Nathan Bransford, Author


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Amazon Review Controversy

First, before we get to the topic at hand, my client Jennifer Hubbard is hosting an awesome blog event around the Internet: lots of participating blogs are making per-comment donations to local libraries and all you have to do is stop by and leave a comment. The master list of participants is on Jennifer's blog - it's a great way to generate money for a great cause!

Meanwhile, you may have heard that Michael Lewis, author of The Blind Side and Moneyball, just published a new book on the financial crisis called The Big Short. The book has received good reviews, but a funny thing started happening on Amazon: lots and lots of 1 star reviews, leading to an overall ranking of 2 and 1/2 stars. Why? People leaving 1 star reviews solely because there is no Kindle edition available.

The actions of these consumers prompted TechCrunch to write a rather direct article on the controversy: Amazon: You Need to Change Your Idiotic Customer Reviews Policy Right Now. But TechCrunch, tell us how you really feel!

Noting that these one star non-reviews mainly just hurt the author, who by the way doesn't have control over the publisher's publication plans, Paul Carr's suggestion is that reviews should be limited to people who have actually bought the book from Amazon - this way people with an outside agenda can't drag down a book's rating without even having read it, whether their beef be political or gender-related or Kindle-centric.

What do you think of this controversy? Are the Amazon reviewers just flexing consumer muscle or are they out of line? Do companies have an obligation to address libelous/spurious/treasonous/blank-ous reviews?






185 comments:

David said...

The reviewers are way out of line. This is potentially quite bad for the author, who, as you point out, has no control over this.

Kurtis said...

People need to take reviews with a whole bag full of driveway salt.

lynnrush said...

Wow. I hadn't heard of this happening. That's horrible. I

think limiting reviews to people who have bought the book would help. But what about someone like me, who got the book either from the author or publisher, to review?

I wouldn't be able to go leave a review, right? Because I hadn't bought the book from Amazon. . . Or am I on glue?

Stephanie L. McGee said...

Honestly, I've rarely if ever paid attention, let alone heed, to the customer reviews on Amazon. Those people don't know me so their reviews of the book are based only on what they felt. If a friend recommends a book to me, I give it more consideration because they know me and might have an idea of my tastes and proclivities.

Not that the customer reviews are inherently bad. They just don't help me any.

That said, I do think that it's unfair that the book is getting low marks because the publisher hasn't made an electronic edition available yet. How likely is it that the electronic edition would hit the market if the sales of the hard copy are low or dragged down because of some unforeseen factor?

It's a fickle world and a fickle industry at times.

Cameron said...

Yeah - this is no good. There are alternatives (like Amazon could list the Kindle version of books and say "Not available" essentially to create a petition-like approach to try to convince the publisher to create multiple editions). Just more fuel to the eBooks - good or bad - discussion (which I posted about this morning on my blog, coincidentally).

Krista said...

I'm generally easy-going, but one thing that really kills me is a book review posted by someone who has not read the book. Anywhere: Goodreads, LibraryThing, Amazon, B&N, wherever. I guess I'm for a way to curtail that.
There. I said it.

Jane said...

What will be done to curtail author abuses such as getting family and friends to give books five star reviews? Or Authors giving out arcs in exchange for five star reviews? Or authors going around in bands to click "not helpful" on negative reviews so those won't show up?

I hope any Amazon review reform takes into consideration these issues that negatively impact a reader.

Margaret Yang said...

Authors often get blamed for things they have no control over--books going out of print, a publisher canceling a series...heck, they even get blamed for bad cover art.

Jen Brubacher said...

I think it's a valid method of protest against Amazon. I question how many potential readers are swayed by 1 star reviews without actually reading the review. And it's certainly getting press for their complaint.

Donna Alward said...

Hmmm. I'm not sure limiting reviews to people who have bought the book on amazon is the right answer either. I know I LOVE it when a reviewer who has read my book cross posts that review on goodreads, shelfari, amazon, barnes and noble...while it would be nice if people actually READ the book, limiting reviews to people who bought it there doesn't really seem to be the answer either.

I don't know about everyone else, but I never rely on the star rating anyway. I go in and read the reviews. You can tell if it's just hateful and snarky or if a bad review is legitimate and well thought out. Same with good reviews. :-)

That being said - just because there's no kindle version isn't a reason to trash the author. Geez.

Sangu said...

It's outrageous. It's certainly not fair to the author. I know that while the overall score on Amazon doesn't make a difference to me, reviews do. I often read reviews before buying a book, though I think I would discount any by reviewers who haven't actually read the book. Still, it's awful. Writers have a hard enough time selling and advertising without this kind of bad (and false, by the way) publicity. Ebook/Kindle/book formats have nothing to do with the quality of a book, which is what the review asks for. Reviewers should focus on content, not format.

Alan said...

Treasonous??? Oh please. One of the first things that new booksellers learn is that 'the customer is always right'. When consumers take the time to leave public feedback about what they really want, the sensible approach is to work to address their concerns, rather than to limit their ability to complain.

Hillary said...

Limiting to people who purchased the book would really be a problem for authors as so many court reviews on Amazon from outside sources.

Why can't they just make "not about this edition" one of the reasons a review could be removed?

JP Garner said...

I guess I look at this a different way. I don't think that it just hurts the author, it also hurts the publisher. If the publisher has decided to not produce a Kindle version, then I'm okay with the public expressing their feelings on the matter.

Hopefully it will lead the publishers to creating more ebooks and releasing them at the same time as the hardcover. It also may lead authors to negotiate ebooks as a part of their contract.

Roni @ FictionGroupie said...

I do look at reviews on Amazon quite often to determine if I want to buy the book. So I think the ratings on there definitely can impact the author's sales. However,I don't like the idea of limiting reviews to people who have bought from Amazon.

Perhaps, they could have two separate boxes for reviews: the content of the book being one rating and the customer experience (if it's available on kindle, if the book arrived on time and in good condition, etc.) being something separate, not related to the number of stars.

Jen Forbus said...

I am also a person who pays very little attention to the reviews posted on Amazon, but this practice on the part of the "reviewers" is adolescent. The review should review the given item and nothing else. There are other venues for that.

Limiting the "reviewers" to people who have purchased from Amazon isn't unfair. Those who want to review and haven't purchased the book from Amazon have plenty of other ways to do so.

Nathan Bransford said...

alan-

Treasonous was hyperbole.

Renee Miller said...

I have to agree, reviews left by people who haven't read the book really bug me. I'd tell you how I really feel, but I want to keep this PG rated.

I don't pay attention to reviews when choosing a book, but I know many do.

Anonymous said...

I think we (authors) pissed in the pool a long time ago re: the legitimacy and persuasiveness of Amazon reviews. I've seen enough email requests fly past on various author loops asking buddies to post good reviews to counterbalance bad ones that I haven't used Amazon reviews to help me make purchase decisions for a long, long time.

Amazon stars mean nothing to me.

PaigeC said...

I like the idea of only Amazon customers being allowed to post reviews. A good friend of mine was ruthlessly attacked through Amazon reviews because of a twist in her book some readers didn't like. The problem came when a snowball of reviewers ranked the book with one star and then openly admitted they hadn't even read the book and wouldn't based on other's reviews. Proof of purchase would at least increase the chance of an informed review. We’ve become a society that bases their opinions on the opinions of others rather than doing the work and research ourselves to shape unique and informed viewpoints. Amazon reviews just enables that growing lazy mindset and opens the door for defamation based on issues that have nothing to do with the book.

Joseph said...

@Sierra

The first three reviews were about the book because they're ranked by the most helpful. You're correct that a discerning viewer can tell the difference between spam reviews and real reviews, but the average shopper isn't discerning. Publishers stress a lot about the Amazon rating because it has a direct effect on sales. Amazon users know this and sometimes use this method for protesting whatever cause they want to protest. It sucks for the author, but it continues to happen because it has in the past lead to changes.

I feel sorry for any author or product that has its rating lowered by someone making reviews about something unrelated to the product. It's not isolated to book reviews. Look at any product review on Amazon, Best Buy, or what have you and the 1 star because of personal preference rather than anything about the item in question happens frequently.

Rather than restricting who can make comments, I would propose they provide appropriate outlets for the kinds of comments being made. Why give a laptop one star if the guy at Best Buy was rude to you? Give Best Buy one star. Have a separate rating system or means for voicing comments that doesn't impugn the quality of the item, allowing users to voice their opinion.

Liberty Speidel said...

I think the reviewers are far out of line. Just because you've got a Kindle doesn't mean you get every title available. I prefer to buy most of my books in paperback format. Doesn't mean I'm going to go give the hardback edition a bad rap because the paperback hasn't been released yet!

As to whether Amazon should prevent folks from leaving reviews when they haven't purchased the book, I must offer an emphatic NO. I don't buy many of my books from Amazon, and after the recent debacles with them removing the 'buy' buttons from certain publishers products, I doubt I'll be buying anything more from them anytime soon.

However, I have many friends who are authors. I buy their books from them, get them autographed, etc., and frequently they ask of me to leave them an Amazon review after I've read it. Because most of these folks are self-pubbed (and their books are quite excellent), I'm more than happy to facilitate. But, if I'd have had to buy that book from Amazon in order to leave a review, well, I'd lose something by not being able to have my friend autograph it. (Most of these folks live hundreds, if not thousands, of miles from me.)

Best response from Amazon: methodically removing reviews from Kindle users who are whining. Especially if they receive complaints from the author and/or publishers. With their recent bad press, it'd be the least they can do to improve their self-image.

And, Kindle users need to grow up and get a life!

Kyle said...

It's definitely ridiculous. But then I always READ the reviews and don't always trust the star rating. People who complain that the book isn't availale on Kindle usually say they're rating accordingly right at the beginning (and oftentims in the title), so I skip them and look at the ones that actually speak of the book itself.

It's the same on iTunes, because people get mad when they make the songs "Album Only," meaning they can't download indiviual songs from the album and have to spend $10+ to get one song (like WAY back in the 90's when we didn't have digital copies available)...

