It seems a scandal is brewing over book reviews on Amazon.com. They're supposed to be written by ordinary readers like you and I, but it seems publishers, and professional consultants, are ghost-writing them in order to boost their own products and diss those of their competitors. The Daily Mail reports:
Alongside details of a book for sale, the website offers supposedly independent verdicts from customers, including a rating of from one to five stars.
However, rival publishers are accused of hijacking the system to praise their own volumes and disparage the opposition.
Authors are turning on each other, agencies are charging up to £5,000 [about US $7,800] to place favourable fake reviews and Amazon has recruited a team of amateur critics to restore the balance.
. . .
Earlier this year historian Simon Winder forced Amazon to remove a critical review of his book Germania after he discovered it was written by a rival academic – Diane Purkiss, of Keble College, Oxford.
Guidelines set by Amazon state that reviews should not be posted by anyone with a financial interest or a competing book.
But the online giant accepts anonymous reviews from anyone with a customer account.
This has led PR firms to provide favourable reviews of new books, at a price.
Nathan Barker, of Reputation 24/7, offers a service starting at £5,000.
He said: ‘First we set up accounts. For a romance novel we’d pick seven female profiles and three males.
‘We’d say we like this book but add a tiny bit of criticism and compare it to another book.’
Mr Barker claims this is common practice among publishers.
There's more at the link.
I can't say I'm surprised to hear this. When it comes to making a buck, there aren't that many honest firms or salespeople out there. My personal 'guide' to assessing an Amazon review is to check how many that particular reviewer has written, and glance at a few of them to see if they're a mixture of positive and negative, or all positive, or all negative. If they all lean one way, I regard that reviewer's opinions as suspect. If they're balanced, that speaks well of the reviewer's integrity.
Just a thought.