Amazon… A virtual marketplace, or Big Brother?

A couple of weeks ago I read the third installment of a series I really loved. I will refrain from sharing the name of the novel and its author.

Like any reader, as soon as I finished reading, I wrote my review. When I tried posting it on Amazon (I did buy the eBook, just like any normal and decent human being would), I received a rather concerning email.

I will not share the screenshot of the email as it does contain the title of the book and name of the author. In its place I have copied the body of the email below.

Dear Amazon Customer,

Thanks for submitting a customer review on Amazon. Your review could not be posted to the website in its current form. While we appreciate your time and comments, reviews must adhere to the following guidelines:
http://www.amazon.com/review-guidelines

Here I was, thinking I had included an expletive, or mentioned a brand name within the review. I went back and cross-referenced it against the review I posted on Amazon’s sister site Goodreads, and didn’t see anything wrong with it. I tried to upload it again. Immediately, I received the below message.

Sorry. You’re not eligible to review this product. For more information, read the Customer Review Guidelines.

I thought for a minute, and figured maybe there was an issue with their website… So I tried to input a review for another book by another author, and received the same system message I shared above.

I wrote an inquiry to Amazon regarding the issue. To my surprise, this is the message I received the following day.

Hello,

We cannot post your Customer Review for (book title deleted) by (author name deleted) to the Amazon website because your account activity indicates that you know the author. 

Customer Reviews are meant to give customers unbiased product feedback from fellow shoppers. Because our goal is to provide Customer Reviews that help customers make informed purchase decisions, any reviews that could be viewed as advertising, promotional, or misleading will not be posted. To learn more about this policy, please review our Customer Review Guidelines (http://amazon.com/help/customer-reviews-guidelines) and FAQs (http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/?nodeId=201077870).  

We encourage family and friends to share their enthusiasm for the book through our Customer Discussions feature or Editorial Reviews feature. To start a Customer Discussion visit the Meet Our Authors forum and enter your discussion title in the Start a new discussion box. You’ll find the forum here: 
http://www.amazon.com/forum/meet%20our%20authors/&cdForum=Fx2UYC1FC06SU8S

To have your Editorial Review posted to the detail page, e-mail it directly to the author so they can add it for you. 

If you believe you’re eligible to write a Customer Review for this book, send additional details to review-appeals@amazon.com. 

We hope to see you again soon.

Best regards,

Harm J,

At this point I am dumbstruck. “I know the author.” That is quite an erroneous and quite presumptous assessment, so I went through the painstaking process of escalating the issue to their Review Appeals Department. At this point, I’m pretty upset.

Greetings,

I am appalled with your recent email message stating a review I wrote could not be posted because my “online activity suggests I know the author.” (Online purchase: X by X eBook.)

This response is ludicrous. I am a writer and published author. I understand the Indie Community is a small one, and among our circles, rubbing elbows with peers is not an uncommon occurrence. I am also a blogger and reviewer who also buys books. When I’m not writing, I am reading and reviewing. My reviews are one hundred percent unbiased, regardless if I have rubbed elbows with peers online. I would like to know who is providing you the information that suggests I may know the author.

That’s a two-edged sword; knowing of an author online, and personally knowing an author in real life are two different things. By your definition it would mean that bloggers such as myself are being barred from reviewing books they legitimately purchased, which in turn contravenes with the notion that reviews for a verified purchase are highly encouraged.

I am left speechless as I don’t know any authors on a level you are suggesting. I merely follow authors on Social Media: Twitter, Facebook, Google+, tsu, and on your partner site Goodreads. I interact with these authors during takeover events. I am an avid reader and I buy my books like anyone else does.

Your claims are unfounded, and as a paying consumer, I demand my review be posted. It is unfair to the authors whose work I love, to be punished for a claim that simply cannot stand. I don’t know any authors on a personal level.

Expecting your prompt response,

Ms. Santiago

(Amazon user: x@x.com)

Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPhone

I was hoping for a better outcome. It took them a week to answer back. To my dismay, this below screenshot is the response I received today.

Amazon has crossed the line. 

I pay for my eBooks. I take the time to read and review books I love. The Big Brother mentality Amazon is employing is appalling, and crosses an ethical line of unfathomable proportions. They are not God, and are censoring my passion for the written word. Because of them, I will not be allowed to write and post any further reviews on their site, regardless if I paid, or not. It is a disservice to readers, and a back-handed slap in the face of all authors across the board.