There should be a "request this book on Kindle" button or something and Amazon should be more proactive abut deleting those bad reviews that have to deal with Kindle...

Steve Masover said...

This is a really spicy controversy, Nathan, thanks for featuring it.

Michael Lewis is clearly caught in a bad place on this, but I disagree with the TechCrunch recommendation that Amazon "change its review policy so that only people who have actually bought a book are allowed to review it."

Part of why Amazon reviews work is that they're open. By "work" I mean both that they attract interesting reviews, and people believe the reviews to be more-or-less trustworthy. If Amazon sets up rules and barriers (however reasonable and fair) they risk a perception that the review system is rigged in favor of shills. That would poison one of the sweetest things Amazon has going, i.e., legions of volunteer salespeople. It's worth noting that there must be a fair few reviews that are quite useful but contributed by people who bought a book other than on Amazon.

What Amazon already has is review-reader feedback: was this review helpful to you? There's also a link for reporting reviews that are out of line (as the "we want Kindle editions" reviews are arguably out of line in penalizing Michael Lewis' book for something he doesn't control).

At most, in my opinion, Amazon might build some administrative functionality that allows the site to require "only if you bought it here" reviews in cases where a book is attracting a type of response that doesn't fit the review feature's purpose. That way they fight fires in the places they're burning, but don't douse a terrifically useful and attractive feature that wins them eyes, attention, clicks, and sales.

D. G. Hudson said...

Isn't this part of the Amazon package? If the unwashed masses don't like any little thing, they use the reviewing capability to express their sometimes tunnel vision attitudes.

There should be some type of filter or process established to weed out the real purchaser and readers, but isn't that contradictory to allowing the 'almighty public' to decide? I certainly don't look at the reviews to decide what I should buy. Anonymous reviewers have anonymous credentials, so how much credibility do they really have?

Changing the reviewing capabilities would most benefit the authors, so I say do it!

Troy Masters said...

The review system is especially terrible for anything that is controversial or political. It's 5 stars if you agree with the politics, 1 star if you disagree.

That said, there's no definitive way for Amazaon to know whether a reviewer has read the book or not. The best they can do is confirm a purchase. But only allowing people with confirmed purchases to review could exclude several people who have acquired the book outside of Amazon, and would have a selection bias -- the most "honest" reviews might be people who have simply borrowed a copy or picked it up from the library, and aren't already in love with the author.

So why not just include additional data on the front page, such as the average stars from those with a confirmed purchase? If the two averages diverge sharply, it will be obvious that something fishy is going on, and people will dig deeper into the reviews.

JLC said...

As a person who reads reviews a lot. I ignore the "one star" reviews and likewise ignore the "five star" reviews who are usually paid to write them. Instead I look at the middle of the road reviews. Those are usually written by people who actually used/read/came in contact with the item for sale.

Linda Godfrey said...

I think this has been a problem with Amazon reviews for a long time; it's the old, wild west there and every reviewer has a six-shooter. (Or five-star shooter)

I've had a person leave a one star review on a book about ghosts because she didn't like ghosts.

There doesn't seem to be much recourse as long as reviews are open to anyone.

Perhaps a big disclaimer noting that reviews may have been written by malcontents, competitors, people with private agendas, evil monkeys or aliens as far as we know might give some readers a more realistic slant on them.

Heather said...

I definitely think the reviewers are out of line, but I don't think limiting who can review the book is the answer. There are some people (like me) who might read an Amazon review of a book they're on the fence about before buying, so I think it's logical to assume there are people out there who have reviewed books for Amazon that they've actually read without buying them from the site. Basically, I don't think there is an easy answer to this.

Ultimately, I think I agree with Sierra. Readers who actually do want a real review of the book will not just look at star rankings - it's not how I use Goodreads, even if the ranking is really low. I try to find out why the book is rated low or high. The intelligent reader will only take a few minutes to tell that the star ratings are not because of the book's content. The only people who really care about the star rankings are obsessive authors who are putting too much stock in their Amazon ratings anyway.

Also, monitoring the ratings more closely might get rid of the phenomenon of 5-star rating wolf t-shirts and other such awesome merchandise...and we just can't allow that to happen. What else would I wear to Wal-Mart?

Kelli said...

I think it's an unfortunate problem that arose because, quite simply, nobody thought of it becoming a problem. I think that reviewers should have a sense of responsibility when discussing a product. A book review, to me, is about the contents and at the very widest, the author. It should not be about the LACK of product, for this example, an electronic version. I would hope that Amazon would step in and say that the ratings are unfair because they are not rating the product. Or, at least, hopefully review readers would mark the reviews as 'not helpful.'
But I think that people who have read the book, (even not through Amazon) should be able to review,

Matthew Buckley said...

This is no different from the one star reviews we saw of video games with excessive DRM (Spore, for example). I say it's never bad to give the customer a voice. Of course, publishers are not in the habit of listening to either the customer or their authors.

This is reason #242 why publishers are increasingly becoming more and more irrelevant. Publishers can either adapt, or go the way of the ice truck delivery services.

Laraine Herring said...

As an author with books on amazon, and of course, other places, the reviews do matter. I see one-star reviews on things like - the packaging was torn - the book jacket had a crease in it -- it didn't ship on time. These things are service issues that have nothing to do with the book itself, yet I think that's the only venue amazon provides for customer feedback. Perhaps a clearer delineation from amazon: Feedback on service ____ ; Feedback on packaging ___; review of book's content _____.

There are always going to be haters out there & people who won't read the book but still want to comment. It's a shame that there's not more widespread knowledge out there among readers about how little the author has control over in the final product -- and certainly in the shipping and customer service arena of the bookseller.

When I purchase a book, I don't pay attention to the stars and the reviews b/c I know how random they are & how much of a book's reception is based on the reader's expectations (another thing the author can't control), but I know many people who do read those reviews & make purchasing decisions accordingly.

We just have to keep writing. :-)

Henri said...

I read the Amazon reviews a lot, so these comments are definitely of interest.

Tamara Hart Heiner said...

I have seen stuff like this before and it really irks me. Like people who haven't read a book giving it 1 star b/c they don't like the premise or opening scene. It's a book review! You can't review it if you haven't read it!

MJR said...

I read reviews on Amazon before buying the book, but it's a challenge to weed through them to find "real" reviews. Generally, the first few five-star reviews (or more) are from the author's family and friends, which I ignore, then I start getting into real reviews. If I saw a review from someone who didn't like the book because it wasn't on Kindle, I'd obviously dismiss the review.

Perhaps the author should have some way to contact Amazon if they see this kind of abuse and these reviews could be removed because they aren't reviews, just gripes better directed to the publisher, not the author.

Tracy said...

I put as much faith in Amazon reader reviews when buying my books, as I do in American Idol results when buying my MP3s (We all knew Clay Aiken was the real winner in season 2, darnit).

It is sad though, to think of the portion of the population using these reviews as a guide are placing faith on something so subjective.

Anonymous said...

The reviews are generally useless because individual tastes vary, and these are anonymous rants (I'm pretty sure that axeman21 isn't interested in reading the same kinds of books I enjoy).

The worst are reviews that are paid for by the publishing industry (Harriet Klausner and others) -- they are such a transparent shill. Harriet writes 15-20 reviews a day; she claims to be an amazing speed reader, and NEVER gives a ranking below 4 stars. I've made it my policy NOT to purchase any book "reviewed" by Harriet.

Tracy said...

Silly me; I always thought ratings were there to rate the book. It's unfortunate that there isn't a way to screen the people who don't know how to review properly. Perhaps Amazon could list a seperate criteria category for format availability?

Glen Akin said...

First, I've never understood why anyone with an account on amazon is allowed to write whatever reviews they want to. Reviews should be limited to those who purchased the book. If people want to post general reviews, go to Goodreads or someplace else. Amazon should have some way of telling people, "Hey, this guy bought the book from OUR store, so his review HAS more credibility." And the same goes for the others: "Oh, this guy DIDN'T buy this book from our store." And the final rating should be based on those who actually bought the book. That way spammers can't come on and post crap like this.

Amazon will let this happen. After all it supports their kindle world domination agenda

Linda said...

While it annoys me, consumers aren't idiots. If they're reading the reviews, they genuinely want to know what other people think of the book. After reading a handful of "Why isn't this book on Kindle" reviews, consumers are going to realize what's going on. I doubt they'll suddenly not buy the book because of that. If I'm intrigued enough to look up reviews on Amazon, I'm going to see what the bad reviews are about. I just don't think it's going to hurt sales. Especially now that others are highlighting the problem... that alone has probably tripled the amount of people clicking on the link to read what all the fuss is about. Just my opinion.

Victoria said...

Oh thank goodness as an author myself I have had many problems with reviews... mainly my family was attacked in one, I was attacked by someone who never read my book, and my 'competition' had friends post bad reviews of my book and recommend their book :) Interesting journey. Most of my reviews are wonderful and helpful but my one writing book that deals a bit with gender issues got many people upset :) There must be a better way because reviews are useful when done properly. I know I like to read them when purchasing...

sex scenes at starbucks said...

My book isn't available on Kindle yet, and yup, I have no say in it. (I've had a ton of readers ask me, too, when it's coming out on Kindle. No idea if and when.)

The reviewers sound out of line, but I think curtailing reviews is probably not the right approach.

Keeping in mind that bad reviews are bad for Amazon as well, since people might not buy the product,
Amazon could provide a little verbiage when someone signs in to leave a review, requesting clean language and no personal attacks, etc, and oh, by the way, authors and Amazon itself has no control over the format their book is published in so reviews aren't the best place to address this. That way Amazon has approached the problem politely and protected their suppliers without offending their customers.

Thing is, most customers focus on the product and don't think a lot about suppliers. Heh. I wonder if the general population thinks Amazon is the one who decides if a book is available on Kindle or not.

writtenwyrdd said...

I think people trashing a book because they hate the format is out of line as well. But does Amazon have a responsibility to somehow separate the vindictive from the real reviews? Not so sure.

