The Necessity of a Better Review Policy on Amazon
There is no doubt that online reviews of a book have a very important impact on its sales specifically those published on famous online sellers (i.e. Amazon or Barnes & Noble).
From time to time I’ve received irrelevant reviews for my books on Amazon that should have had a bad impact on their reputation. For a long time, I didn’t care much about this stuff as I had the belief that we should keep all doors open for everyone to shout out his opinions freely, but recently Simone and I used to receive a very poor review for our recently published Beginning ASP.NET MVC 1.0 book on Amazon in which the reviewer had attacked to almost everyone from the authors and editors to other reviewers. What I witnessed made me think deeply about the necessity of a better moderation mechanism and strategy on some sites like Amazon.
At the moment Amazon allows everyone with at least one purchase to write reviews about everything and publishes such stuff automatically. They also have an inflexible communication system with companies and publishers, and rarely remove a problematic review for a product or book.
This couldn’t be a big deal unless you see that there is a very tight correlation between product ranking and reviews with the featuring system that imposes a huge impact from these votes and reviews on the sales and marketing for a book. Therefore, biased opinions from a small group of reviewers affects the hard-work of the book team for a long time.
For the specific case that we received for Beginning ASP.NET MVC 1.0, someone (almost unknown) had written some haphazard stuff without giving any logical reasoning and had attacked to other reviewers for their very positive reviews. After a few days and seeing some comments that had condemned him as well as the negative votes on appropriateness of that review, Wiley editors requested that they remove this review, and Amazon did that. Amazingly, in less than 24 hours the exact same guy reappeared, and published another review with the same vote again, then started to vote down to other reviews and completely damaged our book page on Amazon.
However, seeing this behavior and the weak system of Amazon, we decided to simply ignore this guy! Our book had received five 5-star reviews with a good explanation of reasons for these votes to that point and this review was very annoying. Both Simone and I along with our editors and other guys at Wrox worked hard for over a year to deliver the best work to the market and luckily we received a wide applause from the community and many prominent ASP.NET community leaders for our work. Of course, no one is perfect and there is much space for future improvements but seeing such a review was very disappointing for both of us.
Having these said, I have to say that the need for a better moderation system and administration strategy is a vital part of some sites like Amazon. While this current strategy is good, but it’s way far from a satisfactory point at least for myself.
As of negative reviews, I’ve seen some reviewers who leave negative stuff for the author photo or expand the quality of a single chapter to the whole work. Also I’ve read some reviews that complain about the leveling of the book while that specific title is apparently targeting a different audience and it’s been the reviewer’s fault to pick it up. There are many of these inappropriate reviews that have their influence on a book success but none of them is logically acceptable.
As of positive reviews, I also have seen many positive reviews coming out without a logical explanation of why this book is good. I’ve received some reviews on my books based on a single chapter. Even I received a 5-star review from someone who had praised the book only by reading the Introduction section where I had criticized Microsoft and he was excited about that!
You see that in either cases, these irrelevant reviews are changing the judgment of a new buyer and in my honest opinion they all should be disapproved by Amazon and similar sites.
I think that one of the best ways to resolve this issue is to only allow the buyers of a product to leave reviews for that work. At the moment, someone can borrow a book from his friend and leave a review on Amazon. Additionally, Amazon should allow the authors or publisher of a book to request a moderation on any review that appears to be inappropriate. Finally, they should define a good guideline and moderate the reviews based on that. Apparently, by referring to a rich guideline, they can disapprove some reviews that are simply saying that I’ve read the first chapter of this book and liked or disliked that.
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