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Huh. I could have sworn we had a thread on Amazon.com's book reviews. Anyway, has anyone been following the latest dust-up? Starting with the NYT: "The Best Book Reviews Money can Buy"

Instead of trying to cajole others to review a client’s work, why not cut out the middleman and write the review himself? Then it would say exactly what the client wanted — that it was a terrific book. A shattering novel. A classic memoir. Will change your life. Lyrical and gripping, Stunning and compelling. Or words to that effect.

Among the clients? John Locke, the first self-published author to make the Amazon million-sellers club. [Although, to be fair, he didn't ask for positive reviews, just reviews]

Apparently, book reviews on Amazon have been getting a little screwy lately. Or, at least, more obviously so. And it ain't just the self-published guys that are getting in on the fake-review action. Stephen Leather, RJ Ellory, and Matt Lynn--all best-selling and traditionally published British authors--have been caught doing the same sort of thing, using sock puppets to puff up their own books or attack rivals. Quite a few people are upset by all this, as tends to happen when members of the noble class of authors are caught playing in the dirt. It's like the world of authorship has suddenly become the Wild West, with writers gunning for each other with a madcap frenzy that hasn't been seen since old Edgar Poe decided to singlehandedly destroy literary hackery with his poison-tipped pen.

Come to think of it, perhaps Poe is the patron saint of the fake review. Not that he ever did that sort of thing--to my knowledge--himself, but there's something suspiciously Poe-tic about the "editor's note" accompanying "The Raven," which calls the poem "one of the most felicitous specimens of unique rhyming which has for some time met our eye." Of course, Poe was a monstrous fraud (I mean that with the utmost respect); his sly alterations to the Tales version of "The Mystery of Marie Roget" (and those footnotes, in which he claims, with hardly a twinkle, that his conclusions were proved in every particular), his famous balloon hoax, "Diddling":

What constitutes the essence, the nare, the principle of diddling is,

in fact, peculiar to the class of creatures that wear coats and

pantaloons. A crow thieves; a fox cheats; a weasel outwits; a man

diddles. To diddle is his destiny. "Man was made to mourn," says the

poet. But not so: -- he was made to diddle. This is his aim -- his

object- his end. And for this reason when a man's diddled we say he's

"done."

If Poe had a computer--but it's useless to speculate. Perhaps he would be too proud to use a sock puppet; perhaps he would boldly log on under his own name and blast his rival, and praise himself, without resorting to subterfuge. Or maybe--just maybe--he would do both, as a triumphant example of the art of diddling.

No matter. I know this sort of thing is low, is mean, deserves nothing but scorn. I scorn Locke and Ellory and all the rest of these underhanded authors. A civilized reading public must not accept this sort of behavior. And yet--I can't help thinking that, in fifty years' time, in a hundred--readers who happen to find out about these fake reviews and sock puppets will regard them with a kind of awe, like gunslingers from a bygone age. The days of the Wild, Wild Net.

Real question, though: does anyone really pay attention to Amazon reviews? I might glance at 'em, myself, and if they're overwhelmingly negative [for reasons I can accept], I might be swayed. But as a rule, I assume that the people who give five stars are the sorts of people who would like the book anyway, people who give one star ditto-except-opposite, and if I'm trying to decide if I will like the book, that sort of information is worse than useless.

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I think the only time I've ever really paid attention to the reviews is when I'm buying hardware, e.g. accessories for my cell phone. I couldn't care less what Amazon reviewers have to say about books or movies (and the DVD reviews, in particular, are singularly unhelpful because the reviews under any DVD are likely to have been written about a *different* DVD that happened to contain the same movie, but has different bonus features and different formatting, etc.).

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(and the DVD reviews, in particular, are singularly unhelpful because the reviews under any DVD are likely to have been written about a *different* DVD that happened to contain the same movie, but has different bonus features and different formatting, etc.).

Yeah, Amazon really messed up by consolidating all versions of a book/movie onto one page. I guess it's easier for them, but it makes it hard to see which version the reviews are referring to. (Also, some reviewers seem to think that they're supposed to comment on the quality of their used copies, which leads to lots of one star reviews saying "Great product, but the seller shipped it four weeks late and when I got it, it was in 'acceptable' condition, not 'good' as promised.")

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I don't pay much attention to Amazon reviews for books. I may glance at them, and if some are overwhelmingly negative, I may decide to get the book at the library instead. I can always buy it later if I want. But, for the most part, if I'm going to look at reviews, I'm going to look at the 2, 3, & 4 star reviews.

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I use Amazon reviews extensively when buying DVDs, not for reviews of the movie—there are more reliable sources for that, and anyway the reviews are either skewed toward five-star fanboys or too polarized, with only people who either loved it or hated it bothering to review—but for information about DVD quality and formatting, etc. for films that have had multiple releases with non-trivial differences, information that it often takes a little looking to find elsewhere. It is inconvenient to have reviews of every version of a product dumped on the same page. Savvy reviewers note in the review which version they're referring to, but sometimes you have to do some detective work.