I would hate to see only those who purchase from the site be allowed to review, too. In any case, Amazon has the Amazon Verified Purchase flag that shows if the reviewer purchased the book from them.

Perhaps Amazon might just ensure that a book review is about the book by having a peer review flag for "this review is not about the book but about the format"--some kind of flag for inappropriateness that brings a review up for Amazon review and then removal.

P. Bradley Robb said...

Last week, publishing embraced DK's video that says publishers should listen to customers.

This week, publishing thinks maybe customers should have that much of a voice.

Hypocrisy much? Honestly, I haven't seen one industry voice say "You know, maybe those 1-star reviews are a serious sign of demand. Perhaps we should stop complaining about dwindling sales, shrinking margins, and the decline of reading and, you know, give the customer the book in the format they want."

Is the 1-star review crude? Yes. But do customers have any other way of voicing their complaints in a manner certain to get the publisher's attention? The publisher, W.W. Norton and Company, has not made any announcement I could find regarding a future Kindle release.

What then, is the potential customer to do?

Mira said...

Fascinating discussion. I'm not sure where I stand on this, so its interesting to read the comments.

One thing that did occur to me: it really benefits Amazon to have people protest over a book not going to Kindle.

So, Amazon may have a slightly different agenda here.

In fact, I don't suppose they'd post those reviews themselves....no. That's taking it too far. :)

Kay said...

Who said you won't go broke by underestimating the intelligence of the American public?

Seems like it extends to civility too. May the karma they generate find them 10-fold.

worstwriterever said...

I like when Amazon flexes their muscle. The all mighty fixtures of the publishing industry don't like getting smacked around by this flexing.

Too bad.

It's a 100% legitimate way to allow customers to complain. I don't feel too badly for the author, perhaps because he is quite established.

I would personally be ticked that my book wasn't available for Kindle, not Amazon's rating system.

J. L. Bell said...

Problems like this undercut one of Amazon's claims for superiority as a bookseller: being able to offer customers useful feedback from other readers. As so many of the comments here show, Amazon's customer reviews have lost credibility. They may remain as a way for the customer to maintain the commenters' loyalty, but they're of limited benefit to other potential customers.

Anonymous said...

Someone on the Blueboards noted this last week as well. I think Amazon needs to change the policy and not allow such reviews.

It makes no sense. It'd be like blaming an actress because the popcorn in your movie theater isn't hot enough.

Nick said...

And once again the Kindlites show themselves to be a bunch of...well, I won't say it here. But seriously. First all this low-price or no-go nonsense, and now one star reviews just because it isn't available on Kindle yet. I'm forced to ask, when did preschoolers learn to use the internet?

In all honesty I never really pay much mind to reviews on Amazon, but then I only use amazon if I know there is something I want that cannot readily be bought in the store. However, just because I don't go browsing don't mean other people don't. And really it's just damn disrespectful, to the author and the publisher.

Marilyn Peake said...

Many people, even if they’ve actually purchased a product or service, write reviews based on how they feel about the overall experience. I was recently looking at reviews for hotels. Someone gave a hotel only one star because it didn’t have a bar and they had to drive some distance to get a drink. Most people gave that same hotel an excellent rating. On the other hand, some people gave hotels in which other customers were bitten by bed bugs very good ratings! If a business like Amazon gives everyone the right to review books, it’s really up to the buyer to read why the book received the number of stars it did. Most books published by the big publishing houses have professional reviews posted above the customer reviews, and those are the ones I read before purchasing a book. If publishers want to sell their books through online mega stores like Amazon, they have to expect that their products will be reviewed by consumers in the same way that consumers review soap: "I’m only giving this product one star because it doesn’t come in lavender which is my favorite scent."

I’ve seen poor reviews of classic children’s picture books on Amazon because the customers felt there were political messages within those books. Immediately publishing all books on Kindle won’t solve the problem of mixed consumer ratings. It will give Amazon more money, however, and more power as a major decision-maker about how future books will be priced and marketed to consumers. And consumers like to have a say in everything, especially on the Internet. I doubt there’s much incentive for Amazon to refuse reviews for books that weren't actually purchased on Amazon. After all, consumers are staging a protest in favor of publishers immediately releasing all books on Kindle! It’s like free advertising for the Kindle. And, as blogs pick up this discussion, it’s even more free advertising for the Kindle! I’m not sure Amazon will want to change that. Why would they? Publishers, however, might be thinking twice about Amazon’s increasing control over the marketing of all books.

Vegas Linda Lou said...

Yeah, this is crazy talk. People are smart enough to read between the lines of reviews and pull out what’s most important to them. Sometimes a bad review will reinforce my buying decision, as when the reviewer homes in on something that wouldn’t be a concern to me.

Kia Abdullah said...

Great publicity though!

Anonymous said...

Part of the problem is that Amazon is used to sell a variety of products, from a variety of vendors. For example, I recently bought a litter box for my cat from Amazon via petco (sorry for the slightly gross example, but I think it'll illustrate what I'm saying clearly). There were plenty of litter box reviews that were about the physical shape of the litter boxes or their various features--whether they had a cover or not, for example. Leaving negative or positive reviews regarding these sorts of things are actually helpful to other buyers: I was looking for a litter box that had a cover so my stupid cat wouldn't pee straight over it. Reviews on litter boxes talk about these things in either a positive or negative way and so are helpful to me.

As, I'd imagine, a negative review from someone who is upset that a book doesn't have a kindle edition is helpful to other kindle owners. Reviews are meant to be helpful, and to reflect a consumer's needs and desires and how well a product fits with those needs and desires. This goes for books, too. Some people here are saying that books were attacked because reviewers didn't like some feature of the books--a plot twist, or if the book featured ghosts. That's a completely valid reaction to a book, and it utterly and completely makes sense to review in line with that. Does it suck for the writer that they won't get sales based on the arbitrary tastes of consumers? Well, sort of. But at least the consumers will be well-informed about what they're getting into.

I agree with everyone here who has said that they find 5-star reviews the least helpful. I usually look right at the one- and two-star reviews of products before I buy them: I find they give a much more accurate portrait of a product, be it book or litterbox.

Bill Greer said...

The Big Short is the bestseller in nonfiction and a few other categories on amazon, so obviously this hasn't hurt sales much at amazon.

I've ignored book reviews at amazon because you have to weed through the people with axes to grind and people trying pump up the reviews for their own book. If someone looks up a specific book at amazon, they must have had a reason. They were already inclined enough to research the book. I'd doubt that just seeing a book got only three stars without actually reading the reviews is not the norm.

Frankly, I like the Kindlites response. The publishers are acting like idiots when it comes to e-books. What other business refuses to give their customers what they want?

Food for thought: IF an author had identical offers from two publishers, and the only difference was that one publisher would sell the e-book at the same time as the hardcover, which publisher would more authors choose?

Nathan Bransford said...

bill-

If companies really gave consumers everything they wanted wouldn't everything be free?

stephenisham said...

Seriously? Over a stupid Kindle? This just shows our society's sense of entitlement it feels it deserves.

Maybe there should be several different rating questions that need to be answered, with the overall rating calculated from that. I know it isn't a perfect system, but it might help... maybe.

Anonymous said...

that's a great idea i.e., requiring or encouraging some connection between having bought the book and posting a rating. the idea that people can attack a book just because is terrible. but, how would this be "enforced"? I buy and read books from a variety of sources, rarely amazon, but that doesn't invalidate my commenting on a book. Maybe the star element could be purchase specific - a book bought on Amazon would entitle a person to vote - but otherwise, the vote would have to be written?

Anonymous said...

I think the reviewers need an outlet to direct their anger about the lack of kindle releases, and right now, the only outlet they have is through reviews. If the reviewers can knocked down hardcover sales and get media attention, then what they're doing is working. And it's about time that publishers start listening to their customers.

Check out the reviews of Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring on Blueray. Folks are mad that the extended version isn't being released. So this behavior extends beyond books.

Honestly, I don't blame the reviewers. Publishers have jacked up the prices on Kindle books and delayed them. What consumer do you know that wants to be treated this way during a recession?

T. Anne said...

Please people don't be haters because the company is not doing your bidding. Remember what mom said? If you don't have anything nice to say.... leave five stars anyway. ;)

Christine Macdonald said...

Out of line. The fact there is no Kindle version illustrates the opposite of what a 'one star review' tells the consumer: they like the book and want to read it on Kindle.

Anonymous said...

I just left the ^^^ comment and read a few of the threads opening comments. I'm surprised to read people don't give weight to Amazon comments - even though i'm not an Amazon customer or regularly, I will use those comments as part of my purchasing decision. The minimizing of the comments that's put forth, makes me question the larger "value" of direct contact with the consumer ie., blogs, etc. Which, for me makes sense, since I'll investigate an author's website but nothing they say is going to make me want to buy.

Stephen Prosapio said...

I recently read a book that claimed authors can have reviews removed on Amazon if it isn't demonstrating that the reviewer hadn't read the novel. I think giving something a 1 star review that doesn't deserve it is absolutely shameful.

Additionally, it's been mentioned that people don't take those reviews into account, but c'mon...a lot of people do otherwise they wouldn't exist. And if you're telling me you wouldn't look askance at a book with a 2 1/2 star rating in favor perhaps of one with a 4 1/2 star rating you're either a compulsive reader or a compulsive liar.

Karen Lange said...

I think that the reviewers are out of line. It is a shame that an author would suffer from something as silly as this.

As far as having to purchase the book from Amazon, I don't think it should be a requirement to be able to leave a review. What if the book is a gift, or a review copy, or the reviewer is a regular Amazon customer? Too bad this could be taken away by this silly situation. Just when I thought maybe I might live in a world of real live grown up adults...

Amy said...

I love the customer reviews on amazon and base many of my purchases on them. Before buying a book, I read at least one positive and one negative review. The negative review helps me weed out books that contain tropes I hate (for example, borderline abusive heroes in romance novels). I'm not terribly swayed by the overall rating, especially in fiction, but when browsing subjects in nonfiction, I'm more likely to click on a book with a high rating than one with a low rating or no rating at all.

