Reviews

Amazon Continues Its War Against Fake Reviewers

26 April 2016

From Business Finance Review:

Just a year after its first official act against fake reviewers, Amazon is pursuing its third case against falsified reviews on its website

Reliability and authenticity are paramount for the success and long-term feasibility of the company-client relationships. In the age of information, reviews play a pivotal role in the sale of any good or service, it thus comes as no surprise that companies put in significant effort into ensuring the legitimacy and accuracy of reviews. As part of its ongoing complain to root out false reviews on its platform, Amazon.com, Inc. is suing five more websites that are providing fake product reviews.According to a company spokeswoman: “We will continue to pursue legal action against the root cause of reviews abuse — the sellers and manufacturers who create the demand for fraudulent reviews, as well as the ecosystem of individuals and organizations who supply fraudulent reviews.”

. . . .

The online retail giant started its war against fake reviewers in April 2015 by filing a lawsuit against them. The act, the company’s first, stood as a testament to Amazon’s commitment towards ensuring the reliability and authenticity of its 5-star review system. Following the filing in April, the online retailer continued to take a stand against deceptive users and services, filing another lawsuit in October, targeting over 1,000 users registered as sellers on the website, Fieverr — a site that allows people to sell odd services and jobs for at least $5.

In the latest case, the online retail giant filed charges against New York resident Chris Embry, CEO (alleged) of AmazonVerifiedReviews.com, and California resident Jane John-Nwankwo, who allegedly owns and operates PaidBookReviews.org. Amazon has also filed charges against the operators of ReviewConnections.com, BuyAmazonReviews.info, and AmazonReviewStar.com. The company, however, was unable to identify the websites’ owners.

. . . .

The online retailing titan is suing for trademark infringement amongst other claims, demanding that the aforementioned website not only cease using the company’s trademark, but also offering reviews to items and services.

Link to the rest at Business Finance Review

Click to Tweet/Email/Share This Post

The Self-Hating Book Critic

6 April 2016

From Copper-Nickel:

Remember when everyone was super upset about newspapers cutting their book review sections? People picketed. People with better things to do and ideas in their heads stood outside of newspaper offices and held up signs and said words through bullhorns and performed other related physical activities. Until, I’m guessing, their feet got tired and they all shrugged and went to Starbucks.

Most of these people’s employment was in some way tied up in the newspaper book review section. Either they were writers worried about their next books not being covered and thereby boosting sales, or they were critics themselves, worried about their paychecks. I point this out to illustrate that there was no big public outcry that book review sections were being cut. A few readers may have written a letter here or there, or strayed into the picket line until their feet also got tired. But as a whole, the cutting of book review sections was met by the general public with a shrug.

This all happened several years ago. More and more book sections collapsed, more and more longtime critics were laid off. And still, no one outside of those inside of the business of reviewing books quite noticed.

. . . .

It feels stupid to talk about the crisis of book criticism when the entire industry is in crisis. We have no bookstores now—now that Borders bullied so many independent shops out of business and then died itself, now that Barnes & Noble is in death throes, now that Amazon rules publishing and treats it like a British landowner in 19th century Ireland.

“Oh, you’re starving to death? That’s too bad, it’s your own fault really. It’s a shame you can’t have any of that nice food you’ve been growing, because you know that’s ours now. Because we said so. If you could go outside to die, that would be helpful, it makes such a mess when you go, you know.”

. . . .

And let’s look, for a moment, at what the death of the newspaper review actually meant, because that keeps getting lost in the nostalgic haze of men who remember a simpler time, when literary culture was tied intimately into popular culture and authors could still be rock stars without writing about magicians or vampires or whatever. The death of the newspaper review meant the end of the literary authority who would declare that books by straight, white men are always the best of books. That books by the conglomerate publishing houses are the best of books. That literary culture exists only in New York City. That literary critical culture is a lofty, apolitical space of objective assessment.

. . . .

