucks or was doing something wrong or roarrr. So. Returns = your book is bad, and low sales = your book is bad. Probably admitting you have confuzzliness = your book is bad, being a nobody = your book is bad, it’s Thursday = your book is bad, and not having folded the laundry = your book is bad.

    Anyway. Back to the petition. While I would be interested in knowing what is done to cut off serial returners, I know Amazon’s not going to tell us. Or pay attention to the petition *heh*.

  18. Rosario
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 09:50:43

    @Cassie K:

    As an author, I’m in favor of changing the return policy despite the fact that I haven’t had an ebook return. I realize people have different book buying budgets but if you are clicking on the wrong book, making mistake purchases and unaware of the page size, I realize this will NOT make me popular but in light of the new commenting policy, I hope I won’t be eviscerated but I’m sorry – pay attention to what you are doing.

    Are you sure this would be to authors’ benefit? If I didn’t know I could return mistakenly purchased books, then I’d turn off one-click and not make any impulse buys. I’d wait until, say, I could get home and have a proper look at the book, whether I already had it, whether it’s actually new and not a retitled reissue, etc., etc. And I can guarantee you that, more often than not, by the time I got home, I would have forgot all about that book or lost interest in buying it.

  19. Jane
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 09:57:07

    @Rosario: That’s pretty much how I feel. If I were to be required as @LynneConnolly suggests to read a chapter or two after/before I buy then I wouldn’t do any impulse buying. Making me careful about my purchases would only result in lowered purchasing volume.

  20. Sirius
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 10:00:57

    I have never ever in my life returned the books which I finished reading, but I did return the books which were very short and priced like novels. Now when all publishers will be so kind as to actually put the word count in the blurb then I think ” pay attention to what you are doing” suggestion would have any merit for me. I also returned several books which were reissuances of the previous editions of the books without warning the reader about that. How am I supposed to know that the book was previously issued without you telling me about it? I am sorry but I consider those to be dishonest practices and I think return for these should be allowed during seven days or even longer. But what bothers me the most is how so many authors and publishers ( based on how many of them signed the petition) seem to think of readers as dishonest by default. You know for a fact that the majority of the returns is on the books fully read? If you do then I will be quiet, but if you don’t , considering how many sloppily formatted, badly edited , incredibly short books I see when I buy it when I get reviewing copies I will give fellow readers the benefit of the doubt personally.

  21. Michelle Garren Flye
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 10:06:05

    I was actually sort of surprised after seeing this petition that nobody has really paid much attention to the Amazon return policy. From what I can ascertain Barnes & Noble has a no return policy for NOOK books. I have never had a problem with returns on my self-pubbed books. I don’t think it has been an issue for my other books, either. However, the fact remains that there is a loophole there and saying “let’s wait until it’s a problem” is not proactive enough. I’ll have something on my blog Saturday about my thoughts about this, if you’d be interested.

    Edited to add: I once purchased the first “Pirates of the Caribbean” for the second time on iTunes when I meant to buy the second one. I’m a Johnny Depp fan, but that seemed a little ridiculous. However, at the time (I don’t know about now), iTunes did not refund for mistaken purchases. To this day, I have two copies of the first PotC movie on my iTunes account. It serves as a reminder to check carefully before hitting that “Buy” button.

  22. Anne
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 10:12:51

    A timely post, as I did return an ebook the other day.

    For some odd reason, Amazon has two versions of Lover at last available. I’d preordered one copy so long ago that I didn’t remember doing it – and when the other copy was available, and just before publication, I ordered that as well.

    I did not read the second ebook – and though the fault was mine, I was very happy that Amazon accepted the return of the extra copy.

    I cannot fathom why they have two versions of ebooks available. And at very different pricing as well.

    I have yet to return anything else. But knowing that the possibility is there is awesome.

  23. Christine M.
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 10:21:53


    Because a bookstore will never take back a book that’s been read through and shows sign of wear?

  24. Jean
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 10:26:58

    Another problem is that ebook sellers don’t include original publication information in the ebook description. Frequently the cover image has been changed and also the title. It makes it very difficult for the purchaser to make an informed buying decision. I usually have to look at the publishing information for the paper version and even that is not always certain.

