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« Getting Over the Pass | Main | The Costs of Professionally Self-Publishing Your Book »
Sunday
Jan302011

Amazon is on a Rampage to Remove Book Reviews from Their Site 

Guest Post by Irene Watson

Yes, they are and are succeeding in doing so.  Last week I got an email from Nicole Sorkin at Pacific Book Review  saying:

ALL of my reviews are missing.  Completely gone.  I called Amazon.com ASAP to try and get this straightened out, unfortunately the guy I talked to on the phone told me that I can't really do anything about it until Monday.  My stomach is turning right now, because ALL of the reviews have just disappeared.  

Monday arrived and this is what I got from her:

I just got off the phone with Amazon.com, one of the most frustrating phone calls in my life.  I was talking to someone who has a difficult time with the English language which made it challenging to begin with.  I was polite with her until she told me that I would have to wait 48 hours for an answer why all of my reviews are missing and that they would email my back in answer.  

Nicole told the person on the phone that  wasn't acceptable she was transferred to a Supervisor. After telling Nicole it will be taken care of she was put on hold for about 20 minutes.  Nicole says:

She couldn't answer one question, and just told me that I would have to wait 48 hours so they could research it.  

The promised email arrive saying:

Hello and thanks for writing to the Amazon Associates Program.

The synopses and reviews posted on our site are reprinted by Amazon.com with permission from the originators.  We actually pay for this privilege.  Each is the copyrighted property of some other source, and we do not have the right to pass along reproduction permission to our Associates.

Please understand that the purpose of posting reviews is to put your own unique stamp on your book or music selection.  If every Associate who lists a certain title makes no personal comment about the selection, then there exists little or nothing to differentiate one site from another. If your recommendations come from your perspective, then your visitors will recognize the style and voice as your own and, we believe, be more likely to take your advice and buy the book.  It is your expertise, after all, that brought them to your site in the first place.

Please remove the Amazon.com Reviews you have posted on your site
http://www.pacificbookreview.com as this is against the Operating Agreement to the Associates Program.

 

This response makes no sense at all.  The whole thing has nothing to do with synopses  and the comment about reprinting reviews and paying for the privilege is absurd.

And what is more absurd is asking her to remove the reviews she posted on  her site, written by her team members, because they are Amazon's reviews?  Huh?  What? 

The above email was signed by a Donny T. and Nicole called Amazon asking to speak to him.  The response was  "he's busy let me have you speak to someone else."   Nicole says:

 Finally when I did speak to someone else they did acknowledge that the Amazon Associates Program has nothing to do with this issue and went on to say they would email me an answer.  I did talk to someone who said they would have someone either call me today or for sure tomorrow.  

She didn't get a call so she called again with no success.  She says:

These people are hiding under rocks.  I can see they don't want to answer any questions or even deal with me.  

At the time of this writing there was still no resolution or a response from Amazon. (However, Nicole started to repost all the reviews.)

At this same time an author sent me an email saying that his review was removed from Amazon posted by a review site. I checked the Amazon site to see what was happening and noted there were no reviews starting 2007 for this reviewer. A few days later when I checked again, all the reviews were gone, including those up to 2007.  I couldn't find a contact person on the review site to get permission to tell you who they are but did find this:

Book reviews by more than 100 qualified book reviewers. Over 15000 book reviews in over 40 different categories.

They  claim to be one of the oldest review services  and I can only assume they posted most of those reviews on Amazon.  That's a lot of reviews to lose.  And, what is even more interesting this specific review is  a "Vine Voice."  They have been "chosen" by Amazon to receive books from authors/publishers  prior to being available to the public.

I contacted Jim Cox from Midwest Book Review passing this information on and hoping he would have some wise words considering he has been reviewing books for over 30 years. He has nearly 60,000 reviews on Amazon which affects a lot of people, especially if Amazon decides to remove them. He is dumb-founded as we are  but said:

The number of Midwest Book Reviews has apparently been cut back to 1,319 as of this moment when I just did an Amazon search for "Midwest Book Review". So it seems we've been cut back as well.

