Can Amazon reader reviews be trusted?
Just recently, I noticed something peculiar. I was getting emails from amazon.com asking me to rate books I had bought recently. And, once I succumbed to hitting five or whatever stars, I was then coaxed into writing a proper review.
I rather liked this (though I found it odd), because I haven't been able to post reviews on amazon.com for many months, on account of a glitch in the amazon.com works that no one on their side of the great internet divide could fix, and was certainly beyond my amateur ability.
But lo, by answering the amazon.com email, I could post a review. Hurrah. So I did it.
Evidently encouraged by this, they then asked me to rate yet another book--one that I had bought three years ago. This seemed odder than ever, but it was a great book, so I embarked on another review. The glitch took notice and took over again, but at least I got half it posted.
So what is going on with amazon.com and reader reviews?
According to a commentary by David Streitfeld in the New York Times (December 22, link in the header of this post), amazon.com are sort of cleaning up their act. There have been too many author-friendly reviews, it seems, meaning five-star reviews posted by authors' friends and family, along with similar raves by mysterious gadgets called "sock-puppets." So these are being removed in wholesale fashion. Unfortunately, a lot of genuine reviews are being swept along in the tide -- and who is to say that your lover or your son is not a genuine fan? Not to mention a fellow author who knows exactly how hard it is to get a book noticed?
This apparently self-destructive move by the amazon leviathan seems to be in response to a reader-led movement to get rid of unreliable reviews. A prime target is Harriet Klausner, reviewer extraordinare, who flips through seven books a day, and posts a rave review if she has reached page 40 without dying of boredom.
As Streitfeld writes, "The dispute over reviews is playing out in the discontent over Mrs. Klausner, an Amazon Hall of Fame reviewer for the last 11 years and undoubtedly one of the most prolific reviewers in literary history.
"Mrs. Klausner published review No. 28,366, for “A Red Sun Also Rises” by Mark Hodder. Almost immediately, it had nine critical comments. The first accused it of being “riddled with errors in grammar, spelling and punctuation.” The rest were no more kind. The Harriet Klausner Appreciation Society had struck again.
"Mrs. Klausner, a 60-year-old retired librarian who lives in Atlanta, has published an average of seven reviews a day for more than a decade. “To watch her in action is unbelievable,” said her husband, Stanley. “You see the pages turning.”
"Mrs. Klausner, who says ailments keep her home and insomnia keeps her up, scoffs at her critics. “You ever read a Harlequin romance?” she said. “You can finish it in one hour. I’ve always been a speed reader.” She has a message for her naysayers: “Get a life. Read a book.” ...
"Ragan Buckley, an aspiring novelist active in the campaign against Mrs. Klausner under the name “Sneaky Burrito,” is a little weary. “There are so many fake reviews that I’m often better off just walking into a physical store and picking an item off the shelf at random,” she said."