  25. Ros Clarke
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 10:36:14

    If what they actually want to do is clamp down on the people using Amazon’s refund policy like it’s a library service, or people who might be purchasing, copying and returning, then it seems to me that the way to do that is to close accounts of people with a high % of refunds, not to change the length of time people have to make a return. 7 days is a reasonable length of time for a normal return. Not everyone starts reading the instant they buy a book. I don’t think that the proposed changes will affect the problem at all, and will only penalise legitimate purchasers. If I want to pirate a book, I can do that in minutes, and if I want to use Amazon like a library, I can do that by purchasing at the point when I want to start reading, and return within a day or two.

  26. CG
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 10:42:35

    I’ve never returned a book, e or dead-tree, too lazy. Having said that, to me that petition has the right intentions, but is going about it in completely the wrong way. On the one hand there’s this Stop allowing refunds on Kindle e-Books after e-Books have been read. Stop e-Book refund fraud!” which I completely agree with and can totally support. But then it goes on to imply the time period in which a book can be returned as the cause of this type of fraud. “Seven days is excessive.” and shortening that time period will somehow eliminate this type of fraud. Most power readers can devour a book in a day and a novella in hour(s), I know I can. Why not focus on whether the book has actually been read or not rather than time period? I’m pretty sure the all-powerful Amazon has this capability. It almost feels like this is an end run around all returns, rather than just the dishonest ones.

    Then there’s this, ”Amazon’s “Search Inside the Book” Program makes approximately 3 chapters (sometimes more) of most books available so that customers can preview the book prior to purchase, so why would they allow someone to purchase the book, give them seven days to read it, and then give them a refund? I don’t use the Search Inside Feature, nor do I think I should have to.

    And this, Customers know within a certain number of pages whether or not they wish to continue reading the book. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. I’ve download awesome samples then purchased the book only to DNF because the quality of writing and editing quickly deteriorated after the first chapter. Or the page count is inaccurate or nonexistent and you only discover that fact when you get to the end of that $5.99 novel which was actually a novella. Or the $2.99 novella which was actually a 10 page teaser to hook you into buying the $8.99 big new release next month. And I have no idea how to convert word counts to book size (will have to look into that), and even if I did, not all books offer this information.

    You don’t punish your honest readers for the sins of your dishonest ones. Most retailers recognize returns as the cost of doing business and not alienating their customers. As the petition stands, I’d have serious doubts about signing it and supporting the authors who do, as I don’t feel they have taken into account how this will affect an honest reader’s interests.

  27. Tabitha
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 10:54:51

    @Christine M: But bookstores could also accept book returns that could very well have been read but the condition of the book would appear new. Personally speaking, I’m a reader who like to keep my books clean and in as new condition as possible so I have many books that have been read but appear new.

  28. P. Kirby
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 11:07:25

    My only return so far was a self-pubbed book that kept downloading as gooblygook. Unreadable. Because I download books but don’t read until much later, I didn’t notice the problem until it was too late to return. I contacted Amazon anyway, and they deleted the old version and let me download a new, which was still unreadable. At which point, Amazon okay-ed a return. A few days later – because I really wanted to read the book and support the author, who is one of my online acquaintances, I downloaded again. Unreadable.

    Ultimately, the author just sent me a PDF of the book, but had I not known the writer, I definitely would’ve wanted a way to return the product (again).

    Seems to me, Amazon should revise its policies to minimize the impact of unscrupulous customers who are gaming the system, but there should still be a mechanism for returning defective merchandise.

  29. Liz H.
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 11:08:17

    The primary reason that authors (in this comment thread anyway) seem to be articulating for wanting to restrict returns is that they think a significant number of returners are reading the entire book and returning it. (Without any significant proof of that fact.) However, there are far better ways to prevent such behavior. Two easy examples are banning serial returners, and barring returns of books of which more than a certain % was read (just opening a shorter length book should make the short length apparent, so people returning for that reason are still protected). Both of the above are easily possible; Amazon, B&N, Kobo, etc. all collect that information.

    I also disagree that the current situation favors readers over authors. Amazon is one of the only ebook retailers that allows returns, and they only allow returns for 7 days. Readers also don’t have the ownership rights to their ebooks, have to contend with DRM that locks them into one device, etc. etc. All of these things are to the benefit of publishers, authors, and retailers. Where are readers coming out ahead here?

