Can we talk about Kindle eBooks, Amazon and Astroturfing?

The cost for the reader here is a little of research. Go into a reading community and ask what’s has been released lately and it’s good, go into a scifi forum and ask for scifi if you want that, etc; and avoid the Amazon reviews.

But the promise of Kindle was supposed to be browsing for new books to read directly on the device, where ever you happen to be to have them delivered instantly via wifi or 3G in seconds. A lot of that magic disappears when the store is jam packed with self-published garbage and unreliable reviews forcing readers to slowly wade through the morass in search of gems buried in the mud.

Eh. I have an old first or second gen Kindle and have never enjoyed the browsing experience much. The sweet spot is sending samples to the kindle from a browser on my PC/phone.

That may be what Amazon originally imagined as the promise, but the on-device browsing experience has always been terrible.

I don’t think that was ever the promise. It’s not hard to browse for books, if you’ve got some idea of where to start from. But you can’t just expect to walk into the huge world of books and magically end up with a brilliant novel.

This doesn’t have a lot to do with self-publishing; The Da Vinci Code was one of the great best-sellers of all time. If you believe reader votes, Ayn Rand is the great writer of the 20th century. For that matter, Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale gets very good reviews, and I happen to think it is very good, but if you’re looking for, say, the next Lord of the Rings, it’s not going to appeal.

I think a lot of people thought browsing on the Kindle would be like browsing at the bookstore. Walk in, go to the category/section you want and see the titles of all the books companies are willing to bet money on. And it is, minus the part about the money filter. With Kindle, you now get any book that anyone is willing to release - with varying levels of pre-production. At a bookstore, you can generally count on each book having been through an editor, a spell checker, and more (though I’ve got many books by reputable authors and publishing houses with terrible spelling and grammar errors). With Kindle, some of the books are going to almost literally be first drafts.

I’ve got to say, it’s never once occurred to me to buy or even borrow a book based solely on Amazon reviews. Why on earth would you do that?

In the ebook world, it can be a handy tool to week out the crap, as mentioned before. When a book is $.99 I might be tempted to overlook generic cover art and an unknown author just in case I find a diamond in the rough, but there’s usually someone who can save me the time and dollar.

In the ebook world, it can be a handy tool to week out the crap, as mentioned before.

As can reading proper reviews by critics, or, say, asking people on a sci-fi/fantasy forum. I dunno, I’ve always got a massive backlog of “proper” books to read, so I can’t say I’m ever tempted to pick up something I’ve never heard of just because it’s 99p.

Reviews can be handy for zeroing in on a title, but I’d never buy blindly based on reviews of a writer I’m not familiar with.

Anyway, Amazon has been removing reviews so they are trying to address the issue, perceived or real, of dishonest reviews. I think the problem is a bit overstated. Very few books are getting hundreds of fake reviews. Any book with that many reviews is probably getting mostly legit reviews.

Sure, but last year I read 158 books, at $10 a go thats a lot of money, I have no issue buying books by unknown authors at cheap prices, there just aren’t enough favourite authors to keep me having a back log. A book every year or 18 months per author means I need choice.

Also why not pick up books by authors you have never heard of, otherwise we are left with a lack of choice, more authors is better, of course weeding out crap is essential but one man’s crap is anothers favourite.

Also what exactly is a proper book?

I put proper in square quotes for a reason. I wasn’t meaning to imply any necessary quality distinction - merely that they are books of known provenance, for want of a better description. They’re from major publishers, and/or I’ve read a review in the LRB/NYRB or a newspaper, and/or they’ve been recommended by family or a friend or blogger or podcaster I trust, etc. As opposed to something random, possibly self-published, that shows up on Amazon.

Also why not pick up books by authors you have never heard of, otherwise we are left with a lack of choice, more authors is better, of course weeding out crap is essential but one man’s crap is anothers favourite.