However, when I checked his profile it does show 59,144 reviews.  So, it seems like Amazon reinstated his reviews.

At this point we don't know why Amazon is removing the reviews, and  I'm not sure if they are targeting specific reviewers or what is behind all this chaotic mess.  They did say it had nothing to do with the Associates Account but to this point Nicole isn't able to find out why she and the other reviewers were targeted.  There may be others that I'm not aware of but when I did check the few I do know the reviews are still up.  Hopefully this insane maneuver on  Amazon's part has come to an end and they restore the reviews for Nicole and the other sites. 

Comments?

Irene Watson is the Managing Editor of Reader Views, where avid readers can find reviews  of recently published books as well as read interviews with authors. Her team also provides author publicity  and a variety of other services specific to writing and publishing books.

References (10)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.
  • Response
    A friend emailed me Irene Watson’s article at ReaderViews Newsletter about Nicole Sorkin’s (Pacific Book Review) who lost all her reviews on Amazon, wiped clean in an instant, and the same thing happening to an unnamed man. When I read about the predicament I called Amazon immediately. I’m an author who ...
  • Response
    Amazon is on a Rampage to Remove Book Reviews from Their Site  - Writers and Readers Meet - Write and Publish Your Book :: Blogging Authors
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    Amazon is on a Rampage to Remove Book Reviews from Their Site - Writers and Readers Meet - Write and Publish Your Book :: Blogging Authors

Reader Comments (30)

Amazon is re-thinking its whole book review strategy. This applies not only to Amazon USA and Amazon Canada but Amazon UK, Amazon France, etc., as well. Amazon UK, for instance, has recently removed all book reviews written by authors commenting not only on their own books but negatively reviewing books by other authors writing on similar subjects or in similar genres. I would stress that Amazon has every right to do this. We all know that reviews are an important marketing tool, and we are also well aware that certain publishers and certain publicists have been taking advantage of Amazon's previous policies to artificially drive up the quantity of positive reviews that some titles received.

January 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Howard Reid

And now Amazon too! For some strange reason, things always seem to be moving toward chaos.

January 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterErnest Dempsey

So that explains it! I knew reviews of my book disappeared. When I inquired of Amazon by email, the answer was that the reviewer withdrew his review, which was his perogative. Your information puts a totally different light on the matter. Thanks, although I'm stewing.

January 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJennie Miller Helderman

I just sent Amazon the following message (through my Author's site):

My reviews that were posted by Pacific Book Review are missing! What happened to them? I paid good money for reviews of Frozen in Time, Unfinished Business, End Game, and Death by Wall Street, all of which were posted to my book sites on Amazon.com. Now, they are gone! I am totally dismayed. What happened? I don't understand. Other reviews were left untouched! Help!!!!! Please restore my reviews from Pacific Book Reviews. They really helped sell books! Dr. Cohen

January 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTheodore jerome cohen

Hi Irene,
Thanks for calling attention to a matter about which I had no previous knowledge. I checked amazon.com and found that reviews for my books have so far remained in place. I did a little looking around, and found that many people use amazon.com only for the reviews, but not for the purchase of books. It may be that amazon.com wants to slow the traffic of "tire-kickers."

I do suspect, however, that the prime motivation for this upsetting activity by amazon.com has more to do with their legal department. Could it be that they are trying to rein in the re-use of reviews that are supposedly owned by the original posting website (in this case, amazon.com)? Some websites require that any review is posted only once, on their website.

The "ownership of review" issue also makes posting on barnesandnoble.com limiting, because the website insists that it "owns" the posted review. Perhaps a new legal view of ownership should arise from this whole mess, that the AUTHOR of any review is the sole owner, and by posting a review on line, that author gives right and release to the review site for that single use as long as the author wishes the review to remain, and as long as the review site has no reason to suspect fraud or other illegal use of its review space. In return, the bookselling or review website maintains the review with expectation of profit arising from traffic to the website, regardless of how many other websites may or may not post the same review.