  30. Gwen Hayes
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 11:19:08


    You don’t punish your honest readers for the sins of your dishonest ones. Most retailers recognize returns as the cost of doing business and not alienating their customers. As the petition stands, I’d have serious doubts about signing it and supporting the authors who do, as I don’t feel they have taken into account how this will affect an honest reader’s interests.

    This. It takes two minutes to purchase and make a copy of a book stripped of DRM and then return a book for refund. A shortened window won’t stop piracy. I have to put my faith in humanity on this one and accept the fact that bad people do bad things, but most readers are not bad people and will not become serial returners.

  31. Liz H.
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 11:22:16

    @Sirius: Absolutely.

    If those who started the petition think that readers have to take the financial punishment of not being granted a return when they don’t take the time to ensure they’ll like the book, then turn-about should be quite fair play. Readers should get to set the punishment for authors who provide misleading synopsis’, inaccurate book data, first chapters that are so short that they provide no insight into the book, and/or editing that doesn’t seem to have gone past the first chapter. Any suggestions?

  32. Jenna
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 11:41:41

    I just looked up the article then the book on that guy who calls himself a self-publishing failure. He’s so witty in the article that I was surprised that promotions hadn’t landed him at least a few sales. That’s before I checked on his amazon link. His ebook is 7.99 and his paperback is 14.99. That’s comparable or above a traditionally published book. Maybe this makes me a snob, but if I’m going to pay that much for a witty mystery I want a guarantee that an editor has seen it.

  33. Deljah
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 11:42:13

    I’ve returned about 5 of the hundreds of ebooks I’ve read. One had bad formatting, found another cheaper somewhere else, didn’t mean to buy one, and two – which I read from start to finish – I returned for “offensive content”. I would definitely turn off one-click and be more careful if Amazon’s returns policy was really restricted. There are a lot of people who don’t even know you can return an ebook. I didn’t know in the beginning. If I would’ve known, I probably would’ve returned more.

  34. Char
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 11:52:01

    I use the return system on Amazon for the same reasons Jane stated. I can’t began to tell you how many times I went to get a sample only to have purchase the book instead. I’ve never return a book because I didn’t like it. I have return a book if chapters were missing or the formatting was so bad I couldn’t read it. I’ve also return a book because it turn out to be in Topaz format and the font was barely readable on my Kindle.

    My husband uses Kindle books for his schooling and they are expensive. Sometimes he will have me buy one and it’s the wrong book or the teacher changes it at the last moment. Thank goodness I can return it and get the right one!
    These are books we would’ve never read and he needs like one chapter from the book. I don’t return the book he actually uses though. I think that would be just wrong but the Kindle return policy has save me hundreds of dollars due to scatterbrain professors.

    If authors don’t like the Kindle return system it makes me think how they feel about Audible’s return policy? You can return any Audible you listened to and didn’t like up to one full year!

  35. Nicole Jane
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 12:08:58

    The lack of return poicy is why I no longer use Barnes and Noble and have switched to Amazon. That being said, I’ve only returned 3 books, and I have purchased >400 in the past couple of years.

    Not having a reasonable return policy (which I think Amazon currently has) would probably make me switch back to buying paperbacks, with a subsequent drastic decrease in the number of books I purchase.

  36. Jody W.
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 12:25:52

    @Liz H.: I can only speak to the “first chapters so short they provide no insight” issue. If you mean Kindle samples that you’re able to download before purchasing, AMZ doesn’t let selfpubbers pick how much of a sample to offer. They use a set % of the book, no matter the book or book length, I believe. That may not be what you’re talking about, though!

  37. Angela
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 12:39:43

    I agree with everyone here that having no return policy would greatly reduce the amount of impulse buying I do. Even though I don’t use the return feature often, knowing that it’s available for me (for the first 7 days) is a huge balm to me. It allows me not to worry so much about wasting my money – doesn’t make a lot of logical sense, but what can I say? It’s how my brain works on this.

    I own over 3,000 ebooks (just through Amazon). I bought another 25 last week (just from Amazon). I’ll never read them all. Heck, I can’t even guarantee I’ll read the 25 I bought last week. If I have to think about it more than I already do (and I do check goodreads, trusted blogs, and multiple locations to get an idea if the story is for me) and dither before spending my money – I’m not going to buy it.