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I think the only time I've ever really paid attention to the reviews is when I'm buying hardware, e.g. accessories for my cell phone. I couldn't care less what Amazon reviewers have to say about books or movies (and the DVD reviews, in particular, are singularly unhelpful because the reviews under any DVD are likely to have been written about a *different* DVD that happened to contain the same movie, but has different bonus features and different formatting, etc.).

I've noticed people often go an make revisions to point out that they are talking about the DVD release only if I skim the reviwes of a blu-ray. Which is...you know, nice...but the fact that I cannot be sure a review is of the blu-ray when I am researching the blu-ray is a bit annoying.

Edited by Nezpop

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Laura Miller psychoanalyzes one-star reviews on Amazon:

 

If, however, I did fear, deep inside, that my inability to appreciate any celebrated book betrayed my complete intellectual and aesthetic inadequacy, I would probably be pretty angry. I’d feel the need to stick my oar in and announce that “The Adventures of Augie March” is actually a crap novel, that it is objectively boring and that the critics who praise it are charlatans. Even if I couldn’t explain exactly why I dislike it, I might want to register that dislike because somebody should be speaking out against this hoax being perpetrated on the public by the literary establishment. I’d resent that establishment and the snooty, Bellovian way it expresses itself, with fancy words like “crepuscular.” And I’d want everyone else who, like me, could see through this emperor’s new clothes to know that they are not alone, and get them to tell me I’m not alone. It’s usually those with the least faith in their own opinions who become the most outraged when the consensus does not agree with them.

 

 

--And Scott Esposito asks why this is a thing:

 

No doubt some of these reviews are written from an insecure place, but to psychoanalyze the whole lot based on, well, one or two sentences is a bit much. It’s all just a wee bit obsessive.

 

 

[That's pretty much the extent of his comments, though]

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Has anyone discovered one of those odd books available at Amazon, that have some of the funniest faux reviews attached to them?  The following are from How to Avoid Huge Ships - 2nd edition by John W. Trimmer.

 

 



Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7,276 of 7,447 people found the following review helpful
50stars.gif  A Parent's Review
By Noel D. Hill on February 20, 2011
Format: Paperback
As the father of two teenagers, I found this book invaluable. I'm sure other parents here can empathize when I say I shudder at the thought of the increasing presence of huge ships in the lives my children. I certainly remember the strain I caused so long ago for my own parents when I began experimenting with huge ships. The long inter-continental voyages that kept my mom and dad up all night with worry. Don't even get me started on the international protocols when transporting perishable cargo. To think, I was even younger than my kids are now! huge ships are everywhere and it doesn't help that the tv and movies make huge ships seem glamorous and cool. This book helped me really approach the subject of huge ships with my kids in an honest and non judgmental way. Because of the insights this book provided, I can sleep a little better and cope with the reality that I can't always be there to protect my kids from huge ships, especially as they become adults. I'm confident that my teens, when confronted by a huge ship, are much better prepared to make wiser decisions than I did. At the very least my children certainly know that they can always come to me if they have any concerns, questions or just need my support when it comes to the topic of huge ships.
 
 

5,819 of 6,016 people found the following review helpful
10stars.gif  TOO Informative.
By Dan on December 25, 2010
Format: Paperback
Read this book before going on vacation and I couldn't find my cruise liner in the port. Vacation ruined.
 
 

5,711 of 6,012 people found the following review helpful
50stars.gif  Reads like a whodunnit!
By Citizenfitz on December 21, 2010
Format: Paperback
I bought How to Avoid Huge Ships as a companion to Captain Trimmer's other excellent titles: How to Avoid a Train, and How to Avoid the Empire State Building. These books are fast paced, well written and the hard won knowledge found in them is as inspirational as it is informational. After reading them I haven't been hit by anything bigger than a diesel bus. Thanks captain!
 
 

519 of 550 people found the following review helpful
50stars.gif  This book is invaluable!
By Roger on August 21, 2013
Format: Paperback
When on my jet ski in the Chesapeake bay this summer I was confronted by a huge ship moving up the channel. You can imagine my horror when I realized I had only 1 hour and 45 minutes or so before the lumbering behemoth was sure to pass through my area. With no place to hide and only a water jet propelled small craft beneath me for transport, I quickly withdrew my Kindle Fire from the storage compartment beneath my seat and preceded to read the book How To Avoid Huge Ships. One hour later and with only 45 minutes to spare, I implemented the expert advice provided by the author and turned my jet ski in the opposite direction of the huge ship to avoid certain disaster.
 
 

105 of 107 people found the following review helpful
10stars.gif  WHY NO KINDLE EDITION??????
By Jim Henley on December 26, 2013
Format: Paperback
Given that there is a huge ship bearing down on me RIGHT NOW I am extremely disappointed that I cannot get inst
 

 

 

 

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Not strictly related, but where else would I put it? Great Blurbs in History.

 

THE PRINCE, by Niccolò Machiavelli

“Unputdownable. If this rip-roaring, gob-smacking, take-me-with-you-to-the-Palazzo-Vecchio gem doesn’t start the field of political science, I seriously don’t know what will.”

–Lorenzo de Medici (during TED talk)

 

 

THE METAMORPHOSIS, by Franz Kafka

“Kafkaesque.”

–George Orwell

 

NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR, By George Orwell

“Orwellian.”

–Franz Kafka

 

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