I frequently find reviews on amazon that are about the buying experience, e.g., "Book arrived on time and in good condition." Why doesn't amazon weed those reviews out? They obviously don't belong there. And neither do the ones complaining about the lack of a Kindle edition.

Other Lisa said...

Do Kindles come with a sense of entitlement included, or what?

Okay, I can see both sides to this, honestly. But I have to come down on the side of, unfair to the writer, does not offer helpful feedback for a potential reader to evaluate.

Word Verification: storized

Mira said...

Anon 12:17 - I definitely use Amazon reviews. I can think for yourself.

Worstwriterever and Marilyn, I like what you said.

Publishing companies need to be careful here. They risk making a negative brand for themselves if they repeatedly ignore consumer requests. People who own Kindles really like books. I wouldn't alienate them.

E.J. Wesley said...

Someone hit a nerve! (i.e. great post, Nathan!)

For the folks who are of the opinion that reviews are worthless, I'd agree on a personal level, but wholeheartedly disagree on a general marketing level.

Personally, I wouldn't let my wife (the person I trust the most) tell me what to read, much less some faceless internet soapbox grandstander.

However, when it comes to the new electronic age of publishing we need only look at the model established by iTunes. As digital distribution gains even more traction in publishing, authors are going to find their livelihoods increasingly tied to user reviews, content match systems (think the Genius feature on iTunes), and the various other means that people will use to sift through the mountain of content that ePublishing is enabling.

I don’t allow individual reviews to make the final decision when it comes to purchasing content, but it very often dictates what I view in the first place. How many times have you gone to purchase something online (DVD player, TV, music, books, etc.) and sorted based upon user reviews or ‘what’s hot’?

As for the question at hand, it seems that Amazon could easily allow people to filter reviews based upon if the reviewers purchased the item or not. Problem solved … next problem: HEALTHCARE REFORM!

Anonymous said...

Amazon doesnt owe squat to anyone who hasnt purchased the book through them. Why are random people being allowed to review??

If you want a review, go to a book review site. However if you want to purchase the book, go to Amazon, who is a STORE. Then be offered a chance for feedback.

That is way out of line, especially if it hurting a professional reputation and damaging sales of someone who has no control over the issue. Amazon may find theirselves eventually sued for liable and defamation.

Jordan said...

I don't think limiting it to people who've bought through Amazon helps—I see one and two star reviews from people who bought through Amazon (from third party sellers), complaining about the shipping time or the condition. (This isn't eBay, people.)

I'd hate to lose the ability to review on Amazon just because I don't often buy a book/other product there. It's been a while since I reviewed something Amazon, but aren't you supposed to check a box saying you own it?

atsiko said...

Way out of line. In no other industry would this sort of crap fly. Try demanding that Microsoft sell Mac versions of their software.

Maybe people who read paperbacks should start posting one star reviews for the hardback versions of the book. Would anyone stand for that? I doubt it.

Doug Pardee said...

Tangential to the main topic, the reviewers are wasting their time.

The publisher, W. W. Norton, e-publishes only from their textbook catalog. Furthermore, they note that "our titles are not formatted for handheld use. We do not recommend that you purchase the downloadable ebook if you intend to make significant use of it on a handheld device."

The chances of that book coming out in Kindle format—or any other e-book format—in anything like the near future seem vanishingly small, no matter how big a tantrum the Kindle-owners throw.

terripatrick said...

The only time I read reviews is when I go to post a review. I only post reviews on books I recommend. If I can't rate a book 4 stars or higher - I don't do a review. It's often fascinating to see why others post negative reviews for books I like.

I seldom buy my books through Amazon.

Posting a 1 star review on a book not read is extremely childish - especially if it is for format.

But then, Amazon has done a few whacky and childish things lately too, also to the detriment of the authors and readers. Hmm, maybe they should rethink their business objectives.

MeganRebekah said...

Unfortunately, that solution may limit the silly 1-star reviews, but it doesn't eliminate them.

I'm an Amazon junkie and I love reading comments (especially before I make a purchase), and I've noticed that many people will give a 1-star review if there was a problem with the shipping or packaging.

There reviews will say something like:
"I hate Amazon. They promised me this book within 2 days, and it's been 10 days now. Where's my book Amazon? Where is it?"

I guess some people don't realize that the feedback section relates directly to the quality of the product. Maybe Amazon should have a place where people can review their satisfaction of the ordering process as a whole.

Terry Stonecrop said...

Marilyn Peake makes some good points. I've seen one-star reviews on Amazon because the book took too long to arrive or didn't arrive.

Maybe Amazon should have a separate page for other complaints, such as the Kindle issue.

And maybe they need to explain what a book reiview is and isn't.

Linnea said...

I had a look at the Amazon reviews for this book and although it had a lot of 'nuisance' votes, I doubt those votes will hurt sales.

Because I can't read all the reviews of any given book, often numbering in the hundreds, I usually take a sampling from the 5-star rating, the 3-star and the 1-star. It's obvious the 1-star voters hadn't read the book and if I was deciding whether or not to read this book, I'd ignore them.

Of much more interest is the fact that so many people want to read their books on an ereader. It would seem the future is here and we'd better get on board or be left behind.

Josin L. McQuein said...

Meh. Once one person does it, others copy the complaint. There are always people who jump on to give bad reviews for whatever reason they can come up with. These kinds of created issues churn out swarms, just like the kind of pile up that happens when an author makes a crazy response to a review.

If it was happening to a bunch of authors, then it might be something to worry about, but with just one being singled out it's more a stunt than anything else.

Rowenna said...

From the point of view of reviewing a book, they're out of line. From the point of view of reviewing a product, they're spot on--their preferred format is not available. It's like giving a restuarant a poor review for not having vegetarian options--their food might be delish, so props to the chef, but their selection is subpar--boo to the management.

So the question is, are Amazon.com reviews meant as reviews of the book or as reviews of the product as delivered by Amazon?

Is it fair to the author? Probably not. Do I actually take Amazon reviews into consideration when buying? Not usually, as they tend to be "I Read this ergo it's super-awesome-wonderfulness." IE, way skewed toward 5-star reviews.

Lyla said...

I have to echo the comment about a separate customer support/service review section. Almost all of the one star reviews that aren't by someone who hated the product are people complaining about getting damaged goods, or never getting goods at all, or thinking they ordered something completely different (DVD as opposed to book).

Obviously, that customer support section is going to need neon arrows pointing to it with links all over...

John Jack said...

I've never allowed reviews of any kind to sway my purchasing decisions of anything. Book, hardware, software, movie, clothing, breakfast cereal, deodorant, toothpaste, etc.

I don't buy into advertising either. I either want a product, based on price-value point, functionality, purpose, and outcome or I don't.

There's this groupthink called astroturfing going on at Amazon too, secondhand vanity reviews posted by fans, acquaintances, relatives intended to persuade consumers, that turns my stomach.

News and book media reviews by journalism reviewers generally aren't all that enticing either. They're nearly as vacuous as astroturfing.

More often than not, I'm inclined to think those sorts of reviewers are as caught up in the groupthink pageant as astroturfers. They don't get the it of some novels any more than the groupthink.

J. R. McLemore said...

Wow. I felt compelled to go see the one star reviews just because the book was not available in electronic format. I have to say, there are some militant people when it comes to getting their books "in 30 seconds" and not having to buy from a "brick and mortar store".

It's sad to see that our society has become so impatient that we get so up in arms when we can't have something immediately. Sometimes I long for the pre-digital age.

Josi said...

I hope they don't make it 'amazon only' reviews. While I buy a lot of my books from them, I read reviews just for books I get at the library too. I think a little pop up reminding the author of what a review should be might be helpful, but limiting who can review the book is short sighted, to me. If I go to Amazon to read a review, the chances increase I'll buy from them. The problem is the reviewers not understanding their responsibilities.

My next question is why the heck isn't it available for Kindle? :-)

Michael said...

I typically use Amazon for reviews on any number of products, books included. Sometimes that leads me to buying said product from Amazon. With Amazon's rating policy shown to be corrupted I'm less inclined to trust Amazon.

That said, Amazon has a policy that allows users to take advantage of it. The users are stating their opinion and while I generally am annoyed at "reviewers" who don't own the product, Amazon lets them review it regardless so the blame lays more with the company.

Randy Susan Meyers said...

Arggh . . . the frustration. Recently folks began writing "I didn't read this, but I disapprove on principle" one star reviews on the Book of the Month Club site--because it was "wrong" to write about as dark a topic as I covered in my book (a father killing his wife while his children were present.)

Lucky for me, others became so incensed at this, they wrote five star "I disapprove of this method" reviews.

The 'no-kindle' reviews are awful--perhaps those of us who like Mr. Lewis (I've loved his previous books) can put up 5-star "I expect to love this book" reviews.

Gina Black said...

My critique partner's book is coming out on April 6. In spite of this, Barnes and Noble has been collecting reviews for it since 2008--1's from some who are disappointed the book has been delayed, 5's from some who think the book will be as good as her first. That makes no sense either.

Ann M said...

Much as I love the idea of all those reader reviews, I do think there's an issue...
I get frustrated when I'm trying to figure out the quality of a book but instead read a review (and star rating) based on the quality of the shipping...
Also, I've read reviews that have included incorrect information about a book, or referred to a wrong edition (i.e. the book has been extensively expanded yet the reviewer claims it's not worth the current price, not realizing the book is three times the size it used to be).
Amazon does allow comments to be left on reviews, but this doesn't seem like quite enough. As for a solution... I'm still thinking....

Karen Schwabach said...

I've also seen one-star reviews that complain that the book wasn't shipped promptly, wasn't packaged well, or that the amazon re-seller who was supposed to send it didn't have it in stock. None of these review problems would be solved by only letting people review books they've purchased.

