That said, even I am a little perturbed by Amazon's latest Big Brother tactics over who can review what. Not only can they not explain their criteria, their reasoning is pretty antiquated in this day and age of intense reader/author interaction.
Didn't Amazon buy Goodreads? Did they not understand what they were buying?
Readers and authors are SUPPOSED to interact now days. We're supposed to mingle and socialize online. We're supposed to offer readers free copies of our books and encourage them to review.
And if you're online for any length of time, of course you're going to "know" some of your readers and reviewers. The more passionate people are about your work, the more likely it is you will begin to interact with them online because that's how this Brave New Publishing world of ours works now.
Readers now have access to authors (and vice versa) in ways that are unprecedented. This is no accident. This reader/author social network is what we're building through sites like Goodreads and even Facebook. Amazon is the great grand-pappy of these sites, so for Amazon to suddenly demand a hands-off policy is truly bizarre.
It's also counter-intuitive to Amazon's own self-interest given that gifting readers full-priced books in exchange for reviews (as opposed to just sending a free ARC) is one of the oldest means of hitting Amazon's bestseller lists with surprising sales and glowing reviews.
So on one hand, I'd like to see that shut down. NO CUTS IN THIS LINE.
But on the other hand, I also look at how many of us interact on social media here and on twitter and on FB. The more we interact, the more likely it is that you take the time and trouble to help me by posting reviews.
That's what loyal readers do.
Which is why Amazon's clamping down on this feels really peculiar.
The other problem with this crackdown is if you're an unknown author, you HAVE to resort to asking friends and family to review your work. Given the proliferation of crap cheap-and-free self-published books (and thank you, Amazon for creating the monster you're now ham-handedly trying to stuff back in the box) offering a free book to readers is no longer the treat it once was. I can see why newbie authors still have to play the acquaintance card.
I say "still" because that's how it ALWAYS worked on Amazon.
All this crackdown does is encourage people to turn to those pay-for-review sites where no possible connection can be found between reviewer and author. Is that really preferable?
I don't think so. It is desirable to have reviews from genuinely enthusiastic readers -- whether they hate or love a book, whether they interact online or have never "met" the author. Passion about books, however misguided, is a good thing.
And the rest of it is, frankly, not Amazon's business.
In fact, I would suggest Amazon stop worrying about fake reviews for $2.99 books and concentrate on fake reviews for big dollar items like TVs and so forth, which really IS a problem on the site --speaking as a consumer trying to sort through that plethora of products and all those bullshit reviews.
Anyway, I encourage you to sign this petition. At the very least Amazon needs to be accountable for their business practices. Enough with pulling the "proprietary business practices" card. Translation: consumers would be VERY angry if they knew what we were doing with their information.