I feel I should take a view on the current issue that’s bothering a lot of indie (and non-indie) authors at the moment — the Great Amazon Review Robbery. In its latest crackdown on fake reviews, Amazon has taken to removing swathes of those that it deems to be in breach of its terms and conditions, and in so doing has taken out every review ever written by a large number of book bloggers or prolific reviewers.
I have some sympathy with Amazon on this, but do think they’re going about it the wrong way. The problem is not authors reading and reviewing one another’s books, asking their friends to review a book “if you enjoyed it” or sending copies to book bloggers in return for an honest review. These practices have been going on for as long as indie publishing has been around. They’re the only way that self-published authors, who don’t have PR departments to send their books to the major Sunday review supplements and wouldn’t be listened to if they did, can get their profile raised high enough for anyone to notice them. (Because Amazon loves reviews.)
There are so many things going on here that I can’t really grasp them, and in truth no-one knows what’s going on with Amazon. It seems to me that reviews which were previously deemed acceptable no longer are, which is bad enough in itself. What’s worse is that bloggers with years of reviews behind them are losing the lot.
Quite why people are losing reviews is a weird one. One of the criteria seems to be that “too many good reviews” aren’t deemed acceptable — but many reviewers, myself included, don’t give bad reviews. In my case, there are two reasons for this. The first is because I generally only choose books I think I’m going to enjoy reading. The second is that I don’t review books I don’t enjoy because I don’t want to give a bad review. Both of those, in my view, are perfectly legitimate.
I hope the brou-ha-ha over Reviewgate will give Amazon pause, and they’ll stop and think about the implications of it. As an author I’m not someone who obsesses about reviews. I don’t count them or keep track of them, but when I checked last week I did notice that my overall review rating had dropped with no new reviews added, implying that some of my reviews have dropped off. Since then (I did take a note at that point) I’ve lost three reviews on Amazon UK and my paltry total has dwindled further.
I read a lot and I don’t review a lot. Where I do make the effort, it’s because I enjoyed a book and a review will help an indie author (the JKRs of this world don’t need my reviews: they have enough). But these seems to be the reviews that Amazon is targeting — 4* or 5* reviews by authors of other authors.
I hope Amazon sorts this out, sooner rather than later, and focuses its efforts on the people who are scamming it out of serious amounts of money, but I’m not holding my breath. I the meantime, I’ll continue to review good books by indie authors, who I may or not know, but on my blog.