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Amazon criticised for removing online book reviews from website

Amazon has drawn criticism from authors, bloggers and publishers for removing reviews from its online book listings, reports the Bookseller.

According to reports, some Amazon customers have had all their reviews removed or are blocked from posting further reviews on the website. Amazon has blamed temporary ‘technical issues’.

Author Isabella May told the Bookseller that she had had a ‘hellish week’ of losing reviews for her two novels, published by the small independent press Crooked Cat Books. She explained that the experience of losing 11 reviews of her books listed on Amazon was ‘quite upsetting’, adding: ‘For a high-profile author who may no longer feel the need to check their reviews, this is but a drop in the ocean. But for a new voice, it’s everything, and very distressing—particularly as my publisher retail solely online and solely via Amazon’.

Amazon has developed tools and policies to combat fake reviews amid problems over ‘reviews for hire’—a practice where individuals post fake reviews on Amazon product pages in exchange for money.

When May contacted Amazon, she was told the removed reviews would not be brought back online because they were ‘in violation’ of Amazon’s guidelines. The retailer did not specify which reviews were in violation, but was instead directed towards the company’s lengthy community guidelines microsite, which includes a section on how the company ‘may restrict the ability to submit a review when we detect unusual reviewing behaviour’.

HarperCollins’ commercial publisher Kimberley Young told the Bookseller that the removal of reviews enabled Amazon to promote its own books ‘at the expense of others’.

‘Writing an honest review on receipt of a proof copy of a book is both an established practice and also a very modern tool,’ Young explained. ‘Reviews drive word of mouth and help readers find the right books for them’. ‘We know algorithms favour well-reviewed books,’ she added, suggesting that the removal of reviews across so many titles on Amazon was a decision that ultimately narrows ‘the range and discoverability of books’ online.

An Amazon spokesperson told the Bookseller that a technical issue last month affected some book reviews, preventing them from being submitted and displayed. ‘These issues were quickly addressed and we apologise for any inconvenience. Customer reviews are one of the most valuable tools we offer customers for making informed purchase decisions and we work hard to make sure they are doing their job’.



Category: International news