I read plenty of books by authors I’ve never heard of, but it’s very rare I’ll buy a book I’ve never heard of. I read a lot of book reviews and they provide me with plenty of chocices. Generally I’ll only buy a book blind from an author I’m very familiar with. For instance I bought the latest Iain M Banks book on spec as soon as I found out it had been published.

Sure, but last year I read 158 books, at $10 a go thats a lot of money, I have no issue buying books by unknown authors at cheap prices, there just aren’t enough favourite authors to keep me having a back log.

Fair enough, but if you’re reading 158 books a year, a library might be a more sensible choice than purchases. And even so, there are far better ways of picking a book than Amazon reviews. Find a community of like-minded readers and get their opinions. Like I say, my main beef here is with the idea of basing reading decisions on Amazon reviews, not with the books themselves.

Amazon has come back with a vengeance against the paid for reviews, so much so that I have removed many of my small press and or self-published reviews over the last few months. If they suspect you are reviewing books by peers or family members (I’m an author) they have been removing reviewing privileges. Normally I would stay at it and just thumb my nose but I’m part of the amazon vine program and get free stuff to review each month.

My friend (also an author) had her reviewing privileges revoked and they wouldn’t even consider reinstating them no matter how much she pled her case. She was not paid to do reviews but she did review peer books and I guess that’s what caused her to get flagged.

Getting reviews is HARD. I mean it’s ridiculously hard. I know it’s easy to say “200 reviews, must be friends and family” but trust me, it’s not. My best selling book has 79 reviews on Amazon with a 4 star average. 83 on Barnes and Noble with a 4 1/2 star average, and 162 ratings on good reads with a 3.96 average. I didn’t beg, pay, or coerce anyone into reviewing this book, it’s just proportionate to book sales. The more a book sells the more reviews it gets.

My newest book only has 15 reviews on Amazon and sales have been shitty (although it does well on audio - weirdly enough). But sales suck, and rightly so, because it doesn’t have many reviews.

I have read a few articles on paying for reviews but I’m really quite shocked at the website that was posted by the OP. It’s just blatantly out there - pay for reviews, $5 a pop.

BTW I don’t know anything about the book that brought this thread up but I do want to agree with others. One man’s crap is another man’s literary treasure.

Now i want to look your books up, names?

I’m uk based and librarys are very thin on the ground and especially on sci fi and horror. But even worse I don’t drive so getting to them is even harder.

Right now i’m reading a book called Rain by Craig Saunders, never heard of Craig or any of his books but bought 2 of them and enjoyed the first and am halfway through the second.

I just can’t get annoyed if I buy a book for $1 and it’s crap, i move on it’s the same cost as a weekend newspaper.

Sure but I’m not really here to promote my books. Still - if you ask.

My best seller is Among the Living - the sequel is coming out in a week or two. My latest, but poor selling is Beyond the Barriers. Sorry, they are zombie books <groan>.

Yeah, I’m sure it’s a struggle going the honest route, but I do suspect even the unscrupulous authors who don’t actually pay for reviews are at least getting their “friends and family” networks to create multiple accounts for posting positive reviews. If you linked to your book here and some of us read and liked it and posted reviews to that effect that’s fine. But if you said, “hey guys, this is my book. It would really help me out if you reviewed it as many times as you can to improve the rating average and boost my exposure.” that is dirty pool. Even if people are doing because they think they are reacting to unfair negative reviews, that would be dirty. Paying for reviews is straight up fraudulent.

Also, the book I mentioned in the OP is really bad. Not incomprehensible, but utterly without reason to exist. I’ll allow that there is probably some number of uncritical reviews from people with no taste, or who don’t want to say anything bad about a book they may have gotten during a free weekend or something and were just glad there wasn’t any explicit sex.

Wait, what? Really?

There are a surprising number of reviews that are mostly concerned with the amount of sex and swearing in a given eBook. And giving away a book for a time is a pretty common tactic to drum up interest in the self-published arena.

I doubt writers are urging friends and family to create multiple accounts for review purposes. Do friends and family review? I’m sure that happens. Some may even of their own accord create an extra account and review, but I don’t think there are many writers actively encouraging it.