What quantifiable and verifiable ways is Amazon using to determine if I know the author of a book, or not? The fact that they refuse to elaborate as to how I “know the author personally” is highly concerning. 

This is what happens when you are a published writer, and write reviews for the books you paid for.

This is wrong, and it has to stop.

It  is censorship at its finest. I have interacted with a couple hundred authors over the past year; from events to signings, authors and writers rub elbows during networking sessions. This does NOT mean I know you personally. Knowing someone personally is bearing knowledge about them, from say… their favorite color to their social status.

Amazon, you have spat in the face of those authors and writers whose work deserve praise and recognition. I am shocked and appalled. At this time, I will discontinue writing peer reviews. I will complete my list of pending reviews, and will cease from posting them on Amazon.

I’m truly sorry, but my wings have been clipped.

Don’t hate me for it.

Blame Amazon for their questionable business practices.

Feel free to post your comments below. I’m eager to read your thoughts.

-i

Please share this blog post if you think this business practice is unfair.

#ExplainYourselfAmazon #Censorship #QuestionableBusinessPractices #AuthorsDependOnReviews #ClippedWings

Advertisements

415 comments

  1. Pingback: Amazon Starts to Enforce Draconian e-book Review Policy
  2. kimwrtr · July 4, 2015

    Reblogged this on Kim's Author Support Page.

    Like

  3. Annie · July 5, 2015

    Reblogged this on Annie's Blog.

    Like

  4. D.G.Kaye · July 5, 2015

    This is so unjust. As an Indie author, I feel the pain. I have shared everywhere. Perhaps if enough people circulate this, it may knock some sense into the stupid rule; but I doubt it. I’ve been battling them ever since kindle countdowns came out. We spend money on advertising, announcing our book sale to the world, only to find that as a Canadian author, my books aren’t sale priced for my Canadian readers.

    Like

  5. susanmacnicol · July 5, 2015

    Reblogged this on Author Susan Mac Nicol and commented:
    Incensed. Insulted, Frustrated, Pissed as hell. I think this safely describes my reaction to this new move by Amazon. The internet giant is becoming too big for its boots and it’s about time it stood back, took a deep breath and listened to people instead of going full steam ahead and just making itself unpopular….read on to see what’s happened now in the crazy world of Amazon.

    Like

  6. Scott Holstad · July 5, 2015

    Unreal!

    Like

  7. Scott Holstad · July 5, 2015

    Reblogged this on hankrules2011 and commented:
    This is totally unreal. I never knew Amazon would do this. It’s appalling.

    Like

  8. nobodysreadingme · July 5, 2015

    Reblogged this on nobodysreadingme and commented:
    What does Amazon think it’s doing?

    Like

  9. theowllady · July 5, 2015

    Reblogged this on theowlladyblog.

    Like

  10. angietrafford · July 5, 2015

    Reblogged this on AngieTrafford and commented:
    this is worrying for people who happen to write, but enjoy reading, and writing a review to tell people that you enjoyed the book.

    Like

  11. theowllady · July 5, 2015

    This is ridiculous! Another author, who also blogs, had the same thing happen to him only they didn’t respond to his inquiries like they had yours.
    I’m seriously thinking of going elsewhere with my next book, which will be ready in September.
    They’ve offered bells and whistles to help authors. Like $0.06 per page of books read on the Look Inside option, if it even works.
    In my opinion they’re going to end up biting their own tail.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Pingback: Amazon’s Review Policy is Creepy and Bad for Authors | Sports News
  13. abbiejohnsontaylor · July 5, 2015

    Reblogged this on Abbie's Corner of the World and commented:
    It’ll be a cold day in Hell before I review books on Amazon unless they clarify the reason for this blogger being prohibited from reviewing books on their site.

    Like

  14. Literati · July 5, 2015

    Reblogged this on Blätterflüstern and commented:
    Appalling behaviour from Amazon. Reblogged.

    Like

  15. relationspdbeverly · July 5, 2015

    I thought it was ridiculous when reviewers had to prove that they had verified purchases on Amazon. Must they have a piece of everything? It should’ve been enough that they would get exposure just by a reviewer posting on their website because at some point, they or the person reading it would most likely purchase something on Amazon.