Besides, Mr. Carr's solution is a bit, to use an overused word, elitist, isn't it? I post reviews of books that I've taken out of the library or bought at thrift stores. And I've both written and been grateful to read amazon reviews of books that are long out of print and aren't available for sale on amazon at all, not even used.

The solution seems simple: delete the reviews that are about the availability of the book in various formats or the quality of the purchasing experience.

The BookHarpie said...

There were 6 just-published books I wanted to purchase yesterday that were not available for Kindle.

Sooo, I bought 3 of them new for THE LOWEST price I could and got the other 3 from my public library -- which meant that I either got them as hardbacks for under 7 dollars through Amazon resellers, or for free.

I retaliate against Pleistocene publishers my way. Others retaliate by leaving 1-Star reviews. At least the latter group sent a clear message.

And I am hoping that to see more timely arrivals with Apple.

J B Angell said...

I have been seeing an unfortunate increase in problems with the Amazon review system. Whenever I buy anything from Amazon check out the reviews, if only as a guideline. My normal procedure is to read a selection from the 5 stars and a selection from the 1 stars. In the past I found this to give a pretty well rounded idea of what to expect.

Lately I've seen a climb in 1 stars coming from people who have had problems with shipping or customer service. These have nothing to do with the actual product but are counted against it.

Normally other reviewers will leave a comment informing the reviewer of this but let's be hoest; Who goes back and reads reviews they have done?

Given the shear size of Amazons website, having a moderator go through every review for every product is not a viable answer.

Anonymous said...

Paul Carr's article was posted on teleread.org yesterday, and the utter cluelessness of a few of the commenters makes one realize just how little some of the 'protesters' know about real life publishing.

Is there a FAQ somewhere on Authors' Reality that can be linked to whenever one of these idiotic comments come up? (It seems a more polite way than calling someone a fool up front, which is not the wisest of persuasion tactics.)

Really - "fire your publisher"???

Jess said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jess said...

I agree with what many have said (which makes this comment rather superfluous, but whatever). I like to read reviews about the products I am considering purchasing, and I do have a habit of reading a selection of all star-levels to give me a better idea. Generally speaking, I ignore those from people who have a personal beef against the makers of a product/authors of a book, and it really bothers me when people review something they've never even tried. This is a problem on sites like Goodreads.com, too, where people will rate a book with 1 or 5 stars and say "I haven't read this yet, but I hear it's good/bad". If you haven't read a book, how would you have enough of an opinion to write a review that may affect other potential readers' decisions?

Sam Hranac said...

The whole thing stinks of Tea Party mentality. Get annoyed about something, then raise an all encompassing hell storm that looses all touch with reality. After we limit reviews to people who have bought the book, maybe we can limit voting to people who have spent at least three hours thoughtfully considering opinions that are different from their own without interrupting.

Caledonia Lass said...

If they didn't buy the book, they should not be able to review it. Plain and simple, but then again nothing is plain and simple anymore.
To rate a book low simply because it has no electronic version does horrible damage. Don't people realize this? They're hurting the author. This is no way to get what they want. If they want a Kindle version they need to contact the proper people and request it.
I go by ratings sometimes on Amazon, unless I have seen or heard better reviews or simply just want the book. If I saw a low rating, I'd skim over it and move on.
People don't think, I swear.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I missed it, but has anyone pointed out that this book is currently the #1 bestseller on Amazon? I can't imagine these reviews are hurting sales that badly. And the way I see it, many of the people who are giving one star reviews are saying they would happily give the publisher their money...if they publisher would offer the book in their preferred format.
I, personally, have never seen Amazon reviews as strictly about the quality of the book. I expect to see complaints about shipping and defects, because the review is on Amazon, the same as I would expect a straight product review for any other item on a manufacturer's website but find it perfectly valid to voice complaints about the retailer on the retailer's website.
I could see people thinking this ridiculous if people were doing it on a third party website that was strictly for book reviews, but they're doing it on the retailer's website, asking for a format that the retailer promotes. I think it's absurd to ask Amazon, who is interested in selling things and promoting its own product (the Kindle) to act as a gatekeeper. Amazon doesn't care about the author or the publisher. Amazon cares about their customers and their customers aren't the ones complaining in this case.

Genella deGrey said...

Nathan – Even before I was published I didn't like the fact that any fool with a keyboard could go on Amazon and spout off negatively (no matter how uneducated/uninformed/unqualified) about an author's work.

Ever since I read a review that didn't like the book because the hero had blue hair, I no longer pay attention to said amateur reviewers.
G.

David Ferretti III said...

If you read some of these one star reviews you will find that readers who spent money for their Kindle expect to see an eBook available for every book published. Amazon should review all single star reviews prior to them showing up on their web page. If the review does not cover the book’s content then Amazon should delete it.

AstonWest said...

If people are only basing their purchasing choices on the starred review, I feel sorry for them.

Myself, I read the comments and decide for myself whether the low ratings are based on anything of importance (much like I take feedback from people reading preliminary copies of my writing - would you accept a "this sucked" without some explanation behind it?). The same goes for high ratings...sadly, I've seen it go both ways.

Katiebabs a.k.a KB said...

Book reviews should always be about the author's work, no the device or the paper it is printed on.

That's like reviewing a book based on the cover and never reading it.

Amazon is a broken system for reviewing. I stick with Goodreads for mature and lively discussions on an author's work.

P.A.Brown said...

If these negative reviews hurt an author's sales, which could ultimately lead to a publisher dropping that author, then yes, they are way out of line. The Kindle readers doing this have a beef with the publisher, so they should take it to the publisher.

Amazon also makes it too easy for people with agendas to attack authors whose views or lifestyles they don't like.

I really don't know how much negative reviews affect sales, I know I don't base my purchases on them, but maybe others do.

Sadly, we just seem to live in an age when people feel free to be nasty for the pure satisfaction of being nasty.

M Clement Hall said...

So-called customer reviews on Amazon have a poor reputatation. If I look at them at all I want to know the author's qualifications, and I like to see a real name. A person who hides his spite behind an alias isn't worth reading.
I pay more attention to the professional reviews that are to be found with most books.
I'm sorry for the author in this particular case, but pleased that Nathan with his thousands of readers has raised the issue which Amazon will not now be able to avoid. They may not take corrective action today, but they do know the issue.

ElizaJane said...

I frequently check Amazon reviews and find them very useful. On the other hand, I use them judiciously. I don't just look at the "score"--I read a bunch of reviews, both good and bad, and try to gauge from that what the strengths and weaknesses of the book really are. Reviews judged "helpful" by readers often really are, so I read those. Reviews that have generated a lot of critical feedback I take with a grain of salt.

I have written to Amazon when one person posted a string of bad reviews that was driving down a book's rating and they immediately removed all but one posting.

I've also written reviews of quite a few books, mostly of obscure ones that I like a lot and feel need some better press.

On the down side, some nitwit posted a negative review of my book under the pseudonym "Edward
A. Wake" (took me a while to get that) which did made me cross. But my rating is still 4 stars, which isn't bad for an obscure academic book!

annerallen said...

Funny--I just stopped by here after checking a few books on Amazon, where I noticed books with one or two reviews always seem to have five stars, but really hot-selling books usually have four or less.

So--although this situation is outrageous, bad reviews may be kind of an achievement.

I definitely don't think we should restrict reviews to Amazon buyers. I always try to buy from indie stores or the author herself if I can.

What we can do is remind readers how bogus amazon reviews can be. When I'm trying to decide whether to buy a book, I always check out a few one-star reviews. If they're ungrammatical and misspelled, complain the book is "too hard", or appear to have been written by people whose tastes run to videogame plots, I figure this is probably a book I'll like.

Doug Pardee said...

Remaining tangential to the basic discussion:

In this case, the blame falls on the author, not the publisher. Lewis chose to go with a publisher who doesn't produce e-books except for textbooks, and whose e-textbooks aren't suitable for handhelds. W. W. Norton doesn't produce e-books for the Kindle or any other handheld. Period.

Lewis should have known that W. W. Norton would not be e-publishing his book, should have retained the e-book rights, and should have had a Kindle edition ready to go when the print version hit the streets. (And non-Kindle e-book editions, too.)

Where the ball got dropped, I don't know, but it sure looks like it was Lewis who dropped it.

This wouldn't be such a big deal if Lewis hadn't previously fawned all over the Kindle and gone on about how great e-books are.

Nathan Bransford said...

doug-

Incorrect that Norton doesn't do e-books at all. Lewis' other books are available on the Kindle.

Andrea said...

When I buy a book off amazon I don't even look at the star rating. I read the customer reviews and see what they have to say about the book.

And for this same reason I think they should leave it alone. What if someone has a really great review and they read the book elsewhere?

Marta said...

When I read a review, I expect to be about the writing--not the format it is available in, the cover art, or the location on a store shelf. Maybe it is fair to complain about a publisher's choices, but the low stars hurt the writer first.

And why do Kindle readers feel so entitled?

But I rarely read Amazon reviews because I don't trust them.

Anonymous said...

I've found the best way to judge a book on Kindle is to download the free sample. If the writing quality is good and the hook bites me and the price is right (there are many good books for $5 or less on Kindle store) I'll buy.

Forget the reviews. The free samples are a much better indicator of the writing style and quality. I can usually tell if I'll like the book in five pages or less.

Moira Young said...

Carr is right. Over the years, I've witnessed a LOT of online drama in the Amazon Reviews section over people trying to promote their own agenda/bias/amusement, well before the Kindle "Nuclear Option" was ever an issue.

It would mean I couldn't rate the books I'd bought or read elsewhere, but I'd accept a "Please Rate The Book" e-mail following my purchase, the way I get a "Please Rate Your Seller" when we buy from Amazon used.

It's still not perfect, but hey, I know I'd rather have one five-star review than a hundred one-star-based-on-bias-and-lack-of-Kindle-edition reviews.

Marleen said...

I try to stay away from Amazon. I think they're so big they don't care about anyone else. Having said that, I think you have to trust who gives the reviews, but if you can only leave 1 star on a Kindle then there should be no Kindle reviews until it is as fair as anywhere else.

