Amazon Adventures in Asshattery

A Reader's Respite has about three or four book reviews that we should be writing.

Instead, we're sitting here thinking about all the asshattery that goes on at

For those of you wondering what an asshat is....well, we feel it's pretty self-explanatory, but in general it refers to one who's head is so far up their rear that it could pass for a hat.

Like this:

For those who don't submit book reviews over at Amazon, allow us to give you the run-down:

Anyone can write a book review for Amazon. Other Amazon customers who read reviews can choose, if they like, to vote on reviews. A review is either "helpful" or "not helpful."

Amazon then uses some ridiculously complicated formula to then rank reviewers based upon the number of reviews they've written, the number of "helpful" or "not helpful" votes, and the current alignment of the stars in the sky.

Now A Reader's Respite is still not sure what exactly benefits there are to a high reviewer ranking. Allegedly, reviewers with a high ranking are invited to participate in Amazon's version of Early Reviewers, which like LibraryThing, sends out advance reader's copies of new books for review. But aside from that, there don't seem to be any prizes, discounts or other incentives to participate.

And yet, some Amazon reviewers seem to take this whole ranking thing quite seriously. So much so that there are roaming packs of rabid reviewers who spend all day voting "not helpful" to every other reviewer in a pathetic attempt to raise their own rating.

Scary Amazon Reviewer

Then we have the maniacal "don't you dare give my favorite author a negative review" faction. Look out, these are some real loonies. If you dare to give their favorite author anything less than a five-star review, these nut-jobs find every review you've ever written and cast their all-powerful "not helpful" votes in some weird attempt to punish you.

Dave over at Read Street recently lured this faction out of Amazon when he posted about the Stephanie Meyer versus Stephen King smackdown. (Funny stuff if you haven't yet seen the comments on his post.)

Careful...they will attack

But the strangest of all creatures lurking about over at Amazon are the authors who feel that the Amazon reviews of their latest novel is the force that keeps the world spinning. Whatever you do, DO NOT offend these creatures. They will attempt to have you banned from Amazon altogether for the crime of having an opinion.

The problem over there seems to be the cloak of anonymity people are allowed. There is no accountability and it's easy for people to sign up for multiple and fraudulent accounts. Ergo, there is a lot of asshattery going on.

Now we know you were reading with baited breath for some big scandal going on over at Amazon.

But I'm not sharing.

Not because A Reader's Respite is noble and above the fray. But because we'd rather a couple of certain historical fiction authors not target this blog or blow up our house.


So do you even bother with Amazon anymore? Do you use the reviews when making a purchase?

And perhaps most importantly, when are people going to grow up?


  1. I've had authors ask me to post a review on amazon, so I do post some reviews there. I don't trust reviews on amazon, though - if I want to read reviews, I go to Library Thing.

  2. I post reviews on Amazon, though I haven't been doing it very long so I don't put a lot of stock into my ranking. I also read reviews on Amazon, but I've got a pretty good sense of what's authentic, what's overdone, and who's just being snobby.

    Though I do love to hear about a good internet fight :-)

  3. Amazon is a scary place. I think it matters too much to some people, as you say so well. I do my best to ignore it and only post reviews there for books that need them or when I've been asked to.

  4. I do not post reviews on Amazon, nor do I give a rat's petutie about the reviews that exist there. If I am on Amazon to buy a book, I've already made up my mind. These sociopath, VIP wannabes need to pull their heads out of their bums and get a freakin' life!

  5. A+ on the accompanying images.

    I pretty much ignore amazon these days. Every once in awhile I'll order a book, but I usually give my business to other online giant (because I have their discount cards). I also try to give Powell's some love, but my gawd, their shipping is stuck in the dark ages. I think my books are delivered by way of North Korea.

    I've never posted a review on any of the bookstore sites. And I only read them when I'm really bored and looking for something to amuse me. I got tired of seeing Harriet K. everywhere I went!

