One star or five stars? Do you bother to rate the books you read on Amazon?
There’s a new row brewing, and it’s over the way in which these ratings may be manipulated. Out of 69 ratings on the US site of Amazon for the recent novel, ‘The Priest’s Graveyard’ it has apparently received 51 5-star ratings – for a book which its only UK reader regards as poorly written 1-star rubbish.
I’ve seen the book – it’s not very good, but nor is it the worst I’ve seen by a long chalk. The question is, though, are authors and publishers manipulating the star system to force their books up the lists?
In January 2009 a marketing manager from Belkin, a company that sells computer peripherals, was caught soliciting fabricated reviews. The manager posted messages on Amazon’s bulletin board offering people sixty-five cents for positive reviews of his products. He noted in his posting that one need not be familiar with the product in question. He also asked people to mark other reviews as unhelpful.
Belkin is not alone. The company DeLonghi stirred up a controversy when the communications manager was caught writing glowing reviews about twelve of their products, including espresso machines and the publisher Elsevier was the subject of an exposé in which they offered people $25 gift cards for positive reviews of textbooks.
i enjoy reading author reviews but it’s getting increasingly hard to separate independent opinion from PR spin, and the more I have to do it, the more cynical I get. And the more I return to bookshops…