    @CG: @Gwen Hayes: This. Absolutely. There are dishonest people in the world. People will “buy,” pirate, and return. People will use retailers as libraries – trust me, paper readers do this, too. I have books I’ve read 20 times that look like they just came off the shelf. I know of quite a few people that read theirs once and return it right away. The bookstore never questions or gives them a hard time about it. I’m not sure what the length of time is that you can have it, but it only takes a lot of readers I know a anywhere between 3 and 8 hours to finish off a regular sized novel.

    So, reducing the return window isn’t going to stop the people determined to cheat the system. It’s going to punish legitimate customers that make mistakes.

  38. Gillyweed
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 13:16:07

    @Cassie K:

    I realize people have different book buying budgets but if you are clicking on the wrong book, making mistake purchases and unaware of the page size, I realize this will NOT make me popular but in light of the new commenting policy, I hope I won’t be eviscerated but I’m sorry – pay attention to what you are doing.

    It’s actually easier to mistakenly purchase a book than you may realize. Sometimes because of the way the page is loading, the buttons don’t appear in their final positions and I’ve accidentally purchased something that I only wanted to add to my wishlist. I’ve also purchased an e-book on my computer, only to realize that my partner had been using my computer and left it logged in to his amazon account.

    Return policies favor the consumer at the expense of the business.

    I can see how you might feel that way, but there are many successful businesses that view their return policies as a way to build goodwill and create an ongoing relationship with a consumer (Zappos, for example). You view the return policy as something that is harmful to business, but what’s more harmful to a business is limiting a customer’s means to have a satisfactory purchasing experience. A customer who purchases a book with formatting and editing problems, or a book that differs significantly from the blurb, may be more likely to leave a negative review if they don’t have the option of returning the book within a reasonable amount of time.

  39. mireya
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 13:27:33

    so what is next…a petition to not allow ebook buyers to back up purchased ebooks to their clouds or computer’s hard drive? mind you, I haven’t returned an ebook ever, but I am at a point in which I wonder when the frigg someone will come up with a truly useful option which would benefit both authors and consumers. I still think ebook rental would be awesome.

  40. Nikkii
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 13:31:48

    I admit it, I return books to Amazon. When I first purchased my kindle I did not know about the return policy until someone mentioned it on this site. At that point I had bought copies of the same book because of changed information and I also had some utterly atrocious books that were advertised as one thing and were another or had so many errors there were utterly unreadable. After I found the policy, I bought more because I was more willing to take a risk on something if I knew I would not be stuck with it when in the first few pages I knew it was bad. I was happy about the return policy when I picked up Cherished by Maya Banks and Lauren Dane. The Maya Banks story made me feel ill, so despite my love for Lauren Dane I could not keep it. Do I not have that right?

    For me the return option is a huge advantage and a reason why I stick with Amazon. And the truth of the matter is that if I return a book I buy another one. I know despite books I have returned I have many times that amount in new purchases.

    The authors who are signing that petition should first look into whether or not they have a errors or issues in their books that encourage people to return them. If a short length is an issue perhaps they need to think about why. Some people might use it as a lending function and in that setting why not suggest an alternative. I know lots of people were annoyed with the lending library option but it has lead me to authors I would otherwise never have touched and I have purchased the sequels. Perhaps they need to question before signing this petition.

  41. Charming Euphemism
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 13:36:51

    @Ros Clarke:

    If what they actually want to do is clamp down on the people using Amazon’s refund policy like it’s a library service, or people who might be purchasing, copying and returning, then it seems to me that the way to do that is to close accounts of people with a high % of refunds, not to change the length of time people have to make a return. 7 days is a reasonable length of time for a normal return.

    Yeah, this. I have yet to return an ebook, but I really want that option. Seven days seems too short to me, in fact.

    This seems like making the same mistake as DRM: annoying honest purchasers while not discomfiting pirates or other abusers in the least.

  42. Lada
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 13:44:48

    Since the first reader I had was the nook, I found out early on that BN had no ebook return policy and it greatly affected how I made purchases afterward. Since I’ve now switched to Kindle, I’m more free about my impulse buys but won’t be if they change their policy. @Rosario: I pretty much agree with this. The authors who will suffer most are lesser known ones whose book may have caught my eye in passing but I’ll likely forget about if forced to wait to purchase.

