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Amazon: Stop Arbitrarily Removing Customer Reviews From Indie Author Books

3 November 2012

From Change.org:

Amazon has been able to build a monopoly in the world of selling books. They have employed the fundamental principles of capitalism to achieve that position. With that monopoly, Amazon is now exerting its power against its most vulnerable sellers, independently published authors.

Amazon is currently removing customer reviews from books published by indie authors without any notice, and without any explanation. This petition demands that Amazon explain for every author that loses a review (good or bad) why that review was removed, and set forth clear guidelines as to what will and will not be removed in the future.

Link to the rest at Change.org where there’s an online petition you can sign if you so desire. Thanks to Derek for the tip.


34 Comments to “Amazon: Stop Arbitrarily Removing Customer Reviews From Indie Author Books”

  1. Monopoly? What monopoly?
    Still, I’m really amazed that Jeff Bezos builds something great and everyone else wants to make demands on how it runs.
    If you don’t like how Amazon works…go build your own.

    • Yeah, right. Jeff Bezos is God. He’s infallible. Never question his corporate decisions.

      • Question? Sure, go nuts. Boycott it if you want. But demand that they reveal to authors why something that doesn’t belong to them was removed? Puh-leeze.

        • According to Amazon… Buried deep somewhere… Posted reviews belong to the reviewer so if the review you wrote is removed it would be nice to know why so you could avoid violating whatever the actual policy is.

          I did find the following on the author cental help page…

          Can I write Customer Reviews for my books?

          No, this is not permitted. This feature is designed for customers to give their opinions and feedback. On a related note, we also ask that authors do not submit Customer Reviews for books that are of similar content or subject.


  2. Wasn’t it just six weeks ago that people were demanding Amazon do something to ensure that reviews were unbiased, not paid for, not tit-for-tat, not sock puppets, and so on? Seems as if Amazon listened. I wonder how many of the same people will be signing this demand.

    • For the record, I was one lone voice (maybe not totally lone) not wanting Amazon to do anything in an automated way, because I knew no system would be fool proof, especially an automated one. I said it would end up taking down honest and valid reviews, and I was correct.

      That said, I agree, if Amazon is going to do this, it needs to be a transparent process. We need to know the reasons why a review is taken down. But I don’t think Amazon will comply for these reasons:

      1. It is doubtful very many know why a particular review was taken down unless human eyes evaluated it, if most of them are done on autopilot. To know why any one review was taken down would require some type of output having been generated as to the analysis of the decision, if they even bothered to have it record such a log. They would have to pay a host of people to respond to all these request by scanning through the logs and replying. Of course, some type of log to the vendor would be possible, but isn’t likely to happen because…

      2. They don’t want to reveal the why they took it down to prevent people from circumventing it. They know the more you know how their program decides what is a “bad” review, the easier it is for a vendor to game the system. That will reduce the effectiveness of the evaluation programs over a period of time. Because of that, it is highly likely that a log is even produced by the programs that would leave a paper trail on why a specific review was taken down.

      However, while it isn’t the end of the world, I would think it helpful to narrow it down a bit more as to the reason and be more transparent.

      • Definitely not lone. As an Amazon customer, I would really prefer the company dedicated its resources to keeping costs low and service efficient, rather than policing content from outside sources. I suspect that most people not trying to make a living off of Amazon probably feel the same way.

  3. still waiting for the actual proofs, the actual smoking guns about what really occurred that ‘some’ reviews were removed from some certain books. Millions of authors, it seems had no reviews removed. Some did. We have no facts other than those. Much ‘speculative certainty’ by some.
    Will wait for facts from the source: amazon.

    • Have you tried a Google cache? I did that when I suspected Amazon was removing negative reviews of Flashback.

  4. Why do book authors talk about customer reviews as if they belong to the author? I have heard many writers that I respect use the phrase “my reviews” referring to reviews about their books. This petition talks about authors “losing reviews”. You can’t lose that which was never yours. If I reviewed your book, that was my review on Amazon‘s site.

    As an Amazon customer, I really don’t think you have any right to know why Amazon removed my review and I would be upset if Amazon told you.

    • This.

    • I’m calling my reviews the ones I write. And I had one pulled down that violated no guidelines. The first people getting upset about this were fans whose reviews were yanked—not writers, though that followed quickly.

      • Aren’t you an author with books for sale on Amazon? Any review you do of a book violates Amazon’s guidelines. You have a competing product.

        • Liana hardly has books for sale. The longest is 27 pages, for $2.99.

          But, yes, from Amazon’s point of view, she could well have been reviewing a competing product (which is permitted, but only if you’re not reviewing it simply to promote your own products, either via spam or by giving bad reviews to competing products).

          Liana should be allowed review books that aren’t competing products – i.e. not short stories, and not in a similar genre.

        • William, this is incorrect, according to Amazon itself. After lengthy discussion on a forum thread, I inquired to CS and was advised that it is NOT against their review guidelines for an author to review another author’s work – even in the same genre. What they forbid is a NEGATIVE review that is given for the purpose of boosting the reviewer’s sales. Yes, I know, sounds ridiculous and impossible to enforce. But that’s their position.

