Thursday, 4 November 2010

More Amazon review nonsense

I've blogged before about some of the ridiculous 'reviews' on Amazon. Despite some changes being made (you now only seem able to post reviews once a book has been released, thus stopping people from giving 1-star reviews as a protest at the delay with a book's publication) there are still major issues with reviews on Amazon.

Pat has highlighted the most recent issue.

"For some unfathomable reason, disgruntled e-book readers have had a stroke of genius and now leave 1-star reviews on various Amazon sites if the title in question is not yet available in electronic format. It's by no means the first novel to suffer from such attacks, but Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson's Towers of Midnight has been the target of a slew of 1-star reviews solely due to the fact that the e-book edition won't be released till February 2011.

Now I'm not proclaiming that every e-book reader out there is a moron. But those idiots leaving 1-star reviews to make their displeasure known certainly deserve the title. If the shoe fits and all that crap.

Say what you want about Amazon reviews, the sad truth is that they are a tool used by hundreds of readers shopping for books and other products. Granted, Towers of Midnight won't suffer much from this treatment, but a less popular midlist author could see his or her sales go down the crapper based on the fact that his overall average is down to two or three stars simply due to the fact that assholes are bitching about this or that novel not being available in e-book format. Not every customer will take the time to read every single review to realize, to their consternation, that a bunch of idiots left 1-star reviews without having read the work."

I couldn't agree more. The quality (or lack thereof) of Amazon reviews is well known within the publishing industry, but the simple fact is that thousands of people rely on them when deciding which book to purchase. It therefore follows that a load of negative reviews are going to make people less likely to buy a book. Not that there's anything wrong with that if the reviews are genuine, but when they're the result of some disgruntled reader who has not even read the book in question yet, there's a real problem there. Sure, readers that actually bother to read the 1-star reviews will quickly realise if those reviews are not genuine. But a lot of people probably just look at the average star rating without reading individual reviews, and so may not realise if many of the negative reviews are totally false.

I really do hope - for the benefit of everyone: readers, authors and publishers - that Amazon eradicate this sort of nonsense. You'd think they'd do something, given that it doesn't exactly make their own business look that great if they're happy to publish 'reviews' that are not at all authentic. I'm sure that it's not just a case of someone snapping their fingers and magically everything is resolved, but there must be some sort of safeguard that can be introduced.


WordTipping said...

Amazon does have a number of controls in place through the badge system.

The badge system will notify readers that the reviewer is using a verified name, bought the book from Amazon, is a Top 500 reviewer, part of their Vine program, etc. All of these tools are used to give weight to a reviewer.

Second, you can vote and comment on reviews. This helps bury poor reviews and gives a forum for rebutting unfair reviews.

Lastly, Amazon tends to showcase the reviews voted most helpful by other readers. Since these are the reviews that often times rate the product the highest. Combine this with the fact that they only showcase 2-3 reviews on each product page, they further help bury bad reviews.

So its not like Amazon doesn't do anything, they do a tremendous amount to help promote products. What they don't do is just delete reviews because they are "not good enough".

That said, I think people who leave one star reviews without a comment, especially to protest something unrelated to the quality of the product to be suspect at best and idiots at worst.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but format and restrictions on use of the product are entirely valid criticisms. Just like price or any other restriction. If they make the book cost $1000, I'd write a one star review. If they decide that I can't read it on the subway on my way to work because I have to carry a huge damn hardcover, well, that is a valid complaint too.

Nathaniel Katz said...

No, anonymous, it's not. You're not rating amazon; you're rating the book. Giving a one star because the seller was slow (as I've seen numerous times) is doing nothing to the seller, as they've already sold the book. You're just hurting the author.

Jebus said...

Personally I think if you rely on reviews from Amazon you're a bit of an idiot anyway.

I'd never buy a book from there based on what other readers think. I buy books based on the blurb, author, recommendations by friends, and reviews from "proper publications" and respected review blogs. Anyone buying a novel solely based on Amazon reviews is asking for trouble no matter what the thought or purpose put behind said reviews.

Michael said...

It really is sad how people take things like a book not being available in electronic format as a personal insult and hurt an author who is just trying to make a living. Seriously, if you love the book enough to get that upset over it, why hurt the author? Just get a library card.

(Then again, I'm sure that most of these people aren't aware that they could be potentially hurting anyone.)