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http://news.slashdot.org/story/12/12/26/1914249/amazon-authors-cant-review-books

In an effort to step up its fight against astroturfers, Amazon has barred authors from reviewing books. It's not simply that authors can't review their own books - they can't review any book in a similar genre to something they've published. "This means that thriller writers are prevented from commenting on works by other authors who write similar books. Critics suggest this system is flawed because many authors are impartial and are experts on novels." British author Joanne Harris had a simpler solution in mind: "To be honest I would just rather Amazon delete all their reviews as it... has caused so much trouble. It is a pity. Originally it was a good idea but it is has become such an issue now. The star rating has become how people view if a book is a success and it has become inherently corrupt." How would you improve the online review system?
 

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I thought they did this a while ago? I'm curious, does this open them up to lawsuits because authors are being discriminated against. I mean, you don't see them prohibiting crockpot manufacturers from leaving reviews of their competitor's products.
 
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vrabinec said:
I thought they did this a while ago? I'm curious, does this open them up to lawsuits because authors are being discriminated against. I mean, you don't see them prohibiting crockpot manufacturers from leaving reviews of their competitor's products.
Actually, there rules do specifically state that you cannot review a competitor's product regardless of what the product is. This is not limited to just books.

• Sentiments by or on behalf of a person or company with a financial interest in the product or a directly competing product (including reviews by publishers, manufacturers, or third-party merchants selling the product)
 

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Aren't many of the book bloggers also authors?  Will this policy rule them out?
 

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Ah, gotcha, Julie. So they just felt the need to reiterate and reinforce that redundantly once again to authors, because we have a problem reading things that we didn't write.
 
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This isn't a new policy. They are just more vigorously enforcing their longstanding policy. Again, Amazon uses the scorched-earth approach instead of using common sense. I understand the problem. There IS a lot of gaming of the system going on. People are buying reviews, trading positive reviews, reviewing books they never read to "help" a fellow indie, creating sock puppet accounts to boost their own review numbers. But the larger issue is that Amazon won't make the important changes to address the problem and instead is hellbent on 100% automation...with horrible results.

Dan--

Seems like it might be easier just to identify comments left by other authors in the same genre. Shouldn't be too hard for Amazon to implement, as they already have that data in their database. Then readers can decide for themselves whether or not they trust that author's review.
Amazon has all this information, but too often the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing. I've gotten two emails from Amazon recently asking me to review my own books. Because even though I use the same email address for both buying on Amazon and KDP, their system doesn't connect the dots to realize they are sending the author of a book an email asking them to review the book in violation of their own policies. They HAVE the needed data, but their system is not designed to use that data in a way that makes sense.
 

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How very unfortunate. Another example of the few ruining it for the many. I enjoy giving 5 stars to children's picture books that I like, especially self-pubs. If I can't give a book 4 or 5 stars I don't leave a review because I have a children's picture book published. They haven't caught up to me, yet, to delete my reviews. Maybe they are targeting the bad reviews first. I'm going to keep leaving 5 star reviews for books I like, and they can do what they wish.
 
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The system CAN be fixed by using a weighted system. I've said this before and gotten slack for it. But all reviews are not created equal. They could weigh the review system so that certain reviews weigh more than others.

1. Eliminate the star ratings on individual reviews and instead only show the cumulative score.
First, I think people would be more honest with their individual star ratings if they weren't posted. A lot of indie-friendly reviewers (both bloggers and authors) inflate the star rating of a review because they don't want to hurt people's feelings. You may feel a book is genuinely a three, but because you know the author from KB or because the author responds to reviews or for some other reason, you may push the rating to 4 instead. If the individual stars did not appear next to the reviews, people would be more comfortable leaving more flexible numbers so everything isn't a five star or one star.

Second, then people wouldn't know which reviews were being weighted or why. They would just see the cumulative score.

2. Track IP numbers. This is the most simple of things to do. Yes, there are ways around it, but in reality the people most likely to create dozens of sock puppet accounts aren't the brightest bulbs on the tree. Most people don't know how to mask their IP addresses. Doesn't even need to block the IP address. It could just flag it in the system quietly. It's possible to have two or even three legitimate accounts go through the same IP, particularly with shared computers or some low-cost internet services that recycle IP addresses through firewalls. But when ten or twenty accounts get created from the same IP address in a short period of time, that should send off a flag.

