A couple of weeks ago I read the third installment of a series I really loved. I will refrain from sharing the name of the novel and its author.
Like any reader, as soon as I finished reading, I wrote my review. When I tried posting it on Amazon (I did buy the eBook, just like any normal and decent human being would), I received a rather concerning email.
I will not share the screenshot of the email as it does contain the title of the book and name of the author. In its place I have copied the body of the email below.
Dear Amazon Customer,
Thanks for submitting a customer review on Amazon. Your review could not be posted to the website in its current form. While we appreciate your time and comments, reviews must adhere to the following guidelines: http://www.amazon.com/review-guidelines
Here I was, thinking I had included an expletive, or mentioned a brand name within the review. I went back and cross-referenced it against the review I posted on Amazon’s sister site Goodreads, and didn’t see anything wrong with it. I tried to upload it again. Immediately, I received the below message.
Sorry. You’re not eligible to review this product. For more information, read the Customer Review Guidelines.
I thought for a minute, and figured maybe there was an issue with their website… So I tried to input a review for another book by another author, and received the same system message I shared above.
I wrote an inquiry to Amazon regarding the issue. To my surprise, this is the message I received the following day.
We cannot post your Customer Review for (book title deleted) by (author name deleted) to the Amazon website because your account activity indicates that you know the author.
We encourage family and friends to share their enthusiasm for the book through our Customer Discussions feature or Editorial Reviews feature. To start a Customer Discussion visit the Meet Our Authors forum and enter your discussion title in the Start a new discussion box. You’ll find the forum here: http://www.amazon.com/forum/meet%20our%20authors/&cdForum=Fx2UYC1FC06SU8S
To have your Editorial Review posted to the detail page, e-mail it directly to the author so they can add it for you.
If you believe you’re eligible to write a Customer Review for this book, send additional details to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We hope to see you again soon.
At this point I am dumbstruck. “I know the author.” That is quite an erroneous and quite presumptous assessment, so I went through the painstaking process of escalating the issue to their Review Appeals Department. At this point, I’m pretty upset.
I am appalled with your recent email message stating a review I wrote could not be posted because my “online activity suggests I know the author.” (Online purchase: X by X eBook.)
This response is ludicrous. I am a writer and published author. I understand the Indie Community is a small one, and among our circles, rubbing elbows with peers is not an uncommon occurrence. I am also a blogger and reviewer who also buys books. When I’m not writing, I am reading and reviewing. My reviews are one hundred percent unbiased, regardless if I have rubbed elbows with peers online. I would like to know who is providing you the information that suggests I may know the author.
That’s a two-edged sword; knowing of an author online, and personally knowing an author in real life are two different things. By your definition it would mean that bloggers such as myself are being barred from reviewing books they legitimately purchased, which in turn contravenes with the notion that reviews for a verified purchase are highly encouraged.
