An Open Letter To Amazon

Dear Amazon,

I know you’ve been paying close attention to the most recent flare-up about sock puppets and fake reviews. I know you feel badly about it, even though some people don’t think so. And I know you’d like to come up with some kind of solution. I don’t know what that solution is, but I think it’s time for you to step in.

The real issue isn’t fake reviews. It’s an author giving his or her competitor a one-star review on your website. As you know, when an author gets a one star review for a title, it brings down the average ranking for that title. That, in turn, makes the book less visible on Amazon, thanks to your algorithms which make possible the “also-boughts” and “recommendations.” That, in turn, affects sales of that title. So when a title’s ranking dips, there are very real economic consequences. For you (you’re not getting the sale)… as well as the author (who has been unfairly castigated).

If that castigation is the result of another author’s behavior, that (at least to me) is theft, and I wish you would treat it as such. Because, in the final analysis, author manifestos aside, you are the only ones who can control it. I’ve seen some suggestions about tracking ISPs, and other suggestions that I’m too computer illiterate to understand. But you do. You have the technical ability and the moral responsibility to make this practice go away.

My dear Amazon, it really is in your economic self-interest to act. The main value of your website (and I say this as someone who has benefitted greatly from your practices and hopes to continue doing so)  is the availability of consumer reviews which are used by your customers to make a purchasing decision. As a friend said, and I’m paraphrasing here, if those reviews are no longer of value, why shouldn’t a customer go someplace else to do their shopping?

I don’t want to see that happen, and I know you don’t either.


Libby Hellmann