This week in the blogs – Changes to the Amazon review system

amazon-reviews

Amazon have recently put in place some changes to it’s review system on Amazon.com. A variety of blog posts discussing what the changes mean to both readers and authors have caught my eye. I thought I’d share them with you.

The Bowes Library Corner
Author K. T. Bowes says in her recent post “Well, poor Christoph Fischer can testify he still doesn’t know why his 1700 legitimate reviews of other people’s work were removed, or why he was banned from reviewing on Amazon again. The only thing it can be, is that he was deemed to ‘know’ all 1700 authors. He looks like a social, fun kinda guy but really? One of the reviews they removed was for my novel and much as I’d like to, I’ve never met him, had coffee with him or even private messaged with him. There’s a whole lot of ocean between him and me, which presumably Amazon don’t deem to be a significant obstacle.”
     Her post raises many important questions and highlights how authors are having reviews of their published works removed and being banned from leaving reviews because Amazon believe they know the other authors whose books they are reviewing. But what do they deem as ‘knowing’ someone? They don’t give any explanations.

The Guardian
The Guardian reports this week that Amazon is being accused of ‘Big Brother’ tactics over customer book reviews. David Barnett reports that “the online retailer appears to have tightened up its review policy to weed out people boosting their mates’ books with glowing notices, but whatever algorithms they’re using to work this out seem also to be catching anyone who engages with their favourite writers on social media.”
     All authors, indie or traditionally published, are increasingly using social media platforms to connect with potential and existing readers. If Amazon think these connections are all about writing fake reviews and go out of their way to remove them, will any of it’s published authors have any reviews left? By their reasoning, if you connect with anyone on social media, then you ‘know’ them and run the risk of being banned from the review system.

Imy Santiago – Indie Writer
Imy’s blog post highlights exactly what happens when Amazon think you are abusing their system. She discusses what happened when she tried to leave a review for a book that she had bought, and Amazon told her she wasn’t eligible to leave one. In one e-mail she received from Amazon they tell her:

We cannot post your Customer Review for (book title deleted) by (author name deleted) to the Amazon website because your account activity indicates that you know the author. 

Customer Reviews are meant to give customers unbiased product feedback from fellow shoppers. Because our goal is to provide Customer Reviews that help customers make informed purchase decisions, any reviews that could be viewed as advertising, promotional, or misleading will not be posted. To learn more about this policy, please review our Customer Review Guidelines (http://amazon.com/help/customer-reviews-guidelines) and FAQs (http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/?nodeId=201077870).  

We encourage family and friends to share their enthusiasm for the book through our Customer Discussions feature or Editorial Reviews feature. To start a Customer Discussion visit the Meet Our Authors forum and enter your discussion title in the Start a new discussion box. You’ll find the forum here: 
http://www.amazon.com/forum/meet%20our%20authors/&cdForum=Fx2UYC1FC06SU8S

To have your Editorial Review posted to the detail page, e-mail it directly to the author so they can add it for you. 

If you believe you’re eligible to write a Customer Review for this book, send additional details to review-appeals@amazon.com

We hope to see you again soon.

As Imy asks, how do they know who she knows on social media? How can they justify preventing authors reviewing each others books? Imy asks you share her blog post and use the following hastags across social media to highlight the problem:
#ExplainYourselfAmazon
#Censorship
#QuestionableBusinessPractices
#AuthorsDependOnReviews
#ClippedWings

You might be interested to read Amazon.com’s About Customer Reviews page that states: “Authors and artists can add a unique perspective and we very much welcome their customer reviews. While we encourage reviewers to share their enthusiasm and experience, there can be a fine line between that and the use of customer reviews as product promotion. We don’t allow anyone to write customer reviews as a form of promotion and if we find evidence that a customer was paid for a review, we’ll remove it. If you have a direct or indirect financial interest in a product, or perceived to have a close personal relationship with its author or artist, we’ll likely remove your review. We don’t allow authors to submit customer reviews on their own books even when they disclose their identity.”

These changes have taken place on Amazon.com, and it looks as though they are going to be rolled out across it’s other sites. Are you going to continue leaving reviews for other authors? Do you think the author community can put enough pressure on Amazon to explain itself? It seems as though your social media activity can be ‘watched’ once you link your Kindle to your Facebook or Twitter accounts. Would you disconnect your devices in order to continue reviewing?

Please let me know what you think of Amazon’s changes and re-share this post and/or the posts included to spread the word to all other authors.

You can also find the petition to try and change Amazon’s review policy here.

As always, thank you for reading.

Mark.

 

 

 

 

6 thoughts on “This week in the blogs – Changes to the Amazon review system

  1. Another thing that really annoys me is that UK customer reviews are not seen by prospective purchasers in the US or other users of Amazon.com. Yet, Amazon.com reviews are shown to Amazon.co.uk customers. All Amazon could say was…that’s the way it is.

    • Hi Richard,

      Thank you for commenting.
      I think that many authors find Amazon’s inability to explain themselves annoying.
      I’ve just checked the reviews I’ve had for The Revelation Room on both the Amazons, and all reviews are visible on both sites. If reviews aren’t being shown, then that’s not good for the author or very good business practice. Surely Amazon would get more sales if products had all their reviews with them?

      Best wishes,

      Mark.

  2. it looks like amazon has made a judgment error in assuming friendships based on social media connections. they will hear about it from enough people, study the repercussions, identify unintended consequences, and rescind poor decisions. that is what i would expect. good luck to all you authors and readers. i would be really upset about being told that my voice shouldn’t be heard. personally, i do not like social media and have almost nothing to do with it. i jave about 15 facebook friends by choice and about 5 or 6 command per formance friendships with family members that i felt obligated to accelt as friends. with social media, unintended consequences abound. it’s a mess. again, good luck.

    • Hi,
      Thank you for visiting and commenting. It’s interesting to get the perspective of someone who isn’t publishing a book through Amazon.
      I hope that Amazon do see the strength of opinion against what they are doing and re-think their policy. For such a forward thinking company, these policy changes seem quite backward! The only reason I began blogging and using social media was to interact with potential readers. I enjoy it now I understand it but Amazon seem to think that any interaction invalidates reviews.
      I had a look at your website by the way and it looks interesting 🙂

      Thanks again,

      Mark.

  3. Funnily enough, since Amazon deleted my publisher’s editor’s review of my book, the star rating has gone up, because she gave it 4 and everyone else gave it five. 🙂

    • Hi Susie,
      I wonder if that’s happened to anyone else? I personally haven’t seen anyone else who is happy with the removal of reviews but I think I’d be happy too if my rating went up.

      Best wishes,
      Mark.

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