Amazon Reviews may be unreliable, or “So, why do I rely on Amazon’s reader reviews anyway?”

little_parrothead_21.jpgToday, Scott Esposito, in his blog entry titled “This Book Does Not Exist” tells the story of a non-existent book that somehow got 28 5-star reviews on Amazon UK. The book is “Useless America” and “written” by Jim Crace. The story he cites is told at the LA Times JacketCopy blog.

This is very interesting, in part because its a funny tail of how typos can grow into whole books. Who’d a thunk it that we really could maybe get some Shakespeare from a room full of monkeys with wordprocessors if they just had enough time, disk space, and wildly unpredictable spell-checking?

Not quite as interesting or funny, but definitely related, is the story that Amazon plans to reduce the number of reviews it lists on its book details pages. Ron, over at GalleyCat notes that very news from Seems some folks are upset about this. Well, I is and I ain’t. So, reading about all the outstanding reviews for a book that doesn’t exist posted over on Amazon UK sort of moves me more into the “I ain’t” side of the scale.

Now, I’ve wondered about many of those reviews, myself. I’ve posted a few, but they’ve all been for books I’ve read. Not only that, they’ve existed, too. And no, not even like the time in college when I fell asleep reading Either/Or by Kierkegaard and dreamt that I read another 40 or so pages. Was I ever confused when I awoke and tried to make sense of the book in light of what I had only dreamed I had read! Well, I eventually straightened myself out and finsished the book. My review? I liked it, so there, and a 5-starred review for, if I were to bother.

Back to Amazon’s suspect reviews, I see more and more that they are from people who are ranting about how long it took them to get their book, when they ordered it from one of those Amazon marketplace sellers. I always vote them off the island, clicking on the little button for marking reviews as inappropriate. I guess, talking about Amazon here, we should vote them off the sandbar.

Many others seem a bit on the gushing side, a bit too much for my smell test, that is, for my “this is someone with no other interest in this book other than they liked it a lot and want to tell others” vs. “this is the author’s mother writing here, for the 8th time under an assumed name for the sole purpose of boosting sales of this book”.

I do like the reviews that clearly pass the smell test, though. I’ve gushed about books. I’ll keep gushing about the books that make me gush about them. When my own books are published, I’ll get my Mom to gush about them for me.

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