    Why can’t they implement a yearly limit on returns instead of changing the time-frame? Something reasonable enough (10 books maybe?) to not punish honest readers for mistakes or unwanted purchases while curbing seriel returners. It will probably still affect impulse purchases and there will still be those who will find a way to get around it, but this makes more sense to me than limiting returns to 48 hours.

  43. Arethusa
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 14:07:17

    Returning books because one thinks they are crap is a “thing”? I had no idea. I’ve done it only a few times in my long reading life but it has happened. I can’t remember if I read those awful books in their entirety or not but once it appeared new and was within the return window you bet your tootin’ I took them back to the store and asked for my money back or exchanged it for another one.

    I stick to physical books mostly because I find ebook policies distasteful. I don’t own it, I can’t lend it, I can’t resell it…why spend money on it? I only do so for authors with whom I have a long and trusting relationship. This bizarre petition that seeks to force readers to scrutinize every intangible digital artefact asap, in a situation in which the reader is wholly dependent on the publisher to access excerpts, page/word numbers etc.? Triple pass.

  44. MaryK
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 14:25:12

    @Gillyweed: I’ve accidentally purchased an ebook when trying to enlarge the page on my iPhone. If the return policy changed, I’d definitely turn off one-click. It’d be interesting to see how many people turned it off and how that affected sales.

  45. MaryK
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 14:39:08

    I wonder if, at least some people, are doing this because they’re after a longer excerpt. It’s frustrating to sample books and find the excerpts are mostly prologue or descriptive narrative and tell nothing about the story.

    Judge said the All Other Rights clauses covers the publication of ebooks.

    Does this mean HQN will be able to digitize more and older backlists?

  46. Eileen
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 15:15:06

    I have a Nook so I’m used to a no returns policy. However, once I did have to call customer service to return an HP because the book wasn’t the correct one. It was some sort of mistake with the file I guess.

    This was a year or so ago, but I recall speaking to at least two different customer service reps because they didn’t want to take it back. I was trying to explain to them that the book I received didn’t match the blurb on the website describing the book, and one of the reps actually asked me what a “blurb” was!

  47. pooks
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 15:37:11


    I don’t think you can turn off one-click on Kindle purchases, can you?

  48. MaryK
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 15:41:52

    @Noelle: On a personal note, and with apologies if I’m nosing into your business, I remember looking at your list of books on Amazon and being a bit confused by either the titles or covers. There are three shorts and a collected volume of the same stories. If I hadn’t taken my time perusing, I might’ve accidentally bought all four.

    This may be purely anecdotal and probably wouldn’t apply to your early career. I thought I’d mention it in case it’s helpful.

  49. txvoodoo
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 15:43:57

    I’ve returned, I think, 3 books. The first was after buying an omnibus edition that wasn’t clearly labeled as such – I already had the 3 books it contained on my Kindle.

    I returned one mystery for execrable writing and/or copyediting – I have no idea who was responsible for the mess of that book, but I couldn’t figure out at all who was talking to whom, where they were going, and, sadly, who the murdered person was. I figured that was rather integral to the book, so back it went.

    And I returned one accidental purchase made from my Kindle. I thought I was clicking on the bit to read reviews, but my finger slipped, and I had bought it.

    That’s three out of over 800 books, so I don’t think it’s unreasonable.

  50. MaryK
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 15:44:35

    @pooks: I’m pretty sure you can. It’s specially set up to instantly charge your credit card and IIRC you have to authorize that.

  51. MaryK
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 16:03:24

    @pooks: Okay, so I looked it up, and it doesn’t say anything about one-click for ebooks. I tested it and even with one-click off it still one-clicks ebooks. (And no, I didn’t return it; it was one I was going to buy anyway.) I thought it at least gave you a confirmation page after clicking but it doesn’t. Maybe somebody else can find something?

  52. pooks
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 16:09:59

    @MaryK: As I recall, that’s the way mine has always been and I either read (or assumed) it was not only the default, but the only option. I’ll be interested to see if anyone else finds an alternative.

  53. Darlynne
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 16:17:30

    @Eileen: I had the same experience after an accidental click on the buy button when the web page reformatted. It took forever and multiple phone calls to B&N to finally get the credit to my account. Pretty much SOP for B&N customer service, but frustrating nonetheless.