  6. Kathy - I'm with you on the LT bit. Much more reliable reviews, IMO.

    Jaime - good internet fights occur in the comments that accompany the reviews. ;)

    Meghan - that's nice that you look for books that need reviews on Amazon...I like that course of action.

    Sandy - well put!

    Softdrink - I agree re: Powell's. I'd love to give them more online business, but....

    They're only 3 hours away from me and I love making the occasional road trip down to Powell's.

  7. I don't do very much on Amazon. I've never posted a review and I rarely buy. I don't put much stock in their reviews either. And let me add "What Sandy said!" And I could also ditto Softdrink. So there -- you all said it first and better!

  8. I take very few reviews seriously, including my own. When it comes to Amazon, I'm actually more interested in the 1- or 2-star reviews, because sometimes what they object to is something I actually like in a book. If all the super-low ranked reviews are just silliness or intellectual snobbery, then I figure I can dismiss them. :-) In all honesty, the mass majority of my reading choices are based on the book description, not reviews.


  9. Wow! I've just started posting my reviews on Amazon because I do like reading what others have to say so I felt that I should now that I've been taking the time to actually write reviews and not just in my head. So far, I don't know if anything like this has happened to me ... I haven't actually checked what people have said about my reviews yet. Kind of weird that people would get all crazy about it and stuff. Very interesting.

    And I hope you remain safe from the crazy historical fiction author!

  10. I detest amazon. I've never bought a book or music from it ("it" like the Stephen King monster). I can only imagine the nuts & misfits who derive their sense of place in the world from the rankings of their reviews. You are too good for amazon, Michele.

    If I order books online it's from Powell's. I heart Powell's.

  11. I've pretty much given up on Amazon. I never read reviews posted there and only post my own reviews there if asked to do so by the author/publisher.

    When ordering books I search out the lowest price using . Usually the best deal is at Abebooks or Alibris. Very occasionally Amazon has the best deal so once in a while I do order from them.

    I rely on blogland for my book recommendations! :)


  12. I haven't posted a review on Amazon in ages. I'm gonna borrow your word though!

  13. Uh...I just recently read an article a historical fiction author wrote about Amazon and reviews....I wonder if it's all related.

  14. It's interesting to read the responses because I'm amazed at how similar I feel.

    There's only one person's reviews that I look for on Amazon and it's because she doesn't have a blog and I respect her opinion of a novel. She also participates on Historical Fiction Online, so I can always get her take on a book there, too.

  15. The weird thing is.... this thing that is happening in the photo, this actually happened to me once.
    But it was accidental.

  16. Thanks for visiting my blog Michele and thanks for giving me a laugh when laughs in Australia at the moment are a little thin on the ground.

    I laughed out loud at your post, even though I know it is a deadly serious subject on Amazon and worthy of a lynching if you offend one of the 'wannabe' power moguls that frequent the site...SCARY

    I used to buy from Amazon but now if I can't get something in Australia I buy from the Book Depository in UK (cause it has free postage) or Fishpond in NZ because they sometimes have good postage deals LOL.

    I never trust the reviews on Amazon, if I want to an opinion on a book, I check out Goodreads or someone's blog I trust for an honest, unsolicited opinion.

  17. That photo reminds me of this week's episode of Nip/Tuck...but that is another story.

    As to Amazon...
    I have posted reviews there in the past and will do so if an author requests it. I assume they think it gives a larger readership to the review.
    But otherwise, I am less and less likely to post there. I don't like the reviews and I don't trust the reviews. It has been obvious something 'funny' goes on with them there. For reviews and a general rating of a book, I go to Library Thing.

    Funny though, for products, I will read the reviews, especially the negative ones, to check out possible 'issues'. Not sure I still trust them, but it is all information to add to the decision making process.

    But I will admit, head hung in shame, that I do buy books, new and used, from the Mighty, All Knowing Amazon.

  18. I totally agree with you. Amazon reviews are really good for some entertainment. It's fun reading people fighting over books. Somewhere I read that there is a girl who has posted 8000 reviews on Amazon and mostly it doesn't seam like she has actually read the books. Wonder why she does it...

