Does anyone know what the return policy is at Barnes and Noble, the brick and mortar one, not the online store? Can you take a book you read and didn’t like back and get a refund? What about getting your money back for a piece of sh*t movie you just paid a crap-ton of money to see. Ever tried to get a refund because you didn’t like it? The movie theater manager around these parts would just laugh at me if I asked. And I would not get my money back.
I’ve never tried to return a bad book to the book store – not even once, even if I didn’t like it. I know that I can but I’ve always assumed there was the chance that even though my best friends loved it, I might not. Might not be my thing, this new book. So I bought it and I’m stuck with it, and with my time constraints I can’t read a book in fourteen days. No way. So returning a book was never an option for me. That makes me a careful book buyer. I apply that ethos to my ebook buying habits as well.
How do you pick your books to buy? At the bookstore I notice an awesome cover, read the back and then read a page or two, standing there. Maybe a whole chapter if it isn’t too long. I have that same option online, but still those first awesome pages, incredible cover and well written blurb don’t guarantee that the book will follow through. Art is subjective. Writing is art. That’s why in school they call the class Language ARTS where you learn how to string words together into a sentence. There are no guarantees that you will like the book I like even when you know me and my tastes, and feel I’m a reasonably sane human being. I might not like the book you like even though I love that you’re completely crazy.
The reading public is going through the same upheaval as the writing public. The gatekeepers are gone. They won’t be back. The gate is lying in a twisted heap of metal and can’t be repaired or rebuilt. The flood of change has been released upon us and we all just need to hang on until the raging waters recede. Everyone will learn to adjust. Readers will read reviews, listen to their friends recommendations and still get a book they don’t like. They will also find books they love, regardless of who published them.
The reading public will learn that they have a certain amount of time to return their electronic book if they don’t like it*, and will learn to buy that book when they have time to read it, or they’ll do what so many others have done with books they didn’t ever get to, or put down for whatever reason, they shelve it – in this case on their virtual bookshelf, or push the delete key. They’ll have learned a lesson about the book and the writer and themselves, a lesson everyone should already know – nothing in life is a sure bet, not that indie ebook you paid $2.99 for or the $12.99 ebook you shelled out for yesterday. They could both be terrible. They could both be great.
Readers, by their very nature because they READ, aren’t stupid, and can figure out the return systems for the various online book outlets – and then be a better judge of what they want to read, or they can just take a chance. They may discover that it’s kinda fun to find that next best thing, the amazing story written by a complete unknown and be able to pass on this secret knowledge to all their reader friends.
Writers will learn not to be so fearful of all these changes they face, and hopefully will concentrate instead on writing that next amazing story that captures the imaginations of the readers waiting to find them.
Everyone should stop worrying so much, fighting so much and thinking the world is somehow coming to an end because readers now have so many choices before them. They are smart and always have been. Readers do not need to be coddled or spoon fed. Writers, who happen to also be the readers, should trust them better.
Everyone just breathe a moment while this jet takes off to the stratosphere and then feel free to float about the cabin.
(*B&N accepts store returns within 14 days with a receipt, just so you know. They do not accept ebook returns. Amazon accepts ebook returns within 7 days.)