It’s hard to say what value the literary critic provides to the larger culture. And I say this as someone who has spent the last twelve years of her life engaged in this activity. Don’t think there weren’t nights where I woke up with the thought “My entire purpose in life is to help people make decisions about which books to buy; I am simply part of someone’s marketing strategy,” chilling me to the bone.

There’s the value that the literary critic can provide, but it is so often buried under needs of that critic to tend to one’s career, to boost friends’ books, and that burning desire to make one’s opinion heard. That value is, thinking a thought out loud, following it through centuries of other people’s thoughts, synthesizing it with your own thoughts and experiences. Books are vehicles for ideas, but ideas have no purpose until they are forced into contact with minds and bodies and experiences. Critics can put ideas into action, through the juxtaposition of idea and world.

And books are deeply personal things. Wept over, treasured, passed along. Not external objects, their function is to become internal. Sometimes the fit needs adjusting, that is another thing that the literary critic can provide.

Literary critics have value. And yet sitting here I cannot come up with a single name of a critic who has played some sort of role in my life.

Link to the rest at Copper-Nickel and thanks to Bill for the tip.

Manipulating Reviews on Amazon

4 April 2016

From The Never Ending Book Basket:

It’s taken me a bit of time to write this post, but I figured it’s about time to share the utter nonsense that’s happened between me and Amazon, and how a company that I once highly respected, has now become one that I have zero respect for.

I’ve thought about writing this post for weeks, what I would say and how I would capture everything that’s happened, and I’ll be honest with the fact that this post has taken on many forms, but finally I decided that it would just be easiest to state the facts.

So here it goes…

As some of you know, on February 24th I was sent an email from Amazon letting me know that I could no longer post reviews on their website, and that all of my previous reviews had been suppressed or removed. In case you’re wondering, that was well over 300 reviews that I had written in my over 2 years of book blogging.

All gone in an instant because Amazon decided that I was “manipulating product reviews.”

I don’t even know what that means for Amazon. I have no idea why my reviews were deemed manipulating or misleading, and when I asked for clarification on this, you know what I got? I got an email from them saying they weren’t going to give me any information or “evidence” as to why this all happened.

. . . .

That customer service representative I talked to had no idea what to do with me and my issue, and as it was also 7 o’clock in the morning, she couldn’t talk to anyone who worked in the online communities department because they weren’t there yet. She told me she would forward what was going on to them, and that they would call me back within 24 hours.

Well funnily enough, 24 hours came and went, and I got no phone call. Can’t say I’m shocked about that one.

So that’s when round 2 of calling customer service came, and over 48 hours after I first called Amazon about this, I tried again. That customer service representative also had no idea what to do with me, but after about 10 minutes on hold, they informed me that they had submitted a form to the online communities department about my inquiry as to why I was banned and why my reviews were removed. This representative informed me that I should get a reply within 2 days.

And he wasn’t lying. I got a response alright, and that response is by far one of the worst displays of customer service I’ve ever seen. (And this is coming from a girl who worked in retail for many years.)

Amazon sent me a *lovely* email telling me they found my reviews to be manipulating or misleading, yet I still had no clarification on what that actually meant, and that they were not going to give me any other information about this. They also added that they were probably not going to respond back to further emails about this issue, and then added that they could only respond via email to questions about reviews.

. . . .

If you’re going to remove my reviews and ban me forever, the least you can do is talk to me in person.

Right? Apparently not though, since all I got was that email.

. . . .

Now I’m not a numbers person, but you can’t deny numbers and facts, so here it goes:

  • In 2015 I spent roughly $1,441.33 on books on Amazon. That’s a combination of over 344 e-books, paperbacks, and Audible books. (And let me remind you, that’s just for 2015. That doesn’t include the money I spent in the 2 years before when I started buying e-books and paperbacks through Amazon.)
  • As of February 28th 2016 I had already spent $163.17 on Amazon on e-books, Audible books, and pre-orders.
  • Between 2015 and 2016 I have done giveaways on my blog for over $196 dollars’ worth of e-books and gift cards from Amazon. ($115 of that was gift cards to get people to buy things on their website.)
  • I’ve also been a member of their Amazon Associates Program since 2015, meaning that on a daily basis, multiple times a day, I promote Amazon and their products on my blog and my blog’s Facebook page.

