Amazon reviewer shenanigans

September 7, 2005

Amazon reviews are kind of silly. One has to wade through lots of cranks to get to a useful review, and even then it’s hard to put that much faith in a few sentences penned by a complete stranger (although I have been known to pen Amazon reviews, on occasion). Still, they undoubtedly do have an effect on sales and on peoples’ perceptions of particular books, so when instances of unfair play come to light it can piss people off – like when it was revealed that authors were pseudonymously reviewing their own books (scroll down). With these same concerns in mind, I reprint this email that I received from an eagle-eyed Millions reader today.

If you go to this page and scroll down to reviewer #235 (who calls him/herself “nyy”) you should notice that this reviewer has not reviewed any books. Zero. I emailed Amazon about it, and just got a canned reply about how their reviewers are rated. What do you think — a typo or a hack or something else?

I have no clue, and I’m sure Amazon would explain it away as a glitch, but it does make me wonder if the customer review system is completely on the level.

Update: The original New York Times article about authors reviewing their own books at Amazon.

created The Millions and is its publisher. He and his family live in New Jersey.

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