          • Here is the email text:

            Hello Peter,

            Thank you so much for your inquiry regarding customer reviews and their guidelines.

            You are allowed to review books in the same genre as your books, but we do not encourage nor allow authors negatively review this books as a way to increase sales.

            Rather silly, isn’t it?

            • I agree that is silly and inconsistent with their published guidelines.

              • William, I’m interested in your perspective on the definition of “directly competing product.” You seem to suggest above that any book by any author is a competing product. Others would argue that not even books in the same genre are directly competing – which I tend to agree with – because there is no direct connection between the purchase of one book and the loss of a sale to the other. How do you analyze this clumsy language?

                • I’ve seen other posted responses from Amazon that stated same genre as “directly competing” but the problem is the language is vague. Are anthologies and short stories “similar” or is it books in a specific genre “romance” but where would “paranormal romance” fall? Under “romance” or “fantasy” or both?

            • Totally silly. Isn’t one of the complaints friends are giving positive reviews? And really, is knocking an urban fantasy book more likely to make readers want to read my books? I don’t think so. While a few crazy authors may think so they used sock puppets for this. Why? Because it would be a red flag to most readers to see an author giving a bad review done for the purpose of harming a competitor and chances are the author would mention their own books.

    • I don’t think anyone is asking Amazon to tell them why a review was removed from their book. They are asking Amazon to tell them why their own review was removed.

      • That’s not the way the petition sounds. The wording certainly seems to be saying that they want explanations when anyone’s reviews are removed from an author’s book page. If their meaning is otherwise, they should make it much more clear in the wording of the petition letter.

        • Oh wow, you’re absolutely right, I’m sorry!

          I hadn’t read the petition correctly. To know why other people’s reviews are being removed is not a reasonable request. It’s a privacy issue.

          Amazon is also not a monopoly. I think they may want to re-visit the petition.

  5. I think removing a review or two is better than Amazon banning the author from publishing using KDP due to suspected violations like sockpuppetry and buying of reviews, etc.

  6. To be honest I am more concerned that they have gotten rid of the recommendations feature.

  7. The fundamental question from the Indi-author point of view is are we customers of amazon or businesses supplying goods to amazon for sale.
    Would anyone here support the big 6(5) publishers, or any company, employing teams of people to write reviews?
    The principle is the same whether you are a sole trader or a company employing 100,000 people.

    Oh the other hand as indi-authors we are also customers of amazon. And many of us write “genuine” reviews of the books and products that we buy.
    But how can amazon separate the “genuine” reviews from those posted in the hope of getting an equally positive review in return, or from those posted as part of some scheme, plan or arrangement among authors to boost their own reviews.

    And a even more fundamental question is, what is a “genuine” review in the first place?

  8. I agree with this petition (although, honestly, I wish it was worded alittle more diplomatically. You want to make it easier for a company like this to say ‘yes’. )

    Amazon should be informing people prior to removing their reviews, and it should inform them of why reviews are being removed.

    It’s rude and abrasive for a company to do this. I don’t like it.

    Btw, I also don’t agree that reviews are solely the business of customers. Maybe on a site like Goodreads, but not Amazon.

    One of the ways Amazon makes itself attractive to sellers is through the review system. Reviews are just as much about luring sellers as it is encouraging buyers.

    • I’m sorry, I don’t support the petition, I hadn’t read it correctly. Asking Amazon to report what they did with other people’s reviews is a privacy issue.

  9. Amazon has removed two of my 5 star reveiws ( I have over 130 reviews — none paid for) One was the top rated review by readers who said it helped them. Have asked for explanation and reciewed none.

    I notice they don’t remove reviews that include spoilers without alerting the reader that the review contains a spoilier.

  10. Some of my reviews were deleted, as in reviews I posted on other books, and other reviewers I know had their reviews removed to. We asked amazon why and they said because our reviews violated guidelines and linked to the reviews. I read the guidelines, and my reviews didn’t break any of them. So I wrote back asking which guideline I supposedly broke and they emailed again saying it violated one of the guidelines and that was all they could say. It’s automated, so I don’t think they know the reason. All I know it over 50 legitimate reviews I have left on amazon have been deleted, most of them positive reviews.

  11. Anon, the real reason is because the bot’s program is not very efficient. sounds terrible but that’s basically it.
    What Amazon should do is put a simple disclaimer before reviews, catch only the very obvious ones and get back to serving the book buying public. People are not stupid, they take all reviews with a pinch of salt.

  12. I have books that reviews will not stick to. It’s very strange. It doesn’t matter who wrote it: it is accepted, they get the “your review has gone live” email, but the review never appears. I’ve asked people who I know read my books to post reviews. All I ever ask is that they be honest. They do it. (Two of them have forwarded me the “your review has gone live” emails.) The reviews vanish.

    It’s just weird.

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