The Editors said...

For any in-line purchase that has a rating system I read a mix of the top and bottom of the reviews. It’s easy to weed out the reviews of people that have issues with things you don’t care about. A ton of one star reviews of a book stating it was late or not on Kindle will have no effect on me. A large number of one star reviews stating that a children’s book is offence with different detailed reasons why the reviewer thought that, will stop me from buying it without at least thumbing threw a copy of it first. If a five star review states that it is the greatest book ever, I’ll see why the 3 star reviewers didn’t think that. At the point I’m looking at the reviews I’m already interested in buying it, so just because it has a low rating, it may not stop me from buying it.

veela-valoom said...

What I don't understand is what drives people to give a 1 star review to a book they clearly want to read.

I'm not sure about only allowing Amazon customers to review. I buy books from a variety of places but have reviewed books on Amazon when I've really liked a book and want to let others know how good it is.

I do use Amazon reviews sometimes to decide about a book I'm wavering on. However I never go based on the stars but actually read a sampling of the reviews. Not sure if thats how other people work or not.

Maybe amazon should just not have the star system or only allow people who have bought it through them to put stars but still allow other people to share written reviews.

Stephanie Barr said...

The problem is that a book is not just the author's when it's for sale at Amazon. It's the publisher's as well. It's a package deal.

If it were a type of luggage and I liked it but hated the color, I could post a review that said, "Nice but why not in red?" and rate it according to how much of a difference that made to me.

The review is there for the purpose of people telling you what they like and don't like.

One thing this is doing is letting publishers know that they are missing out on a collection of would-be readers by not having it in a format they want to read.

Discerning readers should be able to glean that from the reviews. It stinks that it can be used this way, but you can't have it both ways, with all your friends and family gushing either without the same thing happening.

You leave yourself open to reviews, you're going to get them for whatever reason. Limiting the review is pointless.

I might also add that Amazon is relentless at sending reminder emails to people who do purchase their goods, encouraging buyers to add their own reviews.

A J Hawke said...

If a lot of reviews are showing up giving low reviews because it isn’t on Kindle, it makes me wonder who is driving it? Could it be a Kindle employee doing the reviews? Now surely, I’m just being paranoid.
I leave reviews but only of books I have read. Sometimes they are books I have been given or purchased elsewhere. I read reviews before purchasing a book, but pay attention only to ones that are thoughtful and speak directly to the contents of the book. If someone starts getting rude in a review, I disregard their review completely.
Because of inappropriate people, there is a need for Amazon to moderate the comments. Hey, at least it gives someone a job.

Anonymous said...

As always, it's up to consumers to be smart consumers. There is no way Amazon can police all the reviews people leave and it's exclusionist not to allow people who read books from the library to comment. Since Amazon sorts reviews by stars, I usually read a couple of really good reviews and a couple of the really bad ones then decide who I'm more inclined to agree with. In this case, I would disregard Kindle-based gripes.

P.A.Brown said...

What I still don't understand is why everyone is upset over publishers want to release hard covers first. They've always done that when it was just hard covers and paperbacks.

Does anyone think movie studios should release pay per view and DVDs along with the movie going into the theaters? I don't see anyone posting nasty 'reviews' of newly released movies because they have to wait a few months to buy them or watch them at home.

Joanna van der Gracht de Rosado said...

To call the Amazon review system libelous/spurious/treasonous/blank-ous is being too kind. I don't have this issue because I've never published on line and with this sort of thing going on, I don't think I want to. Maybe Amazon should re-think their policy? What if a whole bunch of little, medium-sized and even big Davids refused to go and play with Goliath at Amazon?
Joanna van der Gracht de Rosado

JTShea said...

James Cameron did not make his movie AVATAR available on Bluray disc on the day it premiered in movie theaters. Therefore I call upon all my fellow Bluray player owners to boycott the movie and gave it bad reviews on Amazon!
So there! That'll show him! I bet Cameron is shaking in his boots now!

ryan field said...

This happened to me. A reviewer gave me a three star review on amazon and didn't even read the book. Instead, the reviewer wrote a scathing comment to amazon about how she/he was buying the book somewhere else because the prices are cheaper.

At least the reviewer didn't give me one star, but to be honest I would rather have had a real review...even if it was one star...instead of a rant about amazon's pricing. I have no control over how books are priced.

CS said...

I think it's fair enough actually. The publishers take a hit on sales because consumers are annoyed they aren't providing what they want. Of course the author loses but you know maybe less authors will agree to deals like this/work with publishers who don't provide e-releases and that leads to customers GETTING WHAT THEY WANT. Which is really their whole point.

er in theory- however i know from personal experience i barely even notice the star ratings on amazon much less buy or not buy a book based on them.

Anonymous said...

JTShea - I was kind of amazed when I saw this; but someone actually gave the DVD and Blu-ray versions of James Cameron's AVATAR one star, along with a long and scathing review on Amazon because a 3-D version wasn't released for home viewing at the same time as the DVD and Blu-ray versions. I doubt this will affect sales.

Adam Heine said...

It sounds like the (non-)reviewers are flexing consumer muscle, but the end result is to make all reviews ineffective for their purpose.

Maybe what Amazon needs to do is provide a different place for that kind of feedback, so that reviews can instead be, I don't know, actual reviews of the novel.

P.A.Brown said...

Saying go to a publisher who will release ebooks with hard covers makes the assumption that there are lots of publishers to choose from.

Most authors are under contracts to their publishers and I suspect if an author who wasn't J.K Rowlings or James Patterson in terms of sales started dictating terms like that, they'd find themselves without any publisher very quickly.

If you're satisfied to stick with small indie pubs then you'll be published simultaneously, or as is my case, the ebook comes out before the paperback. But my sales also aren't in the tens of thousands.

Sommer Leigh said...

I use the star review system for a lot of things I buy on Amazon...but not books. Usually I know whether or not I'm going to buy a book anyway, and I'm too afraid of spoiler summaries to read most reviews. That being said, I find it appalling that people rate a book with a one star review only because there is no kindle edition available. It also drives me crazy when people rate a product 1 star because the shipping was too slow/damaged product/etc.

I don't think it is possible to stop people from messing with the star ratings though. For good or for ill.

Jenna said...

I've also heard of one star reviews for ebooks the reviewer feels is overpriced.

I think not buying it is response enough - for both the nonKindle protest or the price.

Anonymous said...

A 1 star review reminds me of the silly chain emails that make claims like "my doctor said that if this email is sent to X people, X lives will be saved."

1 star is hyperbole -- and ludicrous for the Kindle complaint.

LCS249 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LCS249 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LCS249 said...

1-star reviews that have nothing to do with the book? And we bother writing for these ignoramuses?

Charmaine Clancy said...

I think Amazon should have a choice of reviews - if you buy the book from Amazon (or the Kindle edition for the ones available) then you can review. If not, there could be a visitors review for people who already have the book or want to make a comment on it.
And if this is a big issue why not have a button that says 'Do you want to see this on Kindle?'
I'd like to see more convert to Kindle, and a lot of books I don't buy just because they're not on Kindle.
Plus I want to know WHY does the author not have a say if their book goes to Kindle???

mardott said...

I think this is important. Do these idiots not understand they are just hurting the author? That their "one star" is not they way to get the book on Kindle?

Really. How dumb do you have to be?

So yes. I suppose one answer would be for Amazon to limit the reviews to people who actually bought the book ON AMAZON. I had no idea they DIDN'T do that. Silly me. Thinking a review a Amazon was from someone who had bought a book on Amazon.

I need a life.

Ellen said...

I've also seen people leave one-star reviews because they thought the Kindle price was too high.

The whole thing is obnoxious. These people are idiots.

And yes, Amazon needs to change their policy.

Anonymous said...

I'm very sorry to see that Michael Lewis is caught in the war between Amazon, publishers, and readers. I think that the readers have found a way to tell publishers what they want. Namely to have books epublished at the same time as hardcopy. And I think the publishers will be fools not to listen.

It's truly unfortunate that the author is the one caught in the middle.

Adrianne

Matera the Mad said...

Disgusting. The whole e-book scene is getting disgusting. Too many incompatible proprietary formats -- it's not competition, it's bloodlust. Amazon wants to monopolize the market with their grotty Kindle. Adobe has their even worse piece of crud. I don't imagine Apple's is any better. Try reading anything in them with reduced vision or dyslexia. How many web pages are there that can only be read with one browser? Think about that.

Steve said...

I wonder how many commenters here actually read any of the one star reviews. I checked them out, and though some of them were just gripes about Kindle availability, many of them criticized Lewis for supporting derivatives right up until 2007-2008 when the handwriting was firmly on the wall. This is not a pub format issue, this is a writer hypocrisy issue.

-Steve

Mon Chéri said...

I DO think the reviewers are out of line, however, since I read the reviews regularly to decide if I want to buy a book or not, I’ve seen things like this happen before. Perhaps not to this extent but since I actually read them, it’s easy for me to see which reviews are real and which ones are just people griping with an outside agenda. For example: complaining about the condition of the book they received from Amazon, as in munched or something. I’ve seen this one several times, and it has no bearing on the quality of book for me, it’s a customer service issue with Amazon. I don’t think it’s fair to the author when people do that, but I would want my readers who haven’t purchased from Amazon to be able to leave feedback.

Perhaps they should begin a policy stating that if the review is not about the book content, then those reviews could or will be pulled...just a thought. Things like this belong with customer service not book reviews.

Anonymous said...

Amazon def has a responsibility to fix this. These poor authors don't deserve being put in the middle of this idiotic controversy.

P.A.Brown said...

Amazon customer service? You mean they have that? All I've ever seen is Amazon ignore everything that people complain about.

Amazon rarely responds to customer issues. That's always been my biggest complaint about them.

min said...

Well, I am at least a bit grateful that someone has discovered what's happening and is bringing the topic up. Who knew? Hopefully someone will think outside the box and come up with a good solution.

mkcbunny said...