And what did Amazon do to thank me for that daily promotion and my almost daily purchases from them?

They banned me.

They didn’t ban me from buying things from them of course, but from giving my honest reviews of the products I purchased.

They also removed hundreds of reviews I worked my ass of on, and for what reason?

. . . .

Was I banned because I like the books I read too much? Is it because almost every book I read is 4 or 5 stars, or is it because my book reviews are super detailed and long? Well let me tell you something Amazon, after being an avid reader my entire life, I have a pretty damn good idea of what I like to read. I know what I’ll love, and when I love a book I love it hard, and I write reviews that show that.

. . . .

Well to me it is a big deal. Book reviewing and blogging is my passion. It’s something that helps keep me sane from my daily on the go life, and it’s what I LOVE to do. So to remove hours and hours of work that I did, to remove reviews that I poured my blood, sweat, and tears into, and to ban me from supporting books and authors pretty much feels like a slap in the face.

. . . .

What they did shows a hell of a lot more about their company and its ridiculousness, than it does about my book reviews.

What I can do is keep reading, and reviewing (on my blog and other retailers), and telling readers about the books that I love while supporting hard working authors who deserve a damn book review.

I can also tell people about what’s happened to me with Amazon, and how it’ll probably happen to them sooner rather than later because let’s face it: Amazon makes their own rules, and they just don’t care about the ramifications those rules have.

It also means that I can be a smarter consumer with whom I choose to give my money to when I buy books and other products.

Link to the rest at The Never Ending Book Basket and thanks to P.D. for the tip.

PG says that, for a very large company, Amazon still does an amazing number of smart things.

Unfortunately the scam review discovery algorithm is not one of those smart things.

People who are enthusiastic about a product or product category quite often write the best reviews. And they tend to write a lot of reviews.

For PG and many others, quality reviews are an extremely valuable part of Amazon. PG will often read several before deciding on a purchase in an unfamiliar product category.

Amazon knows that reviews are important to the continuing success of their online. That’s why they don’t like scam reviews.

However, PG suggests one motivated and honest reviewer provides benefits to Amazon that outweigh the damage done by several scam reviewers. PG thinks most scam reviews aren’t difficult for customers to identify.

The scam detection algorithm needs to be modified. And a non-algorithmic review process needs to be established. Yes, you will deal with some scammers in such a review process. Yes, you may not be able to outsource the review process to low-cost Indian call centers.

However, a quality reviewer is almost always a quality Amazon customer who communicates thoughts about products (and Amazon) in venues other than Amazon reviews and is a serious contributor to Amazon sales in one or more product categories.

If Amazon wants an outsourced means of identifying scam reviews, it should identify quality reviewers and give them a private email address or portal to report scam reviews. The real reviewers will do a better job than social media stalking bots at identifying phonies.

The Joy of Writing Negative Book Reviews

1 April 2016

From LitReactor:

If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

Isn’t it convenient that the stupidest quote ever also provides its own defense against critique?

But more to the point, I’ll respond to this quote. Why say something mean? Because it’s fun to say mean things sometimes.

There’s a bit of a backlash against the negative book review at the moment, and I’d like to make a case for why it’s good, clean fun to get dirty in your reviews.

. . . .

Buzzfeed made some news a while back for banning negative book reviews from its site. They just weren’t going to waste the time bashing on bad books.

The literary world went nuts, defending the practice of writing bad reviews, talking about the necessity of honesty.

