Why is Amazon deleting writers’ reviews of other authors’ books?
By Carolyn Kellogg
If emails from Amazon’s customer service team are a fair indicator, it appears the online retailer considers authors to be direct competitors of other authors. And email chains are all we have to go on, as Amazon did not respond to our request for comment. On Wednesday, Steve Weddle, an author of crime fiction, blogged about how he had tried repeatedly to leave a nice review for “Karma Backlash,” a pulpy e-book by his friend Chad Rohrbacher, on its sales page on Amazon. Weddle’s review was received but never posted. When he asked Amazon what was happening, Weddle got an email reply that explained, “We have removed your review from Karma Backlash. We do not allow reviews on behalf of a person or company with a financial interest in the product or a directly competing product. This includes authors, artists, publishers, manufacturers, or third-party merchants selling the product. As a result, we’ve removed your reviews for this title.”
This new edict makes no sense to me. I mean, I do get the idea that they want to protect the integrity of their review system. And there are some flaws and ways in which it can be abused, both positively and negatively. Earlier this year, there was the case of the writer, RJ Ellory, who had been discovered to have been posting fake positive reviews for his own books, which is bad enough, but also he was posting fake negative reviews on the books of other writers in his same genre (read about that HERE). Essentially, trying to hype himself up, while trashing the competition. So that’s not cool.
But there are also other ways the Amazon review system can be abused. I recall maybe a year or so ago, I can’t remember the exact details, that there was a writer who had spoken out against internet piracy and those who illegally download ebooks and other forms of entertainment. An online mob of pirates then intentionally started a campaign of posting a bunch of negative reviews for all of his books, dropping his books down the Amazon list. It was just a malicious act.
But, to me, the key here is not to try to restrict a specific group of people on Amazon from reviewing something (& why restrict it to authors? Should they ban actors/directors/screenwriters from reviewing other movies, too?). What I think they should do is restrict all reviews, for all products, to “verified” reviewers only. Meaning, only people who have actually purchased the product on Amazon are then able to post a review for it on Amazon. For the record, I am a steady customer of Amazon.com, I buy stuff off that site all the time, and am an Amazon Prime member (that’s a deal where, for $79 a year, you get free UPS 2nd Day shipping on most products you order). And when I check reviews of stuff, especially products that I might use, I look at the verified reviews, because I know those folks actually bought the product so, ideally, these are people who really used the stuff. Same with books, or movies, I know they watched/read the stuff, so that gives their opinion more credibility, in my eyes.
Of course, I know even that system isn’t perfect. People can still game the system, and write fake positive or negative reviews, but I think most of the folks who are inclined to do that will be less likely to if they have to spend money on it. Just my opinion.