Amazon reviews are slowly becoming a digital battleground of the future. Or petering out as one, depending on you ask. However, whether it’s using Amazon reviews to “review bomb” folks whose politics other folks disagree with, or paying a click-farm in China to generate thousands of fake reviews, Amazon’s review system seems almost destined to be at the constant forefront of unscrupulous folks thinking “How can I use this to my advantage/other’s disadvantage?”
With that sort of activity going on (and the almost Hipster-ish dislike for Amazon now that they’ve managed to stand head and shoulders above their rivals), it really shouldn’t have been surprising to me when a long-time fan of my works contacted me to let me know that they were no longer able to post Amazon reviews, and thus they wouldn’t be able to add their review of my latest to Amazon’s page for such.
The reason? Well, Amazon has a new review policy: To leave a review, you have to be a customer in good standing. You can’t have been spamming the site with reviews that are clearly fake, participated in review-bombing, stuff like that. But there’s another new requirement now.
In order to remain “in good standing” you have to be an Amazon customer, having spent at least $50 with them in the last year.
I’m of two minds on this. From the one side, I see why Amazon made this change. It puts a “price gate,” so to speak, a fixed cost, on the folks who want to show up and review bomb someone in large numbers either to slam them with one-star reviews because they don’t like their politics, or festoon them with five-star reviews because they were paid. Sure, those with a disposable income could just laugh and order a few things … but then that also permanently ties those funds spent to their review, meaning Amazon can just as easily ban someone with that account info. Meaning to do it again, they’d need another bank card of some kind and another fifty dollars.
So like I said, I can see the logic there in trying to cut down Amazon’s vastly overworked crew that deals with fake reviews. From what Amazon has said, they delete thousands of them every day, but it’s a constant battle.
On the other hand, it creates a sort of tiered review space, one where those who aren’t part of the Amazon eco-system can’t well contribute to the ecosystem of reviews without committing themselves wholeheartedly to it. So a newcomer who’s just picked up a book or a product for the first time and been impressed or disappointed can’t act on that.
Sure, those with Amazon Prime or a KU subscription aren’t going to be bothered … but those people are already a part of the ecosystem.
Again, I can see both sides here. It irks me that a long time fan couldn’t leave a review on my latest book because they didn’t use Amazon much. At the same time, that same restriction will make it a lot harder for someone to do what I’ve seen happen on Goodreads, where someone tracked me down and one-starred a book because they disagreed with something politically I’d said on social media, then brandished it at me as if it were some sort of deadly “winning point” in the debate (which was, if you haven’t guessed based on their actions, rather one-sided to begin with).
That said, there also exists Goodreads, which seems to be more widely used by most than Amazon for reviews of books. Though not without many of the same issues that once plagued or do plague Amazon, and without any of the oversight Amazon tries so hard to bring.
Again, two minds on the topic. How about you? No one who knows much about the battle for keeping reviews relevant should find this too surprising, but what do you make of it? Is it a good change? A bad one? Why?
And please, if you’re just here to hate on Amazon because they’ve managed to outdo their competitors, etc, don’t. That’s not contributing anything, and you’re just being hipsterish because Amazon is big now, and no longer cool. We’re talking about changes to review policy with the goal of keeping reviews in check. Let’s not get off-topic.