Over the past couple weeks Amazon has enacted a new policy for reviews posted on its site. This has resulted in a slew of older reviews getting culled and new reviews being blocked when posted, leading to screams of outrage from many quarters.
Many have commented on the story, most have approached it from entirely the wrong angle, and few have understood that the new policy is really nothing new. What follows is a short round up post which makes several simple arguments on this story.
Amazon changed their policies in part to squash authors taking part in scam review circles. You can find one example spotlighted over at The Passive Voice.
Unfortunately, the change in the policy required new algorithms to detect reviewer-author relationships. And as Gizmodo pointed out, real reviews have gotten caught in the algorithm and spat out with the scammers.
However, Gizmodo and and DBW are both wrong in viewing this change in relation to authors; the new policy was made to serve the interest of consumers, not authors.
Furthermore, Gizmodo is also wrong in saying that this is creepy; the algorithms and tracking Amazon now uses to watch authors and reviewers alike are not new.
Instead, as Teleread explained, Amazon was already using similar algorithms to detect relationships between customers and affiliates. And as Writers Beware explained when expanding on Teleread's post, Amazon has been working for several years now to combat fake reviews (including suing sellers of fake reviews).
That said, many authors, including Lori Otto, are correct in that authors are expected to build relationships with readers. That is SOP now, and if Amazon continues to fight against that then they will only end up hurting themselves.
The new policy is intended to serve consumers by making a better marketplace. Swatting readers for posting real reviews is by definition not a good thing, so Amazon is going to have to improve their ability to discern between an author-friend relationship and an author-consumer relationship.
image by Stijlfoto