Writers, publishers, and booksellers have a long list of problems with Amazon. My problem with them has always been a little different. My problem with them is their Customer Review process.
I don’t mind a one-star review that is based on the merits of the book. That’s a valid thing, whether I agree with the reviewer’s position or not. But we’ve all seen one-star reviews that say things like “I think this e-book costs too much so I’m giving it one-star” or “I didn’t read this book, but I find the subject matter offensive, so one-star.” This is ludicrous, it is wrong, and it directly impacts the author’s wallet. It’s the equivalent of a writer showing up at your job in the warehouse and saying to your supervisor, “I know Bob is a forklift driver, but he packed chicken salad for lunch today and I hate chicken salad, so dock ten bucks off his pay next week.” Even more baffling to me, is that it directly impacts Amazon’s profit, as well — yet they allow it to continue.
Reviews, be they positive and five star or negative and one star, should inform you about the product in question, be it a book, a movie, a record, etc. And while many Amazon customer reviews do just that, they are invalidated every time Amazon allows some brain-damaged howler monkey to hammer out a review of their own
For example, known stalker and serial harasser Nickolaus Pacione, having been temporarily banned from Twitter, Facebook, and other social media, took to Amazon’s customer review system to Blog about his private life. In this five-star review of a Beanie Baby, he rants about charges of child abuse against him. How is any of this drivel conducive to helping a customer make an informed decision as to whether or not they wish to purchase this product?
Another example, unfolding right now, is the novel ONLY BY BLOOD AND SUFFERING, written by Robert LaVoy Finicum. For the uninformed, Finicum was one of the militia members who recently seized federal land as part of a protest against Eminent Domain and other grievances. Now, I’m not going to get into the man’s politics, other than to say I think both his group and other recent protest groups such as Black Lives Matter all raise important points, and it’s a shame they can’t listen to each other and find common ground, rather than seeing each other as antagonists from the other team. Finicum was killed last night during a stand-off with FBI agents and local law enforcement, allegedly while surrendering with his hands up. When you read the reviews for his novel, legitimate reviews based on the merits of the book are lost amidst a flurry of one-star and five-star reviews from people who admit to not having read the book, and are instead basing their reviews on their feelings regarding the stand-off.
And it happens to everyone. Chuck Wendig’s STAR WARS novel is filled with bogus reviews by people who admittedly did not read the novel and are protesting the erasure of the old Star Wars novels from continuity. Reviews for books by Bush, Clinton, Obama, and Trump are filled with political posturing, rather than anything having to do with the content of the books. The Sad Puppies troll the reviews sections of John Scalzi’s books. The Social Justice Warriors troll the reviews sections of Larry Correia’s books. Doctor Who fans leave reviews based on whether or not they like the actor depicted on the cover.
Amazon’s Customer Review process is in need of a serious overhaul. It’s something that is long overdue. As it stands right now, it’s a shopping experience akin to going to a brick and mortar bookstore, and picking a novel off the shelf by an author you’re unfamiliar with, and attempting to read the back cover synopsis while a lunatic stands next to you shouting about the fish in his pocket and how you should pet it. At which point I put the book back on the shelf, leave without making a purchase, and re-read one of the 4,000 books I already own.