  19. I guess I'm the minority here, but I do use Amazon and I do write reviews there. In fact, it's the only place where I write reviews. My blog is for discussing books as a general topic, not reviewing...

    I understand, though, what you mean about the stupidity of a number of reviewers. There are, in fact, a lot of dumb people there but for me it often helps to read other people's opinions, whether or not they mesh with my own. If I'm debating whether or not to buy a specific book, I won't start googling every book blog to see if someone reviewed it there. Most Amazon reviewers are sincere and once you've been there for a while, you start to know which to ignore and which to pay attention to. My method is look at the negative reviews first. If a person can logically explain reasons for disliking a book, I'll accept their points. If all I find is rambling, I'll ignore them. Then I'll look at the positive reviews. Once again, if someone pleads their case calmly and intelligibly, I'll listen.

    I'm not very high ranked (that is... my ranking number is in the thousands, my position low...) but I'm a member of the Vine program. I'm not fully sure why - I agree that people often run around screaming "unhelpful" in regards to reviews they disagree with. But I don't care. I write reviews in case someone else reads it and finds my opinion helpful. I think it's much better to have it there in a centralized, organized location instead of spaced out description-summary reviews on people's blogs.

    I agree that many reviewers are silly. Many are immature. I was not aware that one could get banned from writing reviews unless the review was blatantly bad (I've read the code of honor too many times...) and that's a troubling notion, but I've learned this - ignore it. So what? I've got a low ranking, but I don't care. I get ARCs probably because I've been with Amazon for so long (since before my spelling was as lovely as it is today...) and have written so much for them that they consider me special (I think I'm supposed to smile now...). I've also had an author respond coldly to my review (oddly enough, I praised the book to the sky... I just said one part was fairly ridiculous and she responded condescendingly and chilly). I am surprised that so many disregard Amazon so quickly, though. I believe I'm a 100% sincere reviewer (I have an honest internet face, no?) and I sincerely believe most reviewers are sincere. It's not all that different from writing reviews on a blog, except it's more convenient. I just want to remind you that we're not all crazy over there. The crazy minorities just have a tendency to be louder than the sane majority.

    Wow, this is long... Anyways, regardless of the helpful/unhelpful votes, I write the reviews for readers like me who are in search of good books. I do believe that most reviewers are sincere. It's a pity that the angry few must ruin it for you.

  20. Michelle, thanks for posting this.

    Amy, do you have a link to the article you mentioned? I'd love to read it.

    Lezlie, after a couple of serious book burns I've learned to heed those one and two star reviews. Not every book is for every person and it's helpful to see a differing opinion.

    As to how these authors thought they could get a reviewer banned from Amazon? That's an interesting question. I'm a long time Amazon junkie and I've seen many a person get banned from posting comments for bad behaviour and/or breaking Ammie's rules. I've seen people lose their ranking for cheating/vote manipulation and such, but never - even with one of the most notorious negative voting trollette in Ammie's history have they stopped someone from writing reviews. Amazon needs reviews to sell product - that's what they're in the business of after all.

  21. This sort of nonsense is why I've never posted a review on Amazon. I don't read them (at least for books), either, although I will for DVDs and other products.

  22. Banned from Amazon?!?

    How exactly would that happen? No, there's no banning of either author nor reviewer--regardless of the quality of their work.

    And as for the Amazon Vine... a little investigation would show that rank has ZERO to do with who is chosen. There are people who had written only 3 reviews before being asked to join.

    Ranking?!? Well, even Amazon has to admit that they royally screwed up their algorithm. But none-the-less it serves to sell millions of books, so I suppose it works for them.

    ME... I find that there's a certain skill involved in parsing and using Amazon (or even Target and LL Bean) reviews. All reviews not being equal.

    Interesting post.

  23. LOL, I love this. I am definitely going to blog about this today.

  24. I read the reviews more to get a feel for a book's content than to make a buying decision, though if all of the negative reviewers are making similar points (as with Philippa Gregory's latest), they might influence me not to buy a book. But I'm a hopeless book junkie, and it really takes a lot to make me not buy a book. Family interventions have failed.

