Amazon's recent decision to purge some book reviews by friends, family and other suspicious characters comes on the heels of reports of an entire industry of paid reviewers as well as the practice of authors ganging up to review each other's books -- favorably, of course.
Beyond a "kerfuffle" over the reviews themselves lies the seedy world of bullying in book-review forums and other phenomena all too common in the protected anonymity of the Internet.
You also have to wonder how Amazon knows that Review A was written by a stranger but Review B by a family friend. That's a little scary.
The whole sordid business has some urging readers to ignore good reviews as presumed fakes and concentrate on the middling ones.
This puts writers in an awkward position, particularly when you're self-published. On the one hand, you want good reviews because they may be the only thing that prompts a customer to buy your book. But if readers start thinking all your good reviews are fakes you've solicited -- or worse, paid for -- they'll take their resentment at your trying to fool them, and their business, elsewhere.
I periodically check for new reviews/ratings of my novel Tainted Souls. Since readers can download it for free, nice reviews are pretty much the only validation I get for the effort I made writing it and inspiration to write another book. So it's been nice to rack up a few new four- and five-star reviews in the past few weeks. (For some reason, Barnes & Noble and Goodreads are more active; Amazon has relatively few reviews.) But I appreciate, I guess, that a couple of clunker reviews have rolled in, too, to provide some validation to the positive ones.
(The last two Amazon reviews in particular weren't especially kind. I guess that's a good thing these days. But one has to wonder -- though I doubt it, given the paucity of reviews on Amazon -- if any good ones were purged as presumptive fakes? Though I get the impression the purge only applies to hardcover books, not e-books.)
I suppose it's only a matter of time before some enterprising person comes up with an app that generates the perfect combination of high, middling and low-ranking fake reviews to generate maximum book sales.
Wonder what Amazon will do then.