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The Weekly Blague

Amazon Acknowledges Review Problem, Offers Clarifications

I've often written about the wide assortment of problems concerning Amazon reviews, and how these problems had gotten so out of control, that Amazon reviews had lost virtually all credibility. Among these posts are:

· A story about how Amazon allowed Michael Jackson fans to use social media to destroy a Jackson biography with a flood of anonymous one-star reviews.

· A story about how Amazon was deleting reviews posted by authors because the company saw all authors as direct competitors with other authors, and they do not allow reviews of products from direct competitors.

· In a story about book promotion, I’d mentioned how Amazon had been flooded with bogus five-star reviews written by critics who don’t read the books they’re reviewing and which authors are paying for: one review for $99, 50 for $999.

· A story about how an Amazon computer was automatically deleting reviews of Beaver Street because they contained “sexually explicit” keywords.

Amazon has finally acknowledged that there is “some confusion around the guidelines Amazon uses to evaluate Customer Reviews,” and, in an e-mail to authors, they’ve made an effort to clarify matters. Here are some of the highlights of that e-mail:

· Authors are allowed to review another author’s book as long as the author doesn’t have a “personal relationship” with the author of the book being reviewed. (Amazon does not define “personal relationship” or explain how they determine if the authors have one.)

· Authors cannot review their own books.

· Authors’ family members and “close friends” may not post reviews. (Again, Amazon doesn’t explain how they determine this.)

· Authors may not pay someone with money or merchandise to write a review, though giving a reviewer a free copy of the book to be reviewed is permitted.

Though this is a belated step in the right direction from a company that has systematically ignored these problems in the past, it’s hardly a complete solution. Since Amazon now has an ever-tightening stranglehold on the book business, authors can only hope that they will continue to seek even better solutions. Because before they were utterly corrupted, Amazon reviews were a good thing.

The complete FAQ on Amazon book reviewing guidelines is available here.
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