Forget that. The debate on whether or not bad reviews are necessary isn’t what we’re talking about today. Because since when is necessity our guiding principle for everything? Did Voltron NEED to be a giant robot comprised of several smaller robots? No, he didn’t, and he was probably a lot harder to build that way, but they did it because it was awesome. Did all four Ninja Turtles NEED to have different weapons? Couldn’t they all just use swords? Of course they could have. Nunchucks are never a necessity, but they’re always awesome (most quotable thing I’ve ever said).

Life isn’t all about necessity. So whether or not negative reviews are necessary to write isn’t the point. It’s whether or not it’s okay to write them.

I’m telling you, Yes, it’s okay to be negative. The right someone has to write a crappy book is the same right someone has to critique said crappy book. Simple as that.

. . . .

I’ve reviewed 540 books on Goodreads. Know which reviews are the most popular? The negative ones. I hated A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and apparently a lot of other people felt the same way I did, that the tree grows way too slowly and with too much detail. I hated The Scarlet Letter, and boy am I in good company there. I slapped a none-star rating on Merchant of Venice, and that one…okay, that was met with mixed reactions.

Link to the rest at LitReactor and thanks to Randall for the tip.

Amazon’s most prolific reviewers: Meet the people whose lives revolve around rating products

14 March 2016

From The Independent:

Ralph Moore is a semi-retired teacher from Bishop’s Stortford who divides his time between working at his local school and writing reviews for Amazon. In five years he has produced more than 2,600 of them – working out at 1.3 reviews per day – and is in the top 300 of the site’s global reviewer rankings. He is one among thousands for whom Amazon reviewing has become a way of life, and he serves as a window into one of the more bewildering, and surprisingly fraught, corners of the internet.

Arriving at his home, I am met by the family’s Staffordshire bull terrier Snickers, then by a stack of CDs stretching the height and length of the hall. “Nothing,” I am told, compared with the stash Mr Moore keeps upstairs.

Trained as a singer in New York during the 1980s, where he briefly dated soprano Renée Fleming, it was here that Mr Moore, who is 60, developed his understanding of vocal recordings, while harbouring dreams of one day become a writer. “I don’t have a novel in me,” he says, “but I have always liked the form and style of reviews.” The arrival of Amazon allowed him to fulfil his ambitions.

Niche reviewing lends Mr Moore a rare integrity in an online environment built on uncertain credentials. He is a nerd of the highest order, a badge he wears with pride to accompany a smile that is permanently etched into the lines of his face. But for many others, the act of reviewing is less a source of enjoyment than the subject of mild and, in some cases, acute fixation.

. . . .

Amazon’s review function had become a stage for obsessive behaviour, bullying, trolling, sabotage and duplicity. It might sound strange to those on the outside, but as Mr Moore says, the level of hostility waged at certain echelons of this unlikely subculture can take an appalling toll.

“Given what I write about, you would think I’d escape the wrath of trolls,” he says. “But it isn’t the case. One of mine operates under 40 to 50 different pseudonyms and appears to track my every move.”

. . . .

Amazon’s vast, monolithic structure makes policing the review function on any detailed level impossible. Amazon still has a long way to go to monitor the dysfunctional behaviour of some of its most prolific users, some of whom claim that the review service fosters a sense of competition among reviewers for the sake of driving up sales.

Scrolling through the site’s top 10 ranked reviewers, few seem to boast any clear areas of interest equivalent to Mr Moore’s, and those who do rise to the top appear to do so through an indiscriminate approach of reviewing almost anything – from moisturiser to push-pins to thermal leg warmers.

I spoke to a reviewer who was at one time ranked No 1 in the UK charts. His average score was the lowest of any other reviewer in the Top 10, reflecting a system that he feels is increasingly swayed by the imperative to keep brands and suppliers onside. He said he had thought that the ranking system improved reviewing and promoted impartiality but now was concerned that it encouraged people to post more reviews, with the risk of some people even becoming “addicted”.

. . . .