3. We need to accept that Amazon is not a democracy. People get ticked off whenever someone suggests that some reviews should not count as much as others. But this is a simple fact of life. Get over it. My opinion on quantum physics does not carry the same weight as an actual quantum physicist. My opinion on horses as a non-horse owner doesn't count as much as the opinion of someone who raises horses. Any system that allows my opinion to hold the same weight as someone who is an expert in the field is fundamentally flawed. Same goes with Amazon reviews. A person who is a professional book blogger who has been reviewing books for 10 years SHOULD have their review count for more than someone who just created an account today and is reviewing a book for the first time.

4. Weighing the reviews:
1. Customers who have never reviewed a book before would have their reviews weigh at a fraction. As the customer builds more of a review history, their stars could be reweighed to count for more.
2. Verified purchases would weigh more than unverified purchases.
3. "free" purchases, those made during freebie periods, would weigh less than those purchased during normal prices. (This would also mitigate the low-star reviews from people who download everything that is free and then leave negative reviews that say things like "I don't normally read this type of book).
4 Allow bloggers to register and get a badge. Amazon could offer a "Book Blogger" badge, similar to the Vine or Real Name badges, where the blogger would fill out a form to identify the name of the blog. These reviews could be weighed heavier, but in exchange Amazon could program it's bots to routinely check these sites to see if the site is "selling" reviews. Again, some people could figure out a way around this, but on average the people who sell reviews in bulk aren't all that bright.


 

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If I had to instigate some kind of "blunt instrument" change, I'd limit reviews to Amazon Verified Purchases. This would cut out everyone who received a free review copy, but it would get us back to the basics of grassroots reviewing by the general public.

Edited to add: I like the idea of a "badge" for book bloggers and other reviewers, that Julie suggested!
 

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jasonzc said:
http://news.slashdot.org/story/12/12/26/1914249/amazon-authors-cant-review-books

In an effort to step up its fight against astroturfers, Amazon has barred authors from reviewing books. It's not simply that authors can't review their own books - they can't review any book in a similar genre to something they've published. "This means that thriller writers are prevented from commenting on works by other authors who write similar books. Critics suggest this system is flawed because many authors are impartial and are experts on novels." British author Joanne Harris had a simpler solution in mind: "To be honest I would just rather Amazon delete all their reviews as it... has caused so much trouble. It is a pity. Originally it was a good idea but it is has become such an issue now. The star rating has become how people view if a book is a success and it has become inherently corrupt." How would you improve the online review system?
I think this is misinformation. The post offers no evidence for the claim that authors are no longer permitted to post reviews on Amazon. In fact, the quotes from Am at the bottom say that "While our enforcement has improved, our guidelines have not changed," and that authors' perspectives are still welcome. The thing abt not reviewing the products of direct competitors is, as someone else said, old. I think that rule is not enforced unless someone complains (my reviews of other fantasy books are still up).

Sent from my LG-VS700 using Tapatalk 2
 

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I'm a Vine Reviewer and am asked monthly to review a wide range of products and books. Now, I generally do not review books unless I read one that catapults me into the 7 star stratesphere (and there have been some). I do this as a policy to preserve the intergrity of my own nearly 300 reviews and avoid the tit-for-tat cloud, but I am sre there are many authors in the Vine Review pen who regularly review books and in their own genre with Amazon's blessing, if not encouragement. Mostly I review for them, candy, bookends, wireless keyboards, pencil shapreners, a mouse trap (you read it correctly) and a host of technical manuals (non-fiction). I'm just adding this comment so we aren't taken aback by something which has been around for quite some time, but for those new to it, it might appear like news.

Edward C. Patterson
BTW, the mousetrap received one of my few ever one star reviews (along with Mucinex PM, which nearly sent me to the ER).  ;D
 

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I'm not sure about the notion of bloggers' reviews being "weighed heavier."  Don't a lot of bloggers get books free in exchange for the review?  Isn't that the same as a paid review, which is the type of thing that could make people wonder about it?

I also don't like the Verified Purchase only thing, as that seems to exclude a lot of honest opinions.