There is no harm to amazon.com if the review of my book appears there as well as barnesandnoble.com, my website, and two or three other sources. Amazon still makes more money on my books than I do, with or without the convenience of reviews which help people decide on their purchases.

If there are other reasons for wholesale dropping of reviews from amazon.com, it would be much more acceptable for these reasons to be posed to the public first, so that business for all concerned could be improved, not disrupted.

January 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStephen V. Masse

Very interesting. I had no idea about this. Their policy has always been that they own the review and it can't appear elsewhere, so I wonder if this has anything to do with the removed reviews. I'm also a Vine member, but I don't review many books through that program because I don't have time with reviewing at my blogs. I'm sure I have too few reviews at Amazon to matter, but one would think that having reviews posted would assist Amazon sales and they would be for it.

January 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCheryl Malandrinos

It's just another Amazon trying to play the 2000 pound gorilla move. Sad but true.

Not to mention that Amazon is yet again sadly misinformed. Amazon cannot "own" the reviews posted on their site, in all cases. Copyright clearly states that the writer of the review (like any other creator) owns copyright on his/her work. If a reader posts a review, that reader can use the review on Amazon, their own sites/blogs, Goodreads, and anywhere else said reader wants to. It is their copyright to work with and not Amazon's.

And if the reviewer connected with a review site or the review site themselves is so inclined to repost a review on Amazon to help an author out, it's none of Amazon's business, IMO. It certainly isn't Amazon's property, just because it happens to be posted on Amazon's servers. Amazon is sounding remarkably like a pirate right now. It's mine because it's on something I own, so I can do whatever I want? I don't fricken think so!

Moreover, authors are empowered by other review sites to post a snip of a review with a linkback or information to access the full review. Now, Amazon IS within their rights to say authors may not do this with reviews OTHERS have posted on Amazon without permission of the review author. They cannot withhold that permission arbitrarily. And they certainly sound ridiculous saying that the authors can't exercise the permission the other review sites have given them to repost the linkback and snip. It's not Amazon's place to try and "protect" the other sites. The other site owners are not children in need of Amazon's "motherly protection."

Who does Amazon think it is this time? And where the heck are their lawyers?

Brenna

January 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBrenna Lyons

This is a very interesting discussion, however I wonder how relevant the readers' reviews are. When I go to Amazon to research a book, I read the Editorial Reviews, and almost never pay any attention to the Customer Reviews. The reason is that I feel too many of the Customer Reviews are by people with their own points of view to promote, and frankly I don't trust their impartiality. The Editorial Reviews may be biased, but I feel they are likely to be more trustworthy and impartial. And usually there are just too many Customer Reviews to read.

January 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTMM

One of the problems right now is that copyright-infringing facilitators are ... allegedly....snagging well-written and credible Amazon reviews, presumably without the permission of either Amazon or of the review authors, (and certainly without proper attribution or credit to either Amazon or the reviewer) and using them to lure innocent suckers to go to Filesonic and pay (via PayPal) for a subscription to enable them to download copyright infringing materials more rapidly from...allegedly... illegally uploaded files to Filesonic.

Another... allegedly... well documented issue with Amazon reviews is that there are organizations that --for a substantial fee-- pay up to 50 impoverished individuals to write and post glowing reviews of the book in question. Allegedly, if those lowly paid, professional review writers fail to post a 5 star review, I hear, they do not get paid.

January 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRowena Cherry

Thanks for the information, Irene ... very interesting! Please consider posting followups about this issue.

Sometimes the attitude seems to be -- from Amazon to Google to Bertelsmamn's and ever-infamous Baker & Taylor -- that any asset we have as authors and small business owners concerning the enterprise of bookselling is their natural property.

Individual copyright is under corporate attack. The Google grab was one example, and individual copyright lost. Hopefully this is just a odd misunderstanding and nothing more.