    I do post reviews on Amazon, but because of the shenanigans you mention, I avoid posting negative reviews these days unless the authors are safely dead (and even then you can't be sure there's not a posse out there).

    Authors really need to realize how self-defeating such tactics are. There are people whose books I would never read, much less review, because I know that if I gave them a less than five-star gushing review, I'd never hear the end of it.

  25. Wow! I didn't realize how Amazon reviews actually worked. I have read many reviews on Amazon, mostly so I can share some of those comments with my bookclub gals. I haven't posted any reviews myself, but I just had an author suggest that to timely! I don't think I will considering it now...I really don't need any more grief in my life!

  26. I would have to agree that I find LT reviews more reliable. I use Amazon as an easy way to get all of the info (like ISBN, publisher, publication date, page count) for my reviews.

    When I go to a book on amazon and look at the reviewers who are rating it, a big red flag goes up for me if that book is the only book they have reviewed on Amazon. Then I know that (especially in the case of self-published books) those reviewers are probably friends and relatives of the author and their reviews are suspect.

    I also ran across a reviewer the other day on Amazon who must have had 1000 reviews (I didn't stop to look at them all) but every single review I looked at (pages and pages of them) all had five star ratings. The reviewer just cut and pasted a summary of each book and then gave them a five star rating. Like I'm going to trust those reviews!

    I have posted reviews on Amazon in the past, and I've fallen behind on posting my reviews there this year because I've been so busy. Who has so much time on their hands that they can spend all day ranking everyone else's reviews as unhelpful? What a waste of time!

  27. Michele, thanks for bringing such dark practices into the light. Too bad you didn't become an investigative reporter instead of a pilot! I don't pay much attention to Amazon reviews; in the online world I'd much rather take the word of bloggers whom I respect. From my experience with the King/Meyer controversy, I can see how passion and loyalty can get in the way of logic in some reviews; bloggers provide a more level-headed approach.

  28. Boy, apparently some people have way too much time on their hands. And they're way too obsessed with their ranking.

    I only posted one review on Amazon and that was back when I first starting reviewing. A self-published author asked me to post my review over there, so I did to be helpful. I haven't posted anything there since.

    Diary of an Eccentric

  29. see, if people hesitate to post a negative review on Amazon, for any number of reasons, then what use are the ratings and reviews there?

    no...I will look elsewhere.
    and then buy it on

  30. I don't use Amazon reviews as a basis for buying books, but I do use them for such things as cameras. People who write them seem more sincere.

    Morgan Mandel

  31. Cip - ha! Nice levity...

    Teddy - thoughts and prayers are with you all. The horrors of a natural disaster on that kind of a scale are impossible to convey thru articles or photos. Stay safe and know you all are in our thoughts.

    Caite - I go for the product reviews, as well. They've saved me from buying a crappy product more than once! And yes, I buy books there, too.

    Violet - I never understood the people who just post a synopsis over there. What about the review part??

    Anonymous Child - up until recently, I always cross-posted my reviews there, so you're not the only one. I'm not highly ranked either, but then again, that's never been my goal. I think there are more of us "honorable" reviewers out there than is initially apparent. It's my understanding that these "problems" pop up more often in the romance genre, and since that's not my thing, I don't see as many conflicts as I could. You can see how some of these "banning" things have played out in the past over at the site

    Anonymous - good points, certainly. The banned reviewers in question arose from threatened legal action by authors. Messy stuff and I'm sure Amazon wants to stay out of the lawsuit stuff.

    Pam - again, you can head over to dearauthor to investigate past stuff in this arena. I'll leave it at that.

    Dave - there are people far, far more well-versed than I am, LOL. I try to duck when they bring out the big guns.

    Writer's Life - ha ha...thanks for the link. Strange topic, I know, but I just blurt out whatever I'm thinking about (bad habit, really).