The Amazon review system is flawed for all products. People give low ratings when, for example, the Amazon shipment is delayed or damaged. This is like a Yelp review in which a customer gives a restaurant a 1-star rating because his girlfriend broke up with him there.

Limiting the reviews to people who have purchased through Amazon might prevent this particular variety of format-related problem, but it doesn't (and can't really) solve the problem of reviewers using irrelevant criteria for giving a low rating.

mkcbunny said...

Oh, and what's really upsetting about this particular problem is that, in theory, people with Kindles read and use Amazon a lot. They should know that their star rating affects the author. It's either incredibly stupid or very selfish of them to post low ratings in such a case. (Or both.)

Timothy Fish said...

I don't really see it as an issue, since how many stars a reviewer gives a product is such an arbitrary thing anyway. I see it as primarily a way of grouping reviews, allowing people to find the reviewers who like the product and those who don't. Many books will have a high average number of stars because the only people who have reviewed them are friends and family. Or a book may have a low number of stars because the marketing is aimed at the wrong people. If people are actually paying attention to the reviews, they will see that a one star review is a result of there being no Kindle edition and it won't play into their decision.

Icy Roses said...

The reviewers are out of line. I do check Amazon reviews before I decide to read a book, and subconsciously, I'm definitely going to have a better impression of a book with five stars than a book with one and a half. Granted, I do read the positive and negative reviews so I'm not getting skewed opinions like these, but still.

Laura Miller Edwards said...

I do check the reviews and the stars before I consider buying a book-- heck, I check amazon ratings before I request it from the library, and I can't imagine I'm alone in this.

So, that sucks, and people are stupid. Why would you give the BOOK one star for something like that? The review is supposed to be about the work itself. How stupid can people be?

Even though I buy books from Border's and check them out from the library, I would be on board with the idea of only letting those who purchase from Amazon review on Amazon. It's about the only way to keep it honest.

Anonymous said...

That's why I read the review comments and don't go by the stars. BUT seriously get some ebooks going here. Is it really so difficult to make an ebook of something you put into print? Honestly?

Anonymous said...

dude, my verification word just changed to "billy".

kimberlyloomis said...

I've gotta go with what Kurtis said. People need to stop taking so many other people's opinions seriously. With any luck news of such idiotic actions will encourage more people to think for themselves and maybe, just maybe, look for the opinion of someone a little more professional to get a good handle on whether or not they'll like the book.

Shelley Watters said...

I think the whole 'give it 1 star because it's not available for Kindle' is ridiculous. Before kindle, did people give one star just because it was only available in hardcover? I seriously doubt it.

I think that only people who have actually READ the book (regardless of how they obtained the book) should be leaving reviews. That's just common sense, but I guess common sense isn't as common anymore.

Ishta Mercurio said...

A book review should be about THE BOOK.

I agree with lynnrush, though, who said that people who don't necessarily always shop at Amazon (who prefer to go to independent bookstores, or who are professional reviewers with ARCs, or who went to an author event somewhere and got the book that way, etc.) shouldn't be excluded from reviewing a book.

Why doesn't Amazon moderate reviews? Have someone read the reviews before they're posted, to make sure that they're not unrelated to the content of the book? I know it involves hiring more people (EGAD! Not PEOPLE at Amazon! shivvverrr...), but if they aren't going to police the service properly they shouldn't offer it in the first place.

Hire someone (or more likely, many someones) to moderate reviews, or axe the reviews completely, that's what I say.

BTW: I was doing the library-loving challenge running-aound-posting-everywhere-thing, and I got "fracting" as my word verification on someone's blog. I remembered that someone had gotten it on your blog, too. I have been spending too much time in the comments sections of blogs.

Mira said...

P.A. Brown - really? I've had great experiences with Amazon customer service. Fast, friendly, refunded money at a snap.

I'm just not sure Amazon thinks what's currently happening is a problem.

Kate Evangelista said...

I believe that one star reviews are mostly motivated by personal agenda rather than speaking of the quality of a book. Why? Because I believe that editors, agents, publishers are smart enough to know what sells in the market. So those who give out one star reviews might just be taking things way too personally.

Polenth said...

Some reviews are left for silly reasons, but unless it's a personal attack, it is what the reviewer thought of the book. Some people decide not to buy a book because it was the wrong shade of purple or it didn't come in the format they wanted. The author can't control those things, but I think it's handy to know it's what the potential reader thought. Many of those one star reviews are potential buyers lost, whether you agree with their reasons or not.

Though I have to agree with JM "JM" who says "I cannot believe that Mr. Lewis and his publishers have the nerve to produce a book and not simultaneously produce a Na'Vi Audio Version."

Publishers need to get with the future!

Marti Rulli said...

Some reviewers have purposely left negative reviews of my book, Goodbye Natalie Goodbye Splendour, not based on "the book" but on the subject and their preconceived opinions that the true story told is not true, despite the account comes with polygraph test included. One 5-star positive review (by Ginger) of my book has 300 comments in the review's comment thread as readers argue their points, using the comment section as a forum. Derogatory comments are made and readers get nasty with opposing views over the controversy of this book dealing with a high-profile death.

I welcome honest reviews and constructive criticism, but I am astounded at the few 1-star reviews I received based on nothing but a pre-set intention to offer it. I doubt there is much Amazon can do. Even though unfair to authors, freedom of speech and choice rules.
Marti Rulli, Author Goodbye Natalie Goodbye Splendour

NEB said...

Does anyone actually pay any attention to the star ratings and customer reviews at Amazon? I know I don't. The spectrum of views represented is so broad that any overall rating is meaningless.

David Quigg said...

I heard about this on St. Patrick's Day. My reaction took three forms.

1) I posted this on Twitter: "Have u read Michael Lewis' THE BIG SHORT? Rate it on Amazon to offset tantrum by some fellow #kindle fans. http://bit.ly/bvf0EJ"

2) I used my Kindle to buy Lewis' original Wall Street book, "Liar's Poker." Finished it today. Liked it a lot, but not quite as much as my all-time favorite from Lewis, "Losers."

3) I took "The Big Short" out of the library and plan to start it tomorrow.

*********************

Nathan, you asked, "If companies really gave consumers everything they wanted wouldn't everything be free?"

I think we can learn all we need to know about this from Chris. Not Chris Anderson in 2009's "Free." No. Chris Rock in 1988's "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNQRqAoT-2c

For those who don't like laughing or have some other reason for not watching the clip, let me sum up the lessons of the scene. When you charge $2.50 for five ribs and your customer offers to buy one rib for 50 cents, you oblige. But when the same customer wants soda and says "why don't you let me get a sip for 15 cents?", you are entitled to snarl "my cups cost more than 15 cents."

People like me, who admire Michael Lewis and want to read his new book on our Kindles, are not asking to pay 15 cents for a sip of soda. We're not even asking to pay 50 cents for just one rib. We want all five ribs. We want to pay a fair price for them. All we're asking is that the cook put the ribs on a plate we brought from home. Norton is free to look at the plate we brought in, shrug, and charge us the same price as everyone else. We can then decide to buy or not to buy. But to refuse to put the ribs on our plates no matter what we're willing to pay is just pointlessly stubborn.

My poor metaphor is now exhausted. Time to let it rest.

Cat said...

The problem with restricting comments to those who bought the book through Amazon is that readers who got their book from an Indie shop or an author copy or a copy from any other source (library, friends etc) can't leave their comment. That will hurt the author just as much.

Jenny Woolf said...

I do entirely agree that it is very damaging if ONLY AMazon purchasers can leave reviews. I would not pay so much attention to these reviews either. I like to see a bix.

I think one solution may be for Amazon to drop its handy star rating alongside the title. Just a couple of 2 star reviews can drag an "average" right down. It is so easy for an enemy or rival to trash the ratings.

However, it's easy to click on the reviews and see the most helpful positive and negative reviews, and then read down them all. This will give a good idea if the reviews are "planted" or posted by people too stupid to understand what star ratings are for.

Anonymous said...

One issue that I think is getting the short shrift here is that, by posting a 1-star review, the customer IS speaking. The customer wants to buy your book in his/her preferred format, but can't. You're losing sales. i would think that authors - and their publishers - would be concerned about that.

This is capitalism. This is publishing. "Not fair to authors?" Readers don't owe authors a damn thing - especially if they want to buy your book but can't.

K.L. Brady said...

They talk about this quite a bit on the Amazon Forums that I frequent. First, I would never use a book review as a means of protest. I'm an author and I certainly hope it never happens to me! And do I think it's right? No. The problem, as SOME Kindle forum participants see it, is that there is no other mechanism that they feel they can protest and get the publisher's attention--where they will genuinely be heard. They see this as the most effective means.

Amazon can and does moderate reviews--well, some reviews. I personally think the answer might be as simple as adding a second area to air grievances. A Festivus box, if you will. Let them air their grievances somewhere at the bottom of the page and send those to the publisher in the same manner that they'd do it if someone clicks that little box at the top indicating they'd like to see the book in a Kindle version.

Or even add an email address at the bottom of the book indicating, if you have any problems with the publisher, please send your grievances to this email address. I dunno. The point, from their perspective, is just to be heard. I think they have a right to be heard, but I don't think they should ruin a book's rating in protest. That only hurts the author.

Christine said...

I wish that Amazon had a separate place for people who are discontent with the formats available to leave their comments that wouldn't affect the ratings of the story or content, which is what the rating should be used for, rather than to gripe about format. If, for example, they were to have a check box next to a title that says "I'll only buy this in X format and it's not available - please look into resolving this," that would be great and would provide real numbers for publishers and Amazon to play with. Right now, it seems like stars are the only way to do give feedback, which is more the fault of setup rather than reviewers.

Cynthia Leitich Smith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cynthia Leitich Smith said...

As an initial point, I'd suggest that we stop calling every "comment" about a book on the Internet a review.

The word "review" implies literary analysis, not personal reaction or axe-grinding.

