Amazon’s Corrupt Review System

Amazon Box

With ebooks making up an estimated 30% of all book sales these days and the barrier of entry to self-publishing being so low, it’s hardly surprising that competition has driven people to pay for any edge they can get in the market.

Planning to self-publish on Amazon myself in the near future, I often find myself skimming through the Kindle Book store. It doesn’t take long before I start stumbling over clearly fake reviews littered around the place. Terrible cash-grab books, churned out with little regard for quality, are catapulted up in popularity due to their falsely glowing reviews.

It’s a simple task to find people offering these reviews. A quick google search will turn up everything you need to know about the services. Even Fiverr.com has listings that painlessly offer five star reviews for a fiver, as Andrew Shaffer wrote about in the Huffington Post.

It seems like a bleak future for anyone honest who is looking to enter the self-publishing industry. Unless writers are willing to buy reviews to gain exposure for their writing, or have already built up an audience for their work, it seems like they’re doomed to be buried under the fake marketing of others cheating the system.

Is there a solution then? Not one that I can find if you want to self-publish and still sleep at night.

Amazon seem to be making an effort to curb the problem. They were in the news earlier this year when they sought to shut down some paid review sites. Even last week, they filed a lawsuit against more than 1,000 people who the company claims have posted fake reviews on its site. The problem is still pervasive though. And at the end of the day, Amazon make money from every ebook sold on their platform so while any action they take is commendable, it’s never going to be entirely in their interest to remove reviews on books if it means preventing possible sales.

I always believed that decent work speaks for itself. If you create something worthwhile, it’ll naturally gain popularity through word of mouth. If I read something I enjoy, I always try and encourage friends to take a look. Depressingly though, I’m starting to feel that unless Amazon’s system changes somehow, quality will always lose out to dishonesty.

EDIT. Harriet Klausner, a woman who reviewed over 31,000 books on Amazon, recently died. According to the article, she was a speedreader and managed to read two books every day. I find it hard to believe that anyone could keep that up for so many years, and think it’s probably more evidence for fake reviewers on Amazon. But I could be wrong. Maybe she just mastered the art of reading.


© 2015, Gavin Zanker. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Photo by Seth Anderson licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic.

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