What Happened To Your Amazon Book Reviews

The site has recently purged thousands without explanation, creating controversy over what constitutes a valid review.

What's the Latest Development?

In the last few months, Amazon has deleted an unspecified number of user reviews from its site with no public explanation, generating heated discussion among writers and reviewers about what it means to review a work in the open space of the Internet. Some writers have been told that the site "[does] not allow reviews on behalf of a person or company with a financial interest in the product or a directly competing product," including writers, but they say that this rule isn't consistently applied. One suggests that Amazon applied a broad brush: "[T]hey caught a lot of shady reviews, but a lot of innocent ones were erased, too."

What's the Big Idea?

Besides selling books, reviews help Amazon choose new books for its recent publishing venture. To that end, recently publicized cases of writers manipulating the review process to garner more attention and make more sales may be the most likely reason for the crackdown. Some writers, such as J.A. Konrath, see no problem with fake reviews, but some readers differ. In fact, one unusually prolific and, to some, unreasonably complimentary reviewer, retired librarian Harriet Klausner, has generated her own "fan" group which tracks and methodically discredits each review she posts. One member says, "[W]e've all been duped into buying books based on her reviews."

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