That said, I have heard from a number of author pals over the years that they've been personally targeted this way. Not so much by competitors, though that does happen, but rather ex-husbands, their mother's "best" friend who's tired of her bragging, feuding neighbors--"Let me plant those carrots on the property line, or I'll give you a one-star review." Sigh.

Big hugs to this generation of authors.

Watery Tart said...

There is some trouble with the review process ANYWAY--agendas, whether an author's mother gets her whole congregation to give five stars or a person has sour grapes and gives a bunch of negatives, but what I'd like to see to solve it is maybe a layer of complexity:

A rating for format that is separate (very good idea) and then

"Have you read this book?"
and calculate 2 ratings (only using people who HAVE read the book) one of ALL yes readers, and one of people who actually leave a COMMENT. That way the spammers who convince the world to rate them lose power, and the mean people giving all other authors one star lose power.

Anita said...

I think people should read my reviews only. :)

Ishta Mercurio said...

Anonymous 5:14 said:

"Readers don't owe authors a damn thing - especially if they want to buy your book but can't."

There is a big difference between "can't" (because they are immobilized, lack money, are imprisoned...) and "won't" (because they bought an expensive device and are too self-centered to realize that just because THEY have one, THE MARKET as it stands now does not bear making EVERYTHING available on it).

Edited for accuracy, your statement should read: "Readers don't owe authors a damn thing - especially if they want to buy your book but won't." Which doesn't sound so clever.

It's called patience. It's called maturity. It's called perspective.

I agree that there should be two separate feedback areas - one addressing the actual content of a book, and the other addressing the packaging/kindle vs paper/etc. This type of feedback is valuable for the author, the publisher, and people who are deciding whether they want to read the book. There should be a separate feedback form for people to comment on things like shipping, which is Amazon's concern. Something like a "How did we do?" feedback page.

Marla Warren said...

Nathan,

Thank you for letting us know about the Library Loving Blog Challenge! I was a little late in getting mine up so I urge people to check Jennifer's blog for updates.

Michael Crichton’s Recommended Reading – Library Promo

Paula B. said...

Nathan,

We recently did a show on this very topic. I interviewed a woman who writes for TeleRead.org. She had contributed a post called, "Maybe We Should Be Hurting the Authors," which suggested getting authors riled up enough to put pressure on their publishers.

You can find the show notes and the audio at http://www.writingshow.com/podcasts/2010/02282010.html.

-- Paula B., The Writing Show

Jesse :-) said...

ABSOLUTELY, there is a fly in the ointment when it comes to reviews on Amazon. I don't know that limiting the reviews to only buyers on Amazon is the answer. But I would certainly like to see more control over the content of what is reviewed. Someone should be overseeing those reviews and deleting those that are irrelevant to having read the book. I've had reviews for my own work that were nothing more than someone trying to be cute, leaving a remark that had nothing to do with a review of any kind. And Amazon refused to remove it. It's time for an overhaul.

Anonymous said...

I don't put much stock into the reviews just like I don't pay attention to the movie critics. I don't know how many times the critics have slammed a movie and it turned out to be one I really liked. I think as an author though it would be depressing to get one star reviews...buy you just have to take them with a grain of salt.

Steve said...

The book is listed today as a USA Today number 5 best seller. It doesn't appear the one star reviews have hurt the book much.

-Steve

Rebecca said...

ridiculous. if you restrict reviews to people who only buy books from amazon, then what about the people who cannot afford to buy books? because they can't buy books from amazon, their opinions and expertise are discounted? or you ban people who checked out the book from their library from offering an opinion, too. anyone with any sense knows to read the high and the low star reviews on amazon in order to make up their own mind about whether the book is something they want to read or own.

Edward G. Talbot said...

Hmm, as an author, I can understand why so many commenters here are blasting the reviewers, but personally I don't see a problem with it. That's the nature of freedom of expression. Wasting energy decrying people for using the tools available to them to express whatever viewpoints they want is pointless. I'd go further to say that authors having no control over how it's published is. . .crap. Authors and agents may choose not not exercise that control in negotiating a contract, but that's different. One could argue that it's the way big publishing works so authors have no choice - so get a small publisher where you have more control. Tradeoff? Sure, but everything in life is a tradeoff. Authors aren't at the mercy of anyone unless they choose to be.

That said, I think Amazon doing something about the reviews is in Amazon's best interest. But I think they could solve it really simply - by default only show reviews and star ratings for people who have bought the book on Amazon, but have a button readers can click to show all the reviews. 90% of people (or more) are either ignoring the reviews anyway or will not click that link. And most of those who do click the link will understand they are getting something different.

Anonymous said...

Do I read Amazon reviews before I buy? Sometimes. Do I consider the Star Ratings? Not really. I want to find out WHY the reader liked the book...and why not. Comments are everything. Before I buy, I want to read that first page. Explore the author's hook, their voice.

Let me ask this: Do the people who write Kirkus Reviews and Publisher's Weekly Reviews BUY their copies from Amazon? I'd venture to say a big "No"...yet any serious reader WILL take those reviews into account. Why? Because these reviewers probably know a little more about what makes a good read and what doesn't. Same goes for an established author's review. If we repect and value that author and his/her work, we respect that review.

My neighbor might like plot-driven reads, for me, I go for the characters, yet we can recommend the same book to another person.

The reviews on my own book were written by friends, based upon the copies I gave them. Now, if Amazon chooses to remove those reviews, then they're only shooting themselves in the foot. Because those reviews MIGHT help one of Amazon's window shoppers buy it from them.

Seems to me the only criteria to a book review is: Did you actually Read the thing? How you acquired the book shouldn't matter. And it shouldn't matter to Amazon.

Elaine Richardson said...

A lot of this falls into Amazon's lap. They're sticking to their $9.99 pricing model like glue and using anyone and everyone to help pressure things. You notice that they haven't taken the non-reviews down or really given people a place to discuss these kinds of issues.

To Michael Lewis' credit, he did a lot of great pre-release PR. Then you had a bunch of people who were excited to read the book who went looking for it and couldn't get it for Kindle. Not that you could pay more and get it on Kindle--it just wasn't available at any price. They took it as the publisher trying to pressure them into buying the hardcover.

I'm not sure why they can't just agree to flex pricing. If a book comes out and I want the hardcover, I expect to pay a hardcover price. If I don't want to pay it, I wait for the paperback. Not sure why Amazon can't get on board with this. I would have paid exactly what they were charging for the hardcover ($15.17 or some such) to get this on Kindle now. But non-availability means I have to consider not just desire to read, but space on my shelves (There isn't any). So I'm waiting patiently for the kindle version.

Jill Elizabeth said...

I've found this problem annoying even as a consumer--when clicking through to see book reviews (the good, bad, and ugly) only to come upon a review the likes of "cover of book was bent on arrival."

Kevin R. Tipple said...

Those reviewers that are hammering the book because of the lack of a kindle edition are clearly out of line.

But, it is nonsense to say that Amazon should only run reviews of books that are purchased through Amazon. People like me who receive ARCs from publishers and authors and use the heck out of our local libraries would be disqualified under such a stupid policy. What Amazon should do is better police the reviews that appear on their site.

It also might help deal with the folks who claim they don't read Amazon reviews and yet have opinions on Amazon reviews. lol

Kevin R. Tipple
kevinrtipple.com

Kathryn Magendie said...

Scary, isn't it? And a shame.

Anonymous said...

Now I see why writers and other artist types really do hate the US and the free market. They simply cannot stand to be criticized by someone who lives in Arkansas or North Dakota.

Terry Matlen said...

I'm having a similar issue with Amazon. I wrote a book a few years ago and someone holding a grudge or whatever against me, wrote a very negative review. Then he/she or someone clicked over 350 times that they "found the review helpful."

...which brings that horrific review to the very top of the pile. Being that it's the first one visitors to the site read, it affects sales and my reputation.

I've tried to get Amazon to at least rotate the customer reviews so that the same negative one doesn't always stay on the top, but they refuse.

Very unfair, Amazon!

Terry Matlen, ACSW

Author, "Survival Tips for Women with ADHD"

Wendy said...

One thing that would similarly help is to simply remove reviews that others mark as unhelpful. I don't get why there's even an option to mark them as unhelpful if poorly received reviews are allowed to remain.

[{sigh} Yes, I know that helpful/unhelpful raises a reviews profile. Duh!]

Anonymous said...

Well, what about someone saying you are mentally ill becauase your teen book expressed a ecological point and the reviewer was a conservative? How about someone saying your book wasn't appropriate for a nine year old when it is clearly a picture book for a five year old, not to mention Amazon listing picture books as books for 9-12 year olds--all you get from Amazon is that the review is within its guidelines same with goodreads---who cares if the review is libelous per se. The one stars stand---and I had a book destroyed by a stalker who would not give up and I could not get rid of her no matter what I did. Saes went from 100 books a month to zero. (And this was a text book used by BYU at one point.)

Anonymous said...

The problem Amazon is not addressing are the malicious reviewers (mostly competitors) who try to ruin the sales of popular books with 1-star reviews. I've been the victim of this (it's very obvious that the reviewers haven't even read the books). This takes money not only out of my pocket, but out of Amazon's as well.

Anonymous said...

I have had legitimate positive reviews removed from my book page--the Amazon police state has declared them illegitimate without trial or evidence. They do, however, refuse to remove clearly malicious reviews from people who clearly haven't read the book or who are competition.

Amazon should restore all reviews at once.

Anonymous said...

I've gotten two 1-star reviews on two of my books that are on Amazon. Prior to these poor reviews, everyone had given my books 5 stars and glowing reviews. Although these reviews clearly indicated that the reviewers had some mental problems, I feel that both of these hurt my sales significantly. One of those books still hasn't recovered from that poor review--even though since then it's gotten a couple of 5 star reviews. I feel that Amazon should provide authors with some protection from vindictive, jealous, or just downright nasty people who just give authors a bad review because they can't stand to see others do well.

Benarmstrong said...

I don't know why Amazon do that most of people follow their reviews but if they this with such a great book is really disgrace for an author
How To Get Amazon Reviews

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