    @Ros Clarke: Many brick and mortar retailers have already instituted a serial return-er policy. It would make sense for Amazon to do the same, for all the reasons everyone has stated. That’s where the agency and control lie, not with a shortened window for returns.

  54. Jane
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 16:19:35

    @Darlynne: You are luckier than I. Random purchases amounting to about $50 showed up on my Nook. I emailed and emailed to get them to take those books back (they weren’t romances but magazines and non fiction books I wouldn’t have ever bought). No go. It was the last time I ever bought one thing from BN online. Their online CS is so terrible.

  55. Darlynne
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 16:22:38

    @pooks: I don’t have one-click turned on either, but my Amazon ebook purchases always happen like lightning. If there’s a way to change that and see a confirmation “are you sure” prompt, I’d be thrilled.

  56. Jane
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 16:24:50

    @Darlynne: No, I think one click can be turned off for physical purchases but there is no friction between “buy now” and actually buying a Kindle book. I have one click turned off for my account and I only have to click “Buy now” and the transaction is complete.

  57. brandy
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 16:26:09

    In the nearly three years that I have had an e-reader, I have purchased (both paid and freebie) nearly 2000 books. I’ve returned two. TWO. One to Amazon, one to B&N. If Amazon were to shorten the window and/or disallow returns, I can guarantee you that I would stop purchasing books that I didn’t intend to read immediately and I’d most definitely be less inclined to purchase anything not put out by traditional publishers. The possibility that I wouldn’t ever get to it, or that it would be unedited or poorly formatted is just too great a chance to take.

    I really resent the anti-reader undercurrent in the petition’s comments as well as a few of the posts in this thread. Certainly there’s rotten people out there, but we are not *all* out to get you.

    I *would* support some kind of cap on the number of returns an account (or even particular credit card) could make.

  58. Noelle
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 16:40:37

    @MaryK: The novella collection actually gets fewer returns, in terms of the percentage of sales, than all of my other books except one (the one that gets fewer is a 600 page omnibus of a serialized novel, which is also the most expensive). The novellas the collection includes are listed out clearly in the description, but I would completely understand if someone bought it anyway and then realized they already owned the novellas and decided to return it. That’s a legitimate reason for returning, but it doesn’t look like that’s happening very often, based on the number of returns.

    I like the idea of a cap on the number of returns a customer can make during a designated period of time. That seems a much better option than preventing returns for legitimate reasons.

  59. Jane
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 16:44:09

    I’d be for a monthly cap, either monthly or based on volume of purchasing. I.e., only 10% of your purchases can be returned. (I could totally see myself scrambling to buy more books so I could return the offensive one and by offensive I mean, horrible grammar, poor production, etc. etc.)

    @Noelle: This is totally off topic but are you going to write another full length romance ala Escorted? I loved that book. I want to review it here at DA but I have a policy of no reviews of digital books until they are available at more than one retail venue.

  60. Jenny
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 16:58:17

    I have only ever had to return three books and I was thankful for the option. One of them I had already purchased at another site and didn’t realize. The other two were gifted to me and I already had them.

    It seems unfair for all readers to be punished because a limited number of people buy a book, read it and return it. Shortening the amount of time a person has to get a refund would really only benefit the people pirating the book. As they can buy it, strip the DRM and then return it within about five minutes. An honest buyer may not realize they need to return until a few days later.

  61. Noelle
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 17:06:23

    @Jane: Thank you! I’ve got another book coming out as Claire Kent at the end of the month. I think it’s very similar to Escorted in terms of style and voice–and actually even longer.

    Ironically, I put Escorted up on B&N two weeks ago when the Kindle Select period ended, and no one is buying it. Seriously, I’ve had almost no sales. NOOK readers just aren’t interested in my books!

  62. Jane
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 17:12:00

    @Noelle: I didn’t know the Select period had ended. Will review the book next week.

    Sorry everyone else. Carry on.

  63. brandy
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 18:21:55


    based on volume of purchasing

    Love this idea!

