In a particularly boneheaded move, Amazon.com decided to ban authors from leaving reviews on any books within any genres they themselves are published in. And they deleted any reviews authors had previously left.
Their reasoning is that authors “cannot be impartial” about other authors’ books because they are “competitors.”
I just . . . WHAT?
Yes, because authors never read and enjoy other books in their own genres. Come on! Authors are extreme consumers of books other than their own—particularly in their own genres! And they are probably (as far as anybody is) experts in their genres! They are the exact type of thoughtful reviewers Amazon’s review threads would benefit from!
And as to the “competitors” argument, please. Reading is not a zero sum game. This isn’t like buying a television or a refrigerator. People don’t pick one author in a genre to read and then think, “Oh, I’m good now! I’ve got a product I’m happy with!” No, they buy MORE BOOKS! In fact, I would even go so far as to say that one author’s success leads to greater success for other authors in her own genre—for instance, how many kids went out and looked for more wizard books after Harry Potter?
Hey, Amazon: Two books in the same genre are not in direct competition, because they are not the same book. Reading one doesn’t make a reader not want to read the other! The books are different products!
Also, this feels like one of those things that is a bizarre and infuriating solution to a non-problem. I mean, has this sort of author sockpuppeting happened outside of a few cases Amazon can quash manually? It seems unlikely. Personally, I like other authors. I like talking to them and supporting them. We answer each others’ questions and publicize each other and cheer for each other. It would never occur to me to tear down someone else’s book—plus, it doesn’t feel like something that would benefit me in the least even if it did occur to me.
But even if this is some sort of MASSIVE PROBLEM that Amazon CAN’T HANDLE on a case-by-case basis, why ban authors from leaving reviews? It seems like the much better system would be to allow authors to leave reviews but without accompanying star ratings—if Amazon is concerned the ratings are being gamed—and/or put author reviews in a different category, so that readers can click on a “see reviews by other authors in this genre” button. Heck, that’s the button I’d click on first.
- The only exception I can think of would be something like a textbook, or maybe other types of nonfiction—two introductory calculus textbooks would, sure, be in direct competition, and sometimes I’ve bought one nonfiction book instead of another one. But I can’t think of any time I’ve bought a fiction book instead of another one—usually I buy the books I want, and when I run out of my budget, I forcibly stop myself from looking any more; I don’t start putting some books back so I can buy “better” ones!↵