In reality, Amazon has very little agency over the politics of its reviewing platform, whose tendency to attract abusive behaviour is likely the result of the unique opportunity it affords people of a certain predisposition. It’s a means of self-publicity that allows those so inclined to hide behind the appearance of delivering an important service. Unlike the bare-faced extroversion of other social media platforms, it attracts a unique strand of introverted egotism, one that appreciates attention but not necessarily the more conventional, or transparent, means of obtaining it.

Mr Moore says that ego plays a large part in writing reviews, and a certain narcissism certainly seems to underscore most of the conversations I have. Many of the reviewers I speak to come with prepared answers to my questions. In some cases, they “correct” my line of questioning with their own. Without the same level of self-assuredness as those who occupy the conventional blogosphere and accrue large followings on social media, the online reviewer is an altogether more sensitive breed, and seemingly much less equipped to deal with the inevitable vitriol that comes with publishing almost anything online.

“It’s nice to see yourself build a body of work and to express your opinion about things you care about,” says Mr Moore. “But I didn’t have the vaguest idea about this strange ranking system when I started and I still have absolutely no interest in being a part of it.”

Link to the rest at The Independent

The Mouse That Rawr’d

2 March 2016

From The Novel Approach:

Once upon a time, there was a corporate giant called Amazon, who existed in a land inhabited by all manner of creature. This giant was possessed of a vast wealth and bartered myriad goods in exchange for those riches, from textiles to tchotchkes to consumables to a seemingly fathomless collection of media and books. There was little question of this giant’s market prowess, power and influence; nor was there little question that puny humans were lured with a Siren-like ease to its lair, where would be fulfilled every purchasing whim… In the land of Virtual Commerce, let us not be mistaken that Amazon was king.

Alas, this is reality. With a book market presence unrivaled by any other e-tailer, Amazon not only absorbs a hefty portion of the average reader’s book buying budget but its review system also wields the sort of influence that when utilized can increase a book’s visibility on the site. With the Kindle/Kindle app being on top of the e-reader heap, those Amazon reviews can truly matter not only to readers who take the time to peruse them but to authors as well, because of the way a review of their books ties in to Amazon’s algorithms. Simply put, an Amazon review can be beneficial to a book’s overall accessibility on the site.

. . . .

So, now we enter the dark and dangerous fairy tale forest where there lies a murky bog called Ethics. It’s no secret there are review sites out there that sell reviews—I get follows from them on Twitter on occasion. There are also authors out there who buy those reviews—which stands to reason or those sites wouldn’t exist. Now you can see how this has made some reviews and some review sites suspect and, for more than a few people, difficult to trust. The bottom line is that if we consumers stray from the safety of the path to enlightenment, we might get eaten, and this is why Amazon has been forced to tidy its castle.

Beyond suing people for fraudulent reviews, Amazon has also begun swinging the ax on those reviews they merely suspect are bogus. It’s why they’re now policing our Facebook and Goodreads connections with the somewhat ambitious belief that by doing so they can restore legitimacy to and preserve the sanctity of the Amazon review. What’s happening in return for those efforts is that legitimate readers/reviewers are finding their reviews disappearing from Amazon, while the less-than-illuminating “This book was okay” reviews are living on to see another day.

. . . .

When I wrote a letter of inquiry to the Customer Reviews department to ask for specifics, I received a terse reply accusing me of “manipulating” the Amazon review process. When I replied to inquire how I might appeal this decision, all I received was another abrupt email that stated, in essence, they didn’t owe me an explanation and not to bother emailing them back because they would likely not respond.

I, of all people, respect the review process and understand why Amazon is trying to clean up the behemoth that is theirs. The issue that exists, however, is that in doing so they’re throwing out the good with the bad, utilizing IP addresses and star ratings and Facebook and Goodreads connections as their methods of deducing which reviews are originating from reputable sources and which aren’t. It’s a fantastic idea in theory, but in practice, it could use some work because all it’s done for me so far is leave me frustrated.