  64. Lynne Connolly
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 18:57:31

    I had no idea B and N did that! I once bought (in paper) a Stephanie Laurens story three times, one of her early ones. When “Devil’s Bride” was such a success, her publishers went nuts republishing and retitling her early books. I was so annoyed, I didn’t buy another Laurens for ages.
    I have a Nook Touch and I love it, but because I live in the UK, I can’t buy from the B and N store, because they won’t sell overseas (and they’re surprised they’re failing?) I’m really surprised they don’t let you return anything. (I sideload from my computer).
    Amazon’s return policy is amazing, and one of the reasons I buy a lot of stuff from them. However, seven days with a book might be a bit too much. Or maybe I’m just one of those magpies who rip open the new purchase as soon as I get it. I do open every book, virtual or otherwise, that I buy and read a chapter or so, just because it’s new and shiny and I can have that delicious anticipatory feeling.
    Not everybody’s as impatient as me, I get that.
    Like Brandy’s idea, very sensible. I’m told Amazon look for recidivists, but I don’t know if that’s true.

  65. JenM
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 19:04:44

    Back in 2009 or 2010, Amazon started shutting down accounts that were flagged as abusing the return policy. I don’t know if they are still doing so. There was a long discussion over at the Mobilereads forum at the time, and the general consensus was that Amazon was cutting off accounts if there were more than 30 or so returns of ebooks. I haven’t returned a book in several years, but when I first got my Kindle, I returned two or three, all due to mistakes with one-click. I’d venture to guess that just about everyone who owns a Kindle has made this mistake at least once. This petition seems tremendously short-sighted on the part of the authors, since they benefit from Amazon’s return policy far more than they are hurt by it.

  66. Moriah Jovan
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 19:36:38


    Seriously, I’ve had almost no sales. NOOK readers just aren’t interested in my books!

    Well, don’t feel bad. From where I sit on the freelancing production side of things, I would say Nook readers just aren’t interested in buying books from Barnes & Noble.

  67. Anne
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 19:48:43


    If the books were gifted to you through Amazon, there are instructions given on how to convert to a gift card if you don’t want that particular book for whatever reason. A couple of months ago, my mom gifted me a book I already had and it was really easy to just convert to a gift card and purchase a different book.

    There are a number of threads on the Amazon forums noting accounts that have been closed for serial returns. I think I’ve returned four books in three years. Three for bad formatting and one accidental purchase. One more because it was a reissue under a different ASIN.

    If they were to shorten the return period, I’d be buying a lot less books. This is a cost of doing business and I’m thinking Amazon has a decent handle on where to draw the limit on serial returners while not hurting the volume of sales to honest people.

  68. Brian
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 20:31:20

    @Lynne Connolly: B&N has had a Nook UK store for a few months now, although I don’t know how “good” it is…

  69. Brian
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 21:00:19

    Perhaps if a change is needed they need a two tiered return policy. One that’s 24-48 hours and can be dome by the customer from their Manage Your Kindle page for oops buys and the like and a second one where you have to email CS and explain the return a bit and is good for things like crappy formatting and the like and add some friction to the return like having to point out some of the errors or something.

    For you authors repubbing your backlist PLEASE put in the books description if you’ve changed the name or are pubbing it under a new author name. It also doesn’t hurt (and might even help sales) to put in info from when it was previously pubbed and by who. This can help save on not only returns, but angry buyers.

  70. Brian
    Apr 04, 2013 @ 21:04:21

    @Jane: In my experience the only chance of getting results from B&N CS is to call. You can email until you can’t type anymore and still won’t likely have a resolution to any issues.

  71. Sunny
    Apr 05, 2013 @ 00:24:01

    I’ve only returned one ebook, and that was because the sample was blank pages, acknowledgements, table of contents, additional notes from the author, a foreword by someone else, and one page of actual content. It was brand new and had no reviews and is likely the most offensive book I’ve read in my life, and after three actual pages I returned it.

    I’ve heard quite a few stories of people getting their Amazon accounts sanctioned for serial returning of physical and digital items, enough so that I’ve just deleted books I didn’t enjoy partway through or were formatted very poorly rather than returning them because I’m paranoid of ever hitting those invisible sanction numbers and losing access to my account.

    You get 5 lifetime Marketplace A-to-Z claims, that’s not a lot of buyer’s remorse returns in the physical world, so I don’t know how many digital returns are comparable.

  72. Liz H.
    Apr 05, 2013 @ 06:52:48

    @Jody W.: Does Amazon set different “preview” length requirements for self-published vs. non-self-published books, with the latter being set by the publisher? It often seems to me that the preview length is ~1 chapter, but that could only be in non-self-pubbed stuff, and/or I could very easily be wrong. If the former is true, that’s a problem, because the return policy applies to e-books across the board.