January 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Allen Royce

The practices that Rowena described above is what makes me skeptical of all reviews other than Editorial Reviews from sources I recognize. This may step on the toes of some, but I'm a skeptic.

January 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTMM

Dear Irene,
Thank you for this important discussion. I have already sent a thank you to Nicole Sorkin for all of her efforts with Amazon. From reading the other comments, I see that you have opened a necessary can of worms that we authors would prefer not to have to deal with...but must.

February 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHolly Weiss

Irene, thankx so much for posting this. I did some research on this calling Amazon this morning and wrote this post about it: http://www.visualartsjunction.com/?p=10853 "Reviews Accidentally Deleted by Amazon or Cover-ups and Denials?"

I'm especially interested in things about Amazon because I've discovered their genius at establishing untold free and vast publicity they offer authors who want to utilize it. I've written several vital industry reports about this that promotional experts blog about saying every author needs my info. (in one report I tell how learning to utilize their "categories" I've rated two different books becoming category best seller in 3 categories each, and both in this past year. Anyone can do the same.) http://promotionalacarte.com/white-paper-reports/

So I really wanted to know what was up with this bad business. Here's what I found: http://www.visualartsjunction.com/?p=10853

I love hearing all your comments and suggestions. Thank you for sharing with us all.

February 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAggie Villanueva

I had been trying for years to find a good reviewer in order to lend more cachet to my book listings, and since I have not received more than 2 or 3 sales of my printed books in the last year, this news is very upsetting. All I know is that if Amazon pulls a stupid and takes those reviews off the site, I am removing the Amazon buy buttons from my site. It's tit for tat, as I can easily sell my books without Amazon. Maybe they should think about the massive boycotts which have been threatened before. Not to mention the numerous class action suits which are on the docket already. The FTC has already been flooded with requests to investigate Amazon for anti-trust violations and other anti-competitive tactics, so maybe we should now heap censorship challenges on its sleeping shoulders.

February 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTheresa M. Moore

As an author I'm rather dismayed at this news. I am glad that it appears Midwest's reviews have been unaffected (or restored) by this process. Hopefully, the others who have been affected will have their reviews restored soon.

As writers, we rely on professional reviewers to give their account and opinions of our books, both for promotion and advertising purposes. Professional reviewers will often offer our best words of praise and our most constructive criticism of the work.

I've also noticed that Publisher's Weekly, Booklist, Library Journal, and other super-huge reviewers were unaffected by this slashing, despite the fact that those review services publish on Amazon and in their own print/online publications and websites. They are copyrighted by the writers of said reviews. I know that those are the cream of the premium review world, but there are many people who trust Midwest, Pacific Book Review, and the middle-range and smaller bloggers equally - if not more. It's easier to identify with a reviewer from a smaller or independent service because they feel more like peers than big-time reviewers.

I hope Amazon gets this straightened out - and quickly. As if it weren't hard enough to trust the reviews as it is now....

- Brian Kittrell
"I've learned to both enjoy and despise the bittersweet flavor of Amazon, Inc. They make it easy to have both emotions at the same time more often than not."

February 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Kittrell

Several months ago I tried desperately to have an abusive review removed from Amazon but with no success. I got the same run around as Nicole. The one abusive review greatly reduced my substantial book sales so I demanded to have my entire page removed. I got more of the same run around. It seems I have no say in the promotion or sale of my book according to Amazon. I contacted Jeff Bezos the owner at jeff@amazon.com directly. He was to busy to attend to author matters. I started a boycott calling all authors to unite and pull their books so maybe Jeff would wake up and remember how Amazon started its business in the first place. It's appalling that I have no control of my property.

February 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKensington Roth

Since this occurrence I've posted another article as a followup.

http://www.bloggingauthors.com/blogging_authors/2011/2/6/amazon-denies-removal-of-reviews-and-shifts-to-blame.html

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