. . . .

And this is why I took the time to email Jeff Bezos to let him know I didn’t appreciate being lumped in with all the other witchies in the Amazon witch hunt. And then I’m sure he laughed at my insignificant self and went on to counting all the pieces of gold in his coffers, but at least he now knows I’m not some wan and mealy mouthed reader/reviewer who’s too intimidated to stand up to the giant. ::cue his laughter::

What does this mean for Amazon? Zero, zilch, nada. Will I stop shopping at Amazon.com? No, they’ll still get all my dollars because they make it easy to spend with them. Does this mean that I agree with their methods of repairing the flaws in their system? No, because it’s indiscriminate and shortsighted. Does it stick in my craw that all those one word/one sentence “reviews” are living on, while every last review we’d posted (and, I might add, had been approved) were disposed of with all disregard for their potential validity? Ooooh, you bet it does.

Link to the rest at The Novel Approach and thanks to P.D. for the tip.

PG wonders if it might be a good idea for Amazon to establish an ombudsman to help resolve KDP issues that may arise with authors and reviewers.

Amazon is notable for its excellent customer service policies for those who purchase goods. Returns are simple and shipping errors are quickly rectified.

Perhaps the most impressive thing PG learned during his early interactions with those responsible for running Kindle Direct Publishing is that they regarded indie authors as customers. This was and is, of course, an extraordinarily different view of authors than is widely-held among employees of traditional publishers.

Every organization utilizing computer algorithms in its business processes knows that those algorithms, particularly when they are first brought online, can be expected to return erroneous results from time to time. Some of the errors will be obvious and others subtle.

Those responsible for programming the algorithms will be focusing on the obvious errors and may not have been given all the information behind the program requirements around which the algorithms were built. Certainly, they’ll pay more attention to fixing the obvious bugs than the subtle ones which may or may not be bugs at all.

The people on the front lines of implementing the results of the algorithms with customers, reviewers, publishers, etc., will almost certainly not be the same people who created the requirements or wrote the algorithms. The front line people will be focused on efficiently doing one thing if the output of the algorithm says red and another if the output says blue.

In an organization the size of Amazon, this translates into at least tens of thousands, then hundreds of thousands of red/blue outputs that require processing. While the front line people should be able to properly handle the results of obvious bugs, at least some subtle bugs will fall under Option D – blame the customer.

You might make the same decisions if, every day, you had to deal with thousands of large and small crooks trying to make money from Amazon by improper means.

The tone of the above post from Lynn, the proprietress of The Novel Approach, doesn’t strike PG as the way someone who is gaming Amazon reviews would typically respond.

PG’s hypothetical Amazon ombudsman would provide a second set of eyes (other than Jeff Bezos or his assistants) to consider whether author/reviewer complaints that the algorithms weren’t working the way they were intended, that the posse rounding up the outlaws might have inadvertently arrested an innocent shopkeeper.

If indie authors are customers of KDP, an effective ombudsman (or ombudswoman or flock of ombudspersons) would help increase customer satisfaction among authors and prevent the occasional innocent shopkeeper from being hanged at dawn.

An Amazon Review

31 January 2016

Nothing to do with books, but PG received the following review that was written for a men’s suit offered on Amazon:

Greetings fellow amazonians, just bought this suit a few weeks ago and it helped me out big time. You see one reason I haven’t been able to give as many reviews over the past few years is because I was in jail. The only access I had to the internet was in the prison library, but I was not able to go often because I was not labeled a “good” prisoner. I had a parole meeting scheduled a few weeks back and I wanted to look good so I bought this suit. I had it delivered to one of the COs houses that owed me a favor and he snuck it in for me. I put it on and my cellie Big Todd was really impressed. I went to the meeting and to my shock I was not supposed to dress up for it. They wanted me to show up in that ugly orange jumpsuit for some reason. I decided to tell the parole board the whole story as to how I got the suit and some other lurid details of what went on while I was behind bars. The entire time though I noticed that the board members were not really listening to me, but admiring this suit. After about an hour of me spilling my guts about spilling guts I finished and waited for the board members to respond. It was like they were under a spell or something, but just then they awoke and voted on letting me out. I couldn’t believe it I was out and free to join my carnival again thanks to this suit and amazon.

