Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Amazon Reviews: Judging a Book By Its Price, Cover, Etc

By Steve Weddle

As we all know by now, I've had some difficulty reviewing a book at Amazon.

I wasn't allowed to review Chad Rohrbacher's KARMA BACKLASH because we're pals.

But look what you can do with your Amazon Reviewing.

I was allowed to review Emily Bronte's WUTHERING HEIGHTS because I don't know her.

I was also allowed to review these K-Cups for making coffee, even though I dropped the rating by ONE FULL STAR, complaining that coffee pods are not available for Kindle.

You can offer silly reviews of milk, of t-shirts, of banana slicers.

You can offer reviews of books you haven't read.

You can/could praise your own books.

You can/could take a crap on the books of your fellow authors

You can review books based solely on their covers.

You can purchase reviews as if they were colostomy bags.

You can review a book, judging it merely on its typeface.

And, you can review a book based on price alone. Jared Diamond's THE WORLD UNTIL YESTERDAY is $20 for the Kindle edition. Too high? Too low? I don't give a shit. But some folks do. So what do they do? They give the book one star and say something such as: "I didn't read this book because I'm not paying $20 for an ebook. This is outrageous."

Here's my problem with reviewing a book based on price.

The price is listed. On the page. With the book. It says what the price is. We don't need your stupid review, you narcissistic little maniac. You're not making a statement anymore than I make a statement when I refuse to flush the toilet at Eddie's Burgers & Co because the only have those blowdry things and not real paper towels. 

The price is, wait, here you go:

Amazon, and other online retailers, are in a spot right now. The reviews of the wolf shirts and jugs of milk are oh-so-hilarious. But they're not useful.

My thinking is that authors should be allowed to review the work of other authors on Amazon, but should disclose that.

And if you want to review a book you haven't read, you should disclose that.

And if you want to review the price or cover of the book, you should be able to.

If Amazon would revamp its system, I think we'd all be in better shape.

Not long ago, they added the VERIFIED PURCHASE button. What if they added a button that said "Fellow Author"? 

What if they added an option for "Price Review" or "Cover Comment"?

Couldn't they break out reviews a bit? Create some verticals? Drill down a bit and let people place various TYPES of reviews?

Maybe people could review the series of books. Reacher. Thrones. Magic Tree House.

As much as I like standing in a bookstore and talking to a clerk about a book and reading the first chapter while I sit in one of those frumpy chairs and drink a lukewarm tea, I very much like reading the 283 reviews of a book or a drill or an mp3 player.

By lumping every type of review onto one page and then going nuclear to attempt to correct a problem (sock puppets), Amazon is devaluing one of its most precious and least expensive items -- the user-generated review.


Dana King said...

Amazon has allowed some of their customers to take hostage t he beneficial elements of what is a good idea: user review. They have an opportunity to step into the vacuum created when many print outlets abdicated their roles in reviewing, but, in placing no quality controls on them, run the risk of having the review system invalidated.

I'm curious to see if they decide to do something material, or just keep putting high visibility Band-Aids on problems as they are pointed out.

By the way, sock puppets who promote their own work are unsavory. Sock puppet who actively diss the work of fellow writers are pieces of shit.

Linda Rodriguez said...

I hear you, Steve. I love the one-star reviews that savage a book for two paragraphs and then in the last sentence mention they stopped at page one and didn't read any further. *rolling eyes*

Clayton Lindemuth said...

Great points, Steve. You owe me a keyboard. :)

Steve Weddle said...

Dana, Yup. Hoping they do something soon.

Linda, Right. If they want to give the first paragraph one star, then that's something else.

Clayton, Thanks. You can get a new keyboard online. I'm there's some site out there with good options and reviews.

Anonymous-9 said...

Well said Steve.