    Like

  16. prix cialis 10 mg · July 5, 2015

    Hey there I am so happy I found your blog page,
    I really found you by accident, while I was researching on Google for something else,
    Regardless I am here now and would just like to say cheers for a incredible post and a all round entertaining blog (I also love
    the theme/design), I don’t have time to look over it all at the minute but I have saved it and also added your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will
    be back to read a lot more, Please do keep up the great job.

    Like

  17. Pingback: Amazon’s Review Policy is Creepy and Bad for Authors | techgadgetguy75
  18. roxystra · July 5, 2015

    Reblogged this on Roxy Wilson.

    Like

  19. sepultura13 · July 5, 2015

    I’ve had issues with Amazon’s policies and practices for some time now, but this really takes the cake…shame on them!

    Like

  20. Lauren · July 5, 2015

    Reblogged this on making the novel a better place and commented:
    Just another reason Amazon is pretty far down on my approval list. How could you work with a corporation with such… questionable business principles?

    Like

  21. Nicole · July 5, 2015

    While I understand that Amazon is trying to prevent bogus reviews, transparency about the methodology would be appropriate. Their refusal to share how they made this determination, or to even genuinely answer your questions, is beyond troubling.

    Over the course of the last year or so we’ve started looking for alternatives to Amazon for several reasons. And then recently they started preventing us from purchasing certain items if we are not Prime members, which is tantamount to blackmail, or extortion. Now, with this revelation, we will make it a priority to not purchase from them. We will also spread the word as much as possible. This “Big Brother” thing should be of concern to everyone!

    Thank you, Imy, for making us aware of this policy by sharing your experience

    Liked by 2 people

    • Kiri · July 6, 2015

      “And then recently they started preventing us from purchasing certain items if we are not Prime members, which is tantamount to blackmail, or extortion. ”

      Could you elaborate on this please? I hadn’t heard of, or encountered this and it concerns me that this behavior (along with all the rest) is happening. Thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. cogpunksteamscribe · July 6, 2015

    Reblogged this on Cogpunk Steamscribe.

    Like

  23. cmaher62 · July 6, 2015

    I recently read the Amazon reviewer guidelines. To be accurate, I read this through for a second time. I write reviews for many of the books I purchase. I did not see where it says precisely that a reviewer cannot be someone who knows the author. I do think that it would be wrong to review the book of a family member, but where the guide implicitly states that we can’t have met the author is not found, at least by me. I have seen some reviews that are suspect, however. One that stands out was to another author. The reviewer had not read the book in question, and said so. The reviewer still gave the book a 5 star review, so there are false reviews out there. But, I am sad this happened to you, because you obvious put much thought into your reviews.

    Like

  24. Jeri Fink · July 6, 2015

    Thank you for writing this piece about Amazon and thank everyone for their comments!! When this first happened to me I thought I was the only one. Stupidly, I complained. The result was that Amazon TOOK AWAY reviews already posted on one book, shut down reviews in the second book, and by the third (they are the first three books in a seven book series) totally refused to post any reviews! I suggested the “verified purchase” route but that made no difference. Even worse, they kept my third book on Amazon but you can only find it if you search for the name and title together.

    Isn’t that what they called a monopoly? Big brother can do anything he wants.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. mcholly1 · July 6, 2015

    Reblogged this on Boston Metaphysical Society and commented:
    This is outrageous.

    Like

  26. kathyrollinson · July 6, 2015

    Viv, Amazon refused my review on a book ages ago. They said because I was a friend I couldn’t review the book. I challenged them, saying I only knew her as a colleague, as we met, once a month at a writing group. I said I didn’t know her age, where she lived, her husband’s name – in fact, I knew nothing about her personal life. Amazon allowed my review after receiving my comments!

    Like

    • V Thurman · July 6, 2015

      Thank you, this gives me hope maybe they will allow my co-worker’s review to post.

      Like

    • V Thurman · July 7, 2015

      Hi, I challenged them last week and just got my reply. No. I know this woman even less than you knew the woman you met with in writing group and they still say I know her. 😦

      Like

  27. marcnobbs · July 6, 2015

    Reblogged this on Marc Nobbs – A Middle Aged Grump.

    Like

  28. V Thurman · July 6, 2015

    Hello, I am so glad to know about this, because it just happened to me last Thursday. A coworker whom I only know in passing and to say, “Nice haircut” or “the mail is here”, read my book. I was completely surprised, as I had no idea she was reading it. She told me she was going to write a review for me on Amazon and then was rejected with the same note- that due to her account activity they cannot post because she knows the author. I wrote back to Amazon and have not received a reply. I just explained to them that even though we are coworkers I do not know this woman and I did not influence any of her decisions. It really creeped her out that Amazon is playing Big Brother. Now that I have read your blog, I am sharing it with her and others. Thank you so much for sharing your experience.