  73. Darlynne
    Apr 05, 2013 @ 09:04:59

    @Brian: As soon as I realized I had clicked on the buy button, I was on the phone with B&N customer service. Emails had never been answered in the past, so I wasn’t taking any chances. It still took multiple phone calls from me over about a month (perhaps Kobo and B&N shared the same CS classroom curriculum) to finally get the credit to my account.

    @Moriah Jovan: Boy, truer words. I gave up with B&N and purchase everything digital from Amazon now. So much more pleasant.

  74. Shiloh Walker
    Apr 05, 2013 @ 09:48:05

    I’m not wading through all the comments here, but my thoughts on this matter are this…

    If you’re having a HUGE percentage of books returned, there’s a problem, and it’s likely on your end.

    If the book is short and the price isn’t reasonable? Make it reasonable or make the length of the book clear in the description. If the book is a whopping 25 pages, you’re not going to get a whole lot of thrilled readers. I’ve seen people charging $2.99 for 25 pages and I laugh my butt off. That is a scam.

    If the formatting wasn’t professionally done, get it professionally done and reupload it-you can get it formatted for under $50.

    If the book wasn’t edited by a pro, hire a pro. If you didn’t use at least spell check, do that.

    But if you’ve got thousands of books being returned, there is an issue, but I don’t think it’s because of scams.

    Re: Nook… oddly enough, I actually make about 60% of my self pub income from them.

  75. Jody W.
    Apr 05, 2013 @ 10:10:46

    @Liz H.: I am afraid I don’t know! I’ve only ever been privy to the upload process via KDP, and you don’t get any choices about sample length. If you are sampling mostly novels from mainstream publishers–assuming romance novels from publishers are a relatively standard page/wordcount–it wouldn’t surprise me if it seemed like all the samples were about a chapter long. In self-pub, length varies widely, so sample size will too. But it also wouldn’t surprise me if the non-KDP upload process was different.

    I know, I’m a TON of help, aren’t I?

  76. Lori Toland
    Apr 06, 2013 @ 20:35:29

    I did a self pub release in December of last year and it did very well. I’ve had less than one dozen returns cumulatively and eight of them came from when the book flipped from free to .99 after the giveaway period on Amazon.

    I don’t have any padding in my books, like sample chapters of other books. Just a list of my books and my website and of course a copyright page. This is for my self-pub books though, not my traditionally pubbed books. I’d be interested to see the returns number in comparison.

  77. Elizabeth McCoy
    Apr 07, 2013 @ 09:29:00

    Belated, but… Yeah, it’s really disheartening to see returns. It’s really, really irritating to be reloading obsessively and see a pattern in your tight-linked duology that goes “return book 1, buy book 2, return book 2” in the space of a few update intervals. (And then there was the short story that got 2 purchases and 1 return nearly instantly; that was pretty clearly a “…bought this twice” error.)

    On the other hand, I keep telling myself, better to have a return than a review from an upset customer who feels *cheated* because the book wasn’t what they’d thought it was.

    The Read-Copy-Return Slime will always be with us (under false-name accounts…) — and shortening the return-duration is actually enabling that pattern. The RCRS will do it anyway, because they’re on throwaway accounts, and have nothing to lose. But more diffident readers might occasionally do it as well on a book they’re unsure about, reasoning that if they like it, they’ll re-purchase it. (But will they get around to doing that? Will they even remember that this is a “stripped” ebook?)

    (Interestingly, though my duology’s sales have dropped off from their highest point… the returns are almost the same — 1-3 for each book, per month. I’d need to double-check my numbers to make sure I’m remembering correctly, but I don’t think the ratio is entirely proportional. Still, the only way to stop RCRS is to deny returns at all, and, honestly? That’s punishing all customers for the crimes of a small percentage of “shoplifters.”)

    I’d be in favor of *lengthening* the return duration, though it’s counter-intuitive. Perhaps with a tiered amount returned: after 7 days, you only get 75% of your money back, after 14, 50%, after 21, 25%, and after a month, no more returns. (So if you’ve got something you consider vile on your account — you can still get rid of it up to a month later and get *something* back.) Too many returns is still a problem that the seller should be paying attention to, in order to smack down RCRS, but most of those will become obvious in the first week…

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