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.

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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.



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.

Investigating the Actual and Perceived Validity of Online User Ratings

21 December 2015

From The Journal of Consumer Research:

Navigating by the Stars: Investigating the Actual and Perceived Validity of Online User Ratings

This research documents a substantial disconnect between the objective quality information that online user ratings actually convey and the extent to which consumers trust them as indicators of objective quality. Analyses of a dataset covering 1,272 products across 120 vertically-differentiated product categories reveal that average user ratings (1) lack convergence with Consumer Reports scores, the most commonly used measure of objective quality in the consumer behavior literature, (2) are often based on insufficient sample sizes which limits their informativeness, (3) do not predict resale prices in the used-product marketplace, and (4) are higher for more expensive products and premium brands, controlling for Consumer Reports scores. However, when forming quality inferences and purchase intentions, consumers heavily weight the average rating compared to other cues for quality like price and the number of ratings. They also fail to moderate their reliance on the average user rating as a function of sample size sufficiency. Consumers’ trust in the average user rating as a cue for objective quality appears to be based on an “illusion of validity.”

Link to the rest at The Journal of Consumer Research

Countdown champion Richard Brittain pleads guilty to tracking down and attacking teenage girl

18 December 2015

UPDATE: PG received a polite email from a regular visitor saying this is not the type of content the visitor expects to read on visits. The stalking and violent attack disturbed this visitor.

PG has no problems offending the powerful, rich or pompous, but doesn’t like to think that he has upset any of the kind and gentle souls who come here.

PG is going to leave this post up and doesn’t hold with the current fad for trigger warnings of all types, but, as the title of the post implies, it does describe events that will disturb some.

From The Independent:

A former Countdown champion has pleaded guilty to tracking down a teenager and attacking her with a bottle, after she posted a negative review of his book online.

Richard Brittain, who won the Channel 4 puzzle show in 2006, used Facebook to find out where 18-year-old Paige Rolland worked, tracking her down to an ASDA store in Glenrothes, Fife.

Entering the shop as she began her shift, a court heard how the 28-year-old, from Bedford, smashed a wine bottle over Miss Rolland’s head from behind, leaving her momentarily unconscious, The Mirror reports.

Procurator fiscal depute Harry Findlay said at Glasgow Sheriff Crown Court on Monday: “He went to the alcohol aisle and picked up a bottle of wine, he then went to the aisle where the complainer was working.

“He approached her from behind, she was kneeling down collecting cereal from the bottom shelf of the aisle.

“While doing so, the accused approached without warning… and he struck the complainer on the back of the head with the bottle”

The incident, which took place in October 2014, occurred after Brittain uploaded part of his book, The World Rose, onto a website called Wattpad, where people are able to read and critique literature.

Miss Rolland’s negative feedback was met by “comments made by the accused which give an indication that he was displeased”, Mr Findaly said.

Link to the rest at The Independent and thanks to Lexi for the tip.

Are Ebook Reviews Worth Their Weight in Gigabytes?

16 December 2015

From The Huffington Post:

There’s been a lot of chatter lately about how a certain ebook website has started legal proceedings against hundreds of ‘unidentified’ reviewers who post false positive reviews in exchange for cash. And I don’t blame the eGiant. Who needs to be spruiked while searching for a book?

But it’s not just overly gushing, obviously ‘faux’ favourable reviews they –and all book review websites — need to keep an eagle eye out for

As a longtime crime writer and member of various Facebook writing groups–from women’s authors to best-selling cozy mystery writers–one of the most common complaints is false unfavourable reviews.

And we’re not talking about simple dissing of books.

It’s one thing to say, “I read it, I didn’t like it, here’s why…” It’s quite another to blatantly lie about a novel out of malice, vengeance or sabotage. I know of countless fellow authors–clearly more successful than me, which is why they’re being targeted–who have really struggled with this issue. One author of very successful, boringly benign cozy mysteries, complete with cute kittens and bloodless murders, had a reviewer slam her book for its “senseless violence, profanity and eroticism”. She was mortified.

There’s not so much as a ‘damn’ or a revealed midriff anywhere in the text. Not even in the subtext!

Desperate to have the false review removed lest it alienate her devoted Christian fan base, she approached the ebook website and was initially told there was nothing they could do. Eventually, after much effort on her part, they agreed to “review the review” — which means, they can post it back up if they decide it should stand.

Yet it contains complete and utter lies.

Link to the rest at The Huffington Post

Amazon reworking rules for product reviews

16 December 2015

From The Seattle Times: is revising its product review system six weeks after The Seattle Times reported on activists posting reviews to push their political and social agendas.

“We are taking a close look at our policies regarding activism reviews and are considering changes,” Amazon spokesman Tom Cook said in a statement.

 The Times article reported on coordinated attacks by Amazon reviewers on Scarlett Lewis, the mother of a 6-year-old boy murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut three years ago Monday. Lewis wrote “Nurturing Healing Love: A Mother’s Journey of Hope and Forgiveness” to describe her journey after the massacre.

Dozens of reviewers — conspiracy theorists who believe the shootings were an Obama administration hoax to push for gun-control legislation — savaged Lewis on the Amazon book Web page as a liar and opportunist.

. . . .

One change the company has already made is the removal of its “General Review Creation Guidelines” Web page. Those rules barred reviews with “profanity or spiteful remarks,” as well as “advertisements, promotional material or repeated posts that make the same point excessively.”

That page was taken down this week.

Instead, the company redirects Web traffic to its “Customer Review Creation Guidelines.” Those rules are a bit more vague.

Amazon, for example, prohibits “Hate Speech & Offensive Content” without any mention of spiteful comments. That could allow Amazon some leeway in determining what’s suitable for its website.

