Do you think that a book is more likely to be good if its Amazon review has more stars? Do you think that the presence or absence of critical reviews on Amazon is a meaningful indication of the book's quality?
It ain't necessarily so. Amazon's rating system is highly susceptible to mob rule — not the sort of mob rule that provides, collectively, useful information, but the sort of mob rule that suppresses disfavored reviews and reviewers. Amazon appears to be a somewhat passive and clueless participant in this process. Hence, you have a system in which a third-rate scribbler of bodice-rippers, faced with weak-tea provocation of a three-star review of her latest book, can tell her flying monkeys to "vote down this bitch, please", and they can have an impact on that reviewer's prominence on Amazon. Said author, one Deborah Anne MacGillivray, can gloat like this about the three-star reviewer:
Well, thanks to XXXXXX our PI , we now have her name, her husband’s
name, her chidrens’ names, her grannies and great grannies name. Her
address phone number and email
It's tempting for me, as a satirical blogger not particularly concerned with being thought a sexist, to attribute this to the mindset of the type of people who care deeply about romance novels. But prolonged exposure to the internet shows that such a conclusion would be not merely prejudiced but also inaccurate. The recent troubling experiences of Paula, an online friend and exceptionally thoughtful adoption blogger,show that any sort of dissent from the cherished views of a nutcase can result in creepy online stalking. What's notable about the case of the thin-skinned author MacGillivray is that Amazon seems to provide an easy medium to carry out such behavior, and seems indifferent or uncomprehending about how it is being used.
Remember that next time you glance to see how many stars a book got, and wonder how people get to be a "top reviewer" on Amazon
Last 5 posts by Ken White
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