However, I do like the idea of a "cumulative star" rating only, with individual star ratings not being seen.  (Although there's probably nothing preventing the reviewer from noting in the review how many stars they gave. *sigh*)
 
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Jena H said:
I'm not sure about the notion of bloggers' reviews being "weighed heavier." Don't a lot of bloggers get books free in exchange for the review? Isn't that the same as a paid review,
No. It is not, and has never been, the same thing. The tradition of providing a complimentary review copy to a review goes back for decades. The NYT does NOT buy the books that they review. I used to review RPGS for a magazine years ago. I never paid for the game. They were sent to the magazine who then sent them to reviewers. The rule has always been that the publisher provides the copy of the book to the reviewer in exchange for the review. The reviewer's job is to review the book. That is not the same thing as "I will give you $5 to write a review for me."
 

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Only showing the average star rating, but not showing the stars on the actual reviews might be nice for the author, but it would make the reviews useless for me as a reader. Right now I am trying to stay away from this new trend of "installment" books that are flooding the romance genre in particular. Most of them do not say so in the description. So all I have are the reviews. I go straight to the 1 and 2 stars and see if someone mentions that. It would take me way more time having to read each and every review without any way to just click on the stars.

There are other things readers want to know quickly that might turn them off or even on to a book at a quick glance. For that I need the star rating at the review.

As to the blogger issue. Personally, I don't care or read the blogger reviews most of the time. Unless I am familiar with the blog or site. And in those cases, they have their own website for them where I then go. Anyone can be a blogger.
Why should their review count more than me little ol reader without a website. I'd rather read a one paragraph review that comes from the heart than a school report type review that talks about technical stuff. Books make one feel and those are the reviews I like reading to help me find what I want.

And trust me, many would just create a blog to have their review count more. Just because. ;D
 

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Bards and Sages (Julie) said:
No. It is not, and has never been, the same thing. The tradition of providing a complimentary review copy to a review goes back for decades. The NYT does NOT buy the books that they review. I used to review RPGS for a magazine years ago. I never paid for the game. They were sent to the magazine who then sent them to reviewers. The rule has always been that the publisher provides the copy of the book to the reviewer in exchange for the review. The reviewer's job is to review the book. That is not the same thing as "I will give you $5 to write a review for me."
Any system can be gamed if someone is determined.
 

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Atunah said:
Anyone can be a blogger.
Why should their review count more than me little ol reader without a website. I'd rather read a one paragraph review that comes from the heart than a school report type review that talks about technical stuff. Books make one feel and those are the reviews I like reading to help me find what I want.
This.
I would give the greatest weight to READERS. Not so-called experts.
 

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Bards and Sages (Julie) said:
No. It is not, and has never been, the same thing. The tradition of providing a complimentary review copy to a review goes back for decades. The NYT does NOT buy the books that they review. I used to review RPGS for a magazine years ago. I never paid for the game. They were sent to the magazine who then sent them to reviewers. The rule has always been that the publisher provides the copy of the book to the reviewer in exchange for the review. The reviewer's job is to review the book. That is not the same thing as "I will give you $5 to write a review for me."
You do to stay within the FTC rules have to mention receiving a review copy in your review and people do that all the time. (As you know, I just wanted to throw that information out there) As you say, people and publishers give away review copies all the time. There is absolutely nothing in the Amazon rules against doing that.
 

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Dang, I just reviewed Destroyer #150 over Christmas... it's the latest in my favorite series of books, by the incredible Warren Murphy. Now I guess I can't offer my $.02 on subsequent books. Crapola.
 

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Bards and Sages (Julie) said:
Verified purchases would weigh more than unverified purchases.
You buy a book on amazon.co.uk or amazon.com. The 'Verified purchase' flag only appears by your review on the site you bought the book from. I write in the UK and very much appreciate it when a reader takes the time to post their review on both sites.
 
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NatashaHolme said:
You buy a book on amazon.co.uk or amazon.com. The 'Verified purchase' flag only appears by your review on the site you bought the book from. I write in the UK and very much appreciate it when a reader takes the time to post their review on both sites.
That is an artificial wall put up by Amazon itself, however. There is nothing to stop Amazon, if they were serious about fixing the issue, to allow cross-pollination of reviews. In fact, doing so would only help the matter and boost overall reviews on products.
 
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