But even as the company has scrubbed the particularly callous comments regarding Lewis, still remaining are dozens calling the Sandy Hook massacre a hoax.

. . . .

Apparently, reviews buying into the conspiracy theory that the murders were staged don’t meet Amazon’s offensive-content standard.

And the current guidelines say nothing about repetitive posts, except to prohibit using “other people’s material (including excessive quoting).”

That would seem to allow activism campaigns, such as the effort last year by the Rainforest Action Network and SumOfUs to target a new soda, Pepsi True.

The two groups have condemned PepsiCo for its use of so-called “conflict palm oil,” the harvesting of which is causing deforestation, in its Doritos and other snack products. So they teamed up to encourage their Facebook and Twitter followers to post negative reviews of Pepsi True, and nearly 4,000 obliged.

Amazon’s biggest challenge is figuring out the best way to discover violations of its reviews guidelines. It’s hardly a trivial task. Amazon doesn’t disclose the number of products it lists for sale, but a survey conducted by the investment firm Robert W. Baird & Co. in July estimated the company listed about 365 million items at the time.

That’s far too many for humans to police, particularly for a company that prefers to automate as many business processes as possible. So Amazon has largely relied on algorithms to catch the worst offenders of its guidelines. But that didn’t prevent people from targeting Scarlett Lewis.

. . . .

One way to quiet the coordinated campaign would be to restrict reviews to customers who’ve actually purchased products on Amazon. Most of the activists are unlikely to buy the products they are criticizing.

But that limit would force the company to walk away from a valuable asset — detailed shopping interests of customers, both on and beyond.

A tiny fraction of the reviews on Amazon are posted by activists and conspiracy theorists. Most are written by well-intentioned shoppers who want to share their insight with other consumers.

But Amazon also collects their viewing habits, and they feed Amazon’s recommendation algorithms to suggest other purchases. Limiting reviews only to purchases made on Amazon would rob the company of valuable data.

Moreover, the simple act of writing reviews brings customers to Amazon’s site who might not otherwise have come. That creates an opportunity to sell them something.

Link to the rest at The Seattle Times and thanks to J.A. for the tip.

Getting Amazon reviews – and keeping them!

8 December 2015

From author Ebony McKenna:

Take-homes: Stop logging in to other sites with Facebook. Make friends with trolls.

My author friends and I know how hard it is to get reviews for our books. Many of us offer our titles to readers ahead of release, in the hope they’ll get reviews – and we’re not paying for them because that would be unethical (and against Amazon’s policy). It’s legit stuff – we send the book out and hope that a reader engages with the story enough to write a few words on why it’s worth a read. Even if it’s three stars, it all helps. Four stars are brilliant, because they often show what didn’t appeal to the reader, as well as the parts that did. They also don’t look like a ‘five stars!’ friend raving about the glories of the book’s utter perfection.

Because nothing is perfect.

Lately, what’s become even harder is keeping those reviews on Amazon. The ‘zon’s policy is to remove reviews where they believe there is some kind of existing relationship.

Here’s what they say in the Customer Review Guidelines:

“2. Are authors allowed to review other authors’ books? Yes. Authors are welcome to submit Customer Reviews, unless the reviewing author has a personal relationship with the author of the book being reviewed, or was involved in the book’s creation process (i.e. as a co-author, editor, illustrator, etc.). If so, that author isn’t eligible to write a Customer Review for that book.”

. . . .

What is an ‘existing relationship’? Being friends with the author on Facebook.

Just about every author I know is on Facebook, and they’re happy to accept friend requests because this is social media and they’re being sociable! There isn’t really a relationship, it’s more a loose affiliation and being friendly with everyone whoever and wherever they are – we’re making connections in the social realm.

This week, an author friend of mine lost 18 reviews overnight, because Amazon’s algorithms decided these reviewers were in an existing relationship with the author and therefore not writing objective reviews. Heaps of four and five star reviews vanished.

. . . .

Amazon owns Goodreads. Many authors are on Goodreads. Many authors use their facebook ID to login to Goodreads. Bang! Data mining right there.
If you’re an author, go to Goodreads, (you’ll see if it logs you in automatically with Facebook) then for the love of curry pies, Sign Out!

Link to the rest at Ebony McKenna and thanks to Valerie for the tip.

Here’s a link to Ebony McKenna’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Romance finally breaks The Post’s ‘No Self-Published Books’ rule

25 November 2015

From The Washington Post:

It was bound to happen sooner or later: For the first time ever, a self-published book appears on one of The Washington Post’s best-of-the-year lists.

The distinction — bestowed on Alisha Rai’s erotic novel “Serving Pleasure” — marks a small but telling milestone. Long scorned as the “vanity press,” self-publishing now draws hundreds-of-thousands of hopeful authors. The vast majority of the books sell very few copies, but each year produces another rockstar — a EL James or a Hugh Howey — whose stratospheric success fuels more dreams and brings more legitimacy to the platform.

. . . .

“Serving Pleasure” appears on The Post’s list of the year’s best romance fiction, one of several genre lists in Book World’s Best Books of 2015 package. Rai, who works as a lawyer by day, released “Serving Pleasure” through CreateSpace, Amazon’s independent publishing platform. (Amazon founder and chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

Our romance reviewer, Sarah MacLean, didn’t think she was doing anything particularly radical by including a self-published book.

“You asked me to choose the five best romances of the year, and I did,” she tells me. “ ‘Serving Pleasure’ is an excellent example of the best of romance.” And MacLean isn’t surprised that the romance genre is the first one to break Book World’s “No Self-Published” rule. For her, it’s just another example of the genre’s progressive and disruptive vitality.

Link to the rest at The Washington Post

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