Spot Fake Kindle Reviews With FakeSpot

26 January 2016

From The Digital Reader:

Amazon has taken many steps to clean up its review section, including suing sellers of fake reviews and forbidding any relationship between author and reviewer, but sometimes that’s just not enough.

Sometimes you can’t trust the mass of four and five star ratings, and that is where Fakespot comes in. This website (there’s also a Chrome extension) hoovers up the reviews for a given product, crunches some algorithms, and gives you an estimate of the number of questionable reviews.

All you have to do is copy and paste a link to learn that, for example, around one in four reviews for The Girl on the Train were suspect.

. . . .

Fakespot is less than specific on what makes for a questionable review, but according to Cnet the reviews were flagged because the reviewers write only overwhelmingly positive reviews, reviewed products without purchasing them, or were determined to have written other reviews about the same company.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

Sour Grapes: Publishing Industry Insiders Bemoan The Rise of Outsider Book Bloggers

9 January 2016

From The Digital Reader:

The Times of London recently took up the cause of the literati who are dismayed that they should have to read the same books as the hoi polloi book bloggers that persist in publishing their reviews online.

. . . .

The literati have been lamenting for years now that the general populace is literate and capable of sharing its opinion on the internet. Some have even gone so far as to proclaim that book bloggers are harming literature.

“Eventually that will be to the detriment of literature, Peter Stothard told The Independent in 2012.”It will be bad for readers; as much as one would like to think that many bloggers opinions are as good as others. It just ain’t so. People will be encouraged to buy and read books that are no good, the good will be overwhelmed, and we’ll be worse off. There are some important issues here.”

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader and thanks to Barry for the tip.

 

a3

Bill Gates: The Billionaire Book Critic

2 January 2016

From The New York Times:

Evan Thomas, the best-selling biographer of Robert F. Kennedy and Dwight D. Eisenhower and the author of a half-dozen other books, has seen those books reviewed over the years by The New Yorker, The Washington Post and The Atlantic. But with the recent publication of his latest work, “Being Nixon: A Man Divided,” he experienced for the first time a new phenomenon: the Bill Gates bump.

Just before Christmas, Mr. Thomas learned that his book had been favorably reviewed by Mr. Gates on his blog, Gates Notes.

“I’m surprised by the number of biographies I read that paint their subjects in black-and-white terms,” Mr. Gates wrote. “A classic example is former U.S. president Richard Nixon, who is too often portrayed as little more than a crook and a warmonger. So it was refreshing to see a more balanced account in ‘Being Nixon,’ by author and journalist Evan Thomas.” The review was illustrated by a photograph of the book on a desk adorned with objects from the Nixon era, like a rotary phone.

. . . .

Mr. Thomas was taken by surprise. “I’ve never met Bill Gates,” he said. “I had no idea he had a books blog.”

“I was thrilled because he has a lot of reach,” Mr. Thomas said, adding that sales of the book jumped soon after that review was posted. “I can tell the blog is well read because I heard from all sorts of random people.”

. . . .

“A few years ago I started thinking it would be fun to share some of these notes with the public,” Mr. Gates wrote in a recent email interview. “I have always loved reading and learning, so it is great if people see a book review and feel encouraged to read and share what they think online or with their friends.”

Mr. Gates says he reads about 50 books in a year, eschewing digital readers for old-fashioned books on paper. When he is busy with work, he reads about a book or two a week but will consume four or five in the same period while vacationing with family.

Link to the rest at The New York Times and thanks to Tom for the tip.

Next Page »