    Like

  29. Pingback: Buzz Worthy News 6th July 2015 | Cuddlebuggery Book Blog
  30. Lizzybel · July 6, 2015

    Shocking!

    Like

  31. Pingback: Amazon… A virtual marketplace, or Big Brother? | Blog di Officina Astrale
  32. Melissa Smith · July 6, 2015

    You can “clip” their searching fingers by deleting the cookies from your computer. An easy fix to their unfair censorship rule. Don’t let them keep you from doing what you have been; helping authors and readers alike.

    Like

    • Susan Uttendorfsky · July 6, 2015

      No, Melissa…unfortunately they track your IP address. So even if you logged in with a separate, non-author-affiliated account, they could theoretically still recognize it was “you.” :/

      Like

  33. Pingback: Jackie Chanel » Dear Amazon…WTF?
  34. Paula B. · July 6, 2015

    Does this dictum apply to Goodreads as well? Since Goodreads is now owned by Amazon, I wouldn’t be surprised, but I hope that isn’t the case.

    BTW, how does knowing the author (I realize that you didn’t in this case) invalidate someone’s opinion of their work?

    Like

    • Mirel Abeles · July 6, 2015

      Unfortunately, I have seen numerous cases where a person has a personal fan club that will promote and gush over terribly written books or stories just to help out a friend. That is not to say that I think that knowing an author means that a person will automatically write a good review of their work, but it is a known phenomenon. Whether this is the proper way of checking or balancing the issue is another matter altogether.

      Like

  35. romancechick · July 6, 2015

    Reblogged this on The Romancechick Speaks and commented:
    A couple of years ago all my reviews were removed from Amazon. I’m not an indie author but a small press author and was told that I’m in competition with the authors I reviewed so clearly my reviews would be biased. Eventually, most of them were put back except one I did for my critique partner. How they knew that she and I did know each other personally is a bit scary, but I will never again review anything on their site.

    Like

    • Paula B. · July 6, 2015

      I completely understand your feelings, but this is so unfair to authors who want and need reviews. Please don’t stop posting reviews on Amazon. A lack of reviews could have a chilling effect on authors’ sales and reputations.

      Like

  36. jessicaredlandwriter · July 6, 2015

    Reblogged this on Jessica Redland Writer and commented:
    Great post from Imy Santiago about the worrying Amazon practices around rejecting reviews because allegedly all authors know all other authors and therefore can’t write an unbiased review. Seriously! You couldn’t make this stuff up!

    Like

  37. S.L. Schmitz · July 6, 2015

    Reblogged this on S.L. Schmitz and commented:
    What a mess. Thank you Imy Santiago for taking the time to write this essay. The Amazon “Big Brother” situation will affect every writer I know (whether I know them or not, I guess).

    Like

  38. J.P. Lane · July 6, 2015

    I had the same problem with one of my reviews. I couldn’t understand why Amazon rejected it, so I edited it and posted it again only to encounter the same result – rejection. Amazon rejected another review I wrote some time before. Again, I could see no reason why. To my astonishment, that review was posted almost a year later – with no notification to me. I didn’t have time to pursue the matter. I’m glad you did. Amazon is completely out of control.

    Like

  39. Pingback: Rough Days for Reviews, and My Encouragement | Prismatic Prospects
  40. Dawnzilla · July 6, 2015

    Reblogged this on Horror Reviews for You.

    Like

  41. B. C. Dee · July 6, 2015

    Reblogged this on BC Dee 123 and commented:
    Although Amazon is a business, it is both a public corporation and holds a near-monopoly on e-book and audio-book sales, as well as a sizeable share of physical book sales. This wrong-headed practice of theirs is counter-productive to their goal of leading customers to satisfying purchases. It is also, arguably, in violation of the single-firm anti-monopoly mandate of the Federal Trade Commission.

    Like

  42. Jayne · July 6, 2015

    This is nuts on 2 fronts, in my opinion.

    1st – It’s none of their business as long as you have purchased the book.
    2nd – It’s more concerning how they would possibly know the depths of anyone’s relationships.