    I'm with y'all on the product reviews...they can be helpful and I love that feature. Books, though, are so subjective aren't they? Which would be fine if everyone would just stop taking everything so seriously!

  32. I find Amazon, at least as of recent years, to have become mired in 'review politics' and though I have perused the reviews on Amazon in the past and have ever only posted one review on there. Most of the reviews I have seen, seem almost placating and not very much truth or passion behind them. Just my opinion.

    Thanks for the chuckle and great pics!

  33. LOVE the post and pics!! I do post reviews on Amazon - just a copy paste thing of what I post on my blog, so it's quick and painless. I also check the reviews when looking/shopping for things, though if something sounds good, I will still purchase it, despite the reviews. Everyone has different tastes, so what a few may dislike, a few may love. I also look at reviews on other sites - Library Thing, Book Browse, Goodreads, etc.

  34. Pam - again, you can head over to dearauthor to investigate past stuff in this arena. I'll leave it at that.

    Michele...Don't know why I should go anywhere else to find out about Amazon. I've been reviewing there for 4 years, have written over 800 reviews, am apart of the Prospero/Amazon board (which is where the lit-crazed hang out) as well as LibraryThing, GoodReads, Shelfari, the Vine, and my own two blogs.

    Which is to say that I am pretty 'keyed' into the Amazon community and what's being said about it. I even have my own troll :]

    I know there are people that talk like they "know" what's going on, but usually I find their reports a little lame and salacious.

    But in any case, Amazon is what it is. A cross-section of society with millions of reviewers. It's got good people and bad people. People that play it straight and people that game the system. Same as Wall Street. Same as Facebook.

    You have to be shrewd in going to any of these places. Just as you have to be shrewed when you go to some 'blogger sites'. It's not so much true with book blogs, but there are a number of tech and how-to blogs that are fake. Heck that could be true with the book blogs. I'm no expert there. The thing is you get to know people and what they like. Then you read their reviews and get to know their tastes so you can make an informed decision. That's why I read you and BermudaOnion and Devourer of Books... amongst others. Len and Pris, the Dave's and Don at Amazon.

    ((Sorry me cold meds have made me chatty))

  35. I stopped writing and reading reviews from Amazon about a year ago. It's just so ridiculous over there!

  36. I don't post reviews on Amazon but I do go over there at least daily. Usually it's just to read the product description and the critics reviews. Sometimes I'll look at readers reviews but not all the time.

  37. Well, I never post reviews on Amazon (LibraryThing is my friend), but your post made me chuckle (not to mention the illustrations!!) and that's worth a lot, so THANKS!!

  38. The Amazon Vine shouldn't be compared to the Library Thing's Early Reviewer Program. I've been party to both and the Vine is way cooler.

    I post reviews on and have been shortly after I began blogging. I've heard of these discussion wars. It's no different than any other forum. I avoid stuff like that at all cost.

    About the ranks...

    I get there is a ranking, but have trouble mustering up enough emotion to care. That could come from knowing I'll never be in the high ranks for two reasons. I've never won a popularity contest and I can't read that many books. Even if I include my entire family, which I do, I could never post enough to make it to the top whatever list. ;)

    Love the Amazon's the coolest program out there. I am a huge fan of Amazon and it's been due to their customer service as well as prices. CS in Baton Rouge is a nightmare. I've been forced to turn away from shopping locally. The sales clerks are down right mean. I consider Amazon a blessing.

    Real sorry that vultures have descended on the site, but I don't spend social time there. So as long as the CS remains the same, I'm good.


  39. well said, j.kaye!

    what a great discussion this has turned into!

  40. J Kaye - I knew you'd have some good things to say on this one! Thanks for the Vine's good to have balance. But I'm with you....don't think it would be possible to care less about this ranking thing. ;)

  41. LOVE the visual on asshattery!

    My reviews post at my blog and LibraryThing. A few authors have asked me to post at amazon, but I've politely declined ... too much static over there for me.

    Yes, I'll scroll thru the reviews from time to time when I'm looking at a book, but more to get a general feel for the book, OVERALL opinions, etc.

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