One Star Civilization

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.

15 thoughts on “One Star Civilization

  1. You forgot the fact that reviews by people connected to the author on Social Media may be removed… What kind of BS is that? With social media being a major platform for authors these days, OF COURSE readers are connected!

    1. What Amber said bugs the hell out of me. I make it a point to be friendly when I reach out to reviewers – for instance, friending them on Facebook or thanking them on Twitter for reading my book. Because, you know, they took a couple hours out of their life to do me a favor. So now I can potentially get docked reviews for being polite? It’s not like I married Roger Ebert’s sister to get a good review. I’m saying, “Hey, thanks for the review, champ, here’s some signal boost.”

  2. Hopefully most readers treat star reviews on Amazon like comments on Youtube, and ignore them for fear to read would to be lose faith in humanity.

    Suspect Amazon do f–k all to stop this because it drives up their site visit count.

  3. I hate their system of rating. Especially, if they have more than one format for a product. Case in point. Most books now are also available on ebooks. It seems like 9 times out of 10 the review is because the Kindle didn’t download right, or at all. The print was too small or not their at all. This is a review, but if I’m looking for a paperback version of that book, I want to know the reviews of the paperback only. There has to be a way that if I click on the product version, then all the reviews are for that product version only.

    I write reviews for the products I buy on Amazon, because I think people need to know how the product is, no matter what the product may be. Once I submit the review, I get an email from Amazon stating that my review is being reviewed, and then an email saying that my review has been made available. Now, my question is this. If, they review a review, why isn’t some of this garbage not caught? Perhaps it’s some kind of program that scans the review for foul language only. I don’t know. I agree though. The review system sucks. They need a group that reads the reviews and decides whether or not they should go live. Hell, I’d do it. Set up an account that funnels all the reviews based on the number of stars. Then have actual living people, with brains bigger than pebbles, read the reviews and let them then allow the reviews to go online.

    Then again, this is the decade of the butt-hurt and easily offended. I think the film, Idiocracy is becoming more and more a documentary.

  4. I agree totally. I review a lot on Amazon, sometimes just to try to counteract idiots who give Tom Piccirilli’s Hex 1 star because it “doesn’t make sense.” There are some well thought out review on there (mine hopefully among them), but you have to take the time to look at them. If you just go by the star average it can be very misleading.

  5. It is frustrating for customers as well who are trying to get an honest feel for the book before laying down their hard earned money. Sadly libraries don’t stock books like yours and a reader has to buy it to decide if they want to buy it. Loads of fake reviews harm the process so a reader trying to determine if they should buy it have no way to get a real median star level.

  6. I fully agree with you on this one sir. As a person who reviews my purchases on Amazon & answers questions from others about products I can say their system is quite messed up. I do what I Can to help others not sure about possible buys. I don’t enjoy weeding out the idiots who can’t simply rate the product itself. My kindle has similar issues but not as bad as amazon. Rating on price or something stupid that doesn’t apply to the item it self is a sign of a dumb ass. It hurts the customer and the seller that doesn’t know any better. The fact that Amazon supposedly reviews the stuff is a crock as well. I feel the only way to make it better this to have actual people reviewing the actual reviews and once again weeding out the stupid stuff. I don’t Facebook or Twitter nor do I have accounts to either but I can imagine the problems are similar. These reviews really hurt authors and sellers of products because of a few people that don’t know how to review properly. As for the dumbass who stalks people and talks about personal issues that are completely inappropriate on said sites, he needs to take a long walk off a short pier. I keep hearing every once in a blue moon the problems he gives you and others in your group of authors and this guy really needs to get a life or put in a safe house. Amazon is a great site but needs to fix the issues that I’m sure they hear about on a constant basis. My son every once in awhile look stuff up on Amazon such as comic books and tells me that people put things on that shouldn’t be. So now every time he wants to look something up we have to do it together so I can try to hide the dumb things people talk about instead of simply reviewing the flipping product. It drives me nuts that reviewers can simply review the damn product. It’s not a hard thing to do. Amazon should also ban these people who can’t handle being on the Internet but they won’t because there’s a chance they might get money for selling something. Overall they make plenty of money and I’m sure can afford to pay a couple people to review the reviews before they are officially posted. Society is totally screwed and I hate thinking about the world that my children have to grow up in. If I think about it too much I will ruin my day. I have to go play fallout 4 and shoot some Raiders so I can relax a little bit now. Until next time my friend take care and stay warm.

  7. I somewhat agree with you, Brian. But I also somewhat don’t. What do I disagree with? I’ll use me as an example: I started a new book series on Amazon Kindle and the introductory price for the book was only .99 cents and the author stated in blogs and his website that future installments would be no more than $3.99 each. Well, I said okay that’s very fair and would pay that much no problem.

    I ended up getting hooked with the first book and then what does the author do? The second book he prices at $10.99 after saying that the price wouldn’t go over $4 bucks. That is deceptive and I think in situations like this buyers have a right to voice their opinion in a review about the price. I won’t mention the author’s name(he’s a relatively big name in action/adventure thrillers), but I will say I paid full price for the second book and did not leave a favorable review because of the price deception.

    I do completely agree that it’s wrong to leave unfavorable reviews based on the content of a book(too violent, too gory, too much sex, etc.) Readers should no what they are getting into by reading the synopsis and/or reviews.

    1. I can’t really comment without knowing the author or the books. Were they self-published? traditionally published? It may be like many cases where that decision was taken out of his hands by Amazon or the publisher. And even if it was his doing, it still doesn’t impact the quality of the book. The price is clearly displayed before it is purchased.

      1. The author was self-published and could control the price of his books. I understand where you’re coming from Brian, but I still disagree simply because I felt I was taken advantage of. Why tell your fans that you will not charge any higher than a certain set price for a series of interconnected books(when you have control of pricing) that requires you to read subsequent books and then astronomically raise the price on those said books? It doesn’t seem fair to me.

        I’ve invested my time and money(yes, it was only a buck but a buck is a buck) in a series I won’t be able to continue unless I shell out much more than was promised. I REALLY liked the start of this series and REALLY wanted to read the next book. Then came the price! It just seems dishonest and deceitful. I understand that prices of books go up gradually over time, especially as an author becomes more popular, but to pull that kind of scheme is underhanded. It was not just me that was pissed about it either. Thankfully the author has since lowered the price on future books after getting flogged on social media by his fans.

        I don’t want to mention the author’s name simply because I don’t want any more dust stirred up by it and I figure let bygones be exactly that. After the author brought the price back to the promised amount(or there about) I amended my review. I only brought all this up because it was the only example I could remember where I thought price figured in to a review(other than typos and grammatical errors). Seriously, I have read(tried to) some self-published dreck that was so badly written I had to get a refund from Amazon. That’s one of my biggest gripes with Amazon is self-publishing, but that’s a whole other topic….

  8. “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.”

    Ha! The perfect image to sum up the point.

    I’ve received e-mails marketing books to me that have “over 400 5-star reviews on Amazon.” It makes sense to ensure those reviews aren’t garbage.

  9. We have the same problem in Portugal. Whether we’re talking about books or even news clips, people are more quick to comment on the font type or the thumbnail photo than on the subject itself. It’s annoying, to say the least.

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