Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Amazon and the review syndrome

Gerard Jones reports that Amazon.com has been playing silly buggers with the reviews of Ginny Good, and he is not pleased.

At the beginning of February there were 61 reviews of Gerard's book on Amazon. Now there are 36 and some of the ones that are left are, shall we say, a bit weird. Gerard believes that Amazon have kept some reviews and deleted others according to their own criteria, a process which he describes as censorship and, as you would expect, complains about.

Miss Snark says that she had a client to whom the same thing happened, and believes that the problem results from a computer glitch. She says that you can get it fixed if you say pretty please and keep at it, writing in and writing in for months on end. Good luck, Gerard.

Meanwhile, Wall-Street analysts are finding that getting detailed information out of Amazon is the traditional blood and stone situation. And the last company that I remember behaving like that was Enron. (Link from booktrade.info.)

Another incident, which may or may not shed some light on Amazon practices, is one involving 2005 Blogged, edited by Tim Worstall. This book is a collection of essays from the blogosphere, chosen to feature 'the very best writing from the rising stars of online journalism'. The GOB, coughs modestly, was one of the bloggers included.

Most of the contributors will have reviewed the book on their blog -- I certainly did -- and Tim asked us all to post the reviews on Amazon. I did that too, and I imagine others did the same. But so far no review from a contributor has appeared. Why not? Any contributor will have occupied only a page or two out of 224 pages, and we will have had plenty of perfectly valid things to say about the rest. So what's the problem? If someone thinks we have a financial axe to grind, quite wrong: no royalties to come whatever.

Actually I'm surprised that Amazon has enough staff to deal with such matters on an individual basis. There are an awful lot of books in their catalogue. And I suspect that, as is usual in business these days, if there are any human hands involved they probably belong to people who are young, based overseas, and seriously underpaid. I'm not sure that I have any faith in their judgement.

Gerard's view is that all reviews should be allowed to stand, regardless. From the mud, he says, grows the lotus.


Anonymous said...

People like living in a police state. It's safe. Well, you know, as long as you go by the rules that are in vogue at any given moment. There are several sides to every story. I'd prefer to see them all and make up my own mind rather than have it made up for me...for my own good, of course. G.

Anonymous said...

Disappointing to see nothing's changed. I stopped reviewing for Amazon (UK) about four years ago because it not only took anything up to three months for approval, but their mysterious panel of censors would regular snip references to sexuality. Allusions to homosexuality in serie noir titles were particularly vulnerable.

I never really understood it and after several months of complaining couldn't get a decent explanation beyond certain reviews being unsuitable for younger readers. But they reviews weren't x-rated, they lacked expletives, and sexual references were astute enough to go over the heads of those Amazon were supposedly protecting. Ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

Picture this: 1000 worker bees in the basement of Amazon, all busily eyeballing incoming reviews of books for sale online. Naughty words? Edit 'em out. Rants? Delete the whole thing. 5:00PM? Let's get outta here.

You would have to have a friend in a pretty high or low place at Amazon to get someone to single out your review and keep it...or delete it.

And Miss Snark is on target re computer glitches. They happen. And, yes, getting it fixed from the outside is very difficult. Getting it fixed from the inside is also difficult unless you can yell from your cubicle across the room to another cubicle and reach the right person to make the correction.

Oh, and another problem that is maddening, but understandable, given the worker bee workload: transfer of reviews from the hardcover book to the paperback...

Yours from New York!
Lynne W. Scanlon
"Wicked Witch of Publishing"

Anonymous said...

I stuck up a review of Amazon at Amazon. They won't publish it, but it soothed my sinsick soul to stick the sucker up there. G.

Carl V. Anderson said...

Let me start by saying that I love Amazon.com. I have gotten many amazing deals on some amazing books and I also like to use the review page before buying books by authors I haven't read just get a general sense of what the average reader thinks.

However I have been really frustrated by what I perceive as a change in the quality of their services. It used to be that every order looked like it was lovingly packed. Books were sealed tightly to prevent any damage and they arrived looking great. Lately my orders look like they are being packed by people who hate books, hate their jobs, and refuse to put any real effort into it. The books have been laying loosely in too big boxes and have arrived damaged, from slight to major. And pardon me but I'm one of those people who feel that if I am paying for a new book I want it to look new, not used. One was so bad that I sent it back and they responded quickly and sent me a replacement even before I returned the book. It hasn't stopped the poor packaging however. Its really frustrating.

Catherine Czerkawska said...

I use Amazon a lot myself, but after my novel The Curiosity Cabinet was published last year, I had people contacting me through my website to say that they had posted good reviews which never appeared. They got quite cross about it. One told me that she had contacted them, to be told that the review contravened some policy or other. No refs to sex though, only the novel and the Scottish landscape, so maybe they thought she was promoting Visitscotland. By the way, every CD I have ever bought off Amazon has arrived with a broken case.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Amazon stuck up what I said about 'em. Yippee! G.

Anonymous said...

Think yourselves lucky. Hardly anyone bothers to post censorable - or indeed uncensorable - reviews of my books. Jesus, even my own friends and family forget. How I wish I had some Amazon reviews to censor.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who's done low-level data entry type jobs, as i have for two years now, knows that unless everything you do is monitored, you tend to 'use your discretion', i.e. do things the wrong but easy way hoping no one will find out. i think staff at Amazon probably operate on this sytem, have a quota of reviews to review each hour, and deal with this by mass rejection, say, rejecting 20 or 30, so they can work at a reasonable pace and still, technically, hit their quota. This explains, to me, why some of my reviews disappear and others get posted - some temp wanted to drink his coffee so rejected the next 30 reviews, to get the time, that sweet sweet coffee time.

best wishes,

Dog the Temp