    Like

  43. Pingback: Bloqueando Amazon amigos y diario de la familia de los autores de los libros electrónicos - LocurasGeek - Tecnologia e Internet y Juegos
  44. Martha · July 6, 2015

    As another writer, published author and reviewer who has posted many times on Amazon.com, I could not believe what I was reading. This is what happens when one company – Amazon – gets too much power. Amazon is virtually a monopoly in this field so they deem it just to decide who can post reviews and who can’t. Kind of like what they’ve done with their Kindle Select program. They’re also screwing authors like myself. I expect I will also receive such a notice some day. What scares me the most though, are the comments about you knowing the author of the review you wrote. It would be impossible for authors to solicit reviews from specific people like us without at the very least, sending us an email. How does Amazon even know who knows who? Have they got their fingers into the spy business just like our governments? I would not be surprised.

    Like

  45. Jen · July 7, 2015

    This has happened to me. I follow another indie author with the same last name on Facebook. We’ve never met and have barely so much as chatted once or twice in group conversations. My last name is pretty common, so I assumed it was based on that, but now I’m beginning to believe it’s based on social media. It is annoying to me that her review couldn’t be posted.

    However, it’s their store. They can do what they wish. It’s retail: not a democracy. I’m grateful for the opportunity to sell my books on their website. What if they were more choosy about who they let do that?

    AND I remember the days when people were up in arms over people paying for reviews on amazon. Or people claiming that reviews were tainted by friends and family of an author. You can’t have it both ways. They can’t personally investigate every single reviewer. They have to use an algorithm. The world of publishing has gotten so big that it can’t be done by hand. This is an unfortunate byproduct of that fact.

    I DO find it disturbing that our social media connections are being mined this way.

    Like

  46. Miriam Miles · July 7, 2015

    Reblogged this on RedLine Publishing Services and commented:
    What a shame we live in an age where a fair and reasonable response should be given and is ignored. Good one Amazon.

    Like

  47. authorphotographertheatreperformer · July 7, 2015

    As a reader becomes a fan of a writer, they start following them, attend seminars, go to book signings, get themselves on mailing lists etc. At some point, the algorithms written for Amazon that decide whether you’re a stranger, a fan, a collegue, a family member, reach a critical moment… the scales tip and you’re no longer a stranger.

    Amazon wants genuinely unbiased and unsolicited reviews left on their site but to work properly the reviewer has have to have absolutely NO association with a book’s author at all, no links, no blog follows, no comments online anywhere. Once that connection begins, you become a fan and building up a bank of quantifiable chatter, you’re done! You’re not a stranger anymore. You can’t leave a review.

    I hope my ‘SEETHINGS’ on http://www.mfp.com.au/angelwanderer gets a clear run… but if there are too many followers, I’m stuffed because they’re stuffed when it comes to leaving reviews.

    Crazy. -Michael Forman

    Like

  48. familybest · July 7, 2015

    Why did you leave off the title of the book and the author’s name? It would seem that Amazon wants honest reviews and is trying their best to make that so. Normally, I would support you on the basis of free speech, but I at least applaud Amazon for their efforts, right or wrong, to give reader’s a review that they can trust.

    Like

    • imysantiago · July 7, 2015

      I did not supply the name of the book, or the author’s name as per their request. I wouldn’t have a problem sharing their name, but their concern is legitimate. They fear if their name becomes public, Amazon will revoke their right to publish their books on Amazon. It is a fact that if a reviewer attempts to review again, their book can be pulled. Scroll up all the comments and you will see how many people this has happened to. I am concerned that my books will be pulled from Amazon based on my inquiries alone. If you want to know the book title and author you are free to find it on Goodreads. But you’re missing the point. This isn’t about the review posting, or not. This is about a company monitoring your social media activity without your consent. This author and I have no association other than me finding their work on social media and me following them. That doesn’t mean we know each other personally.

      Like

      • Ann · July 7, 2015

        Consider publishing your reviews on your blog. I greatly prefer in-depth reviews on non-aggregated sites and tend to get most of my book recommendations via family/friends or by reading published book reviews. I’d subscribe to a blog that published high quality reviews if I felt my tastes were similar to the blog author’s.

        I never heard of your blog before today, but now I’m looking at older content and I’ll be looking specifically for book reviews.

        Like

  49. C. K. Crouch · July 7, 2015

    Reblogged this on C. K. Crouch.

    Like

  50. Pingback: Amazon… A virtual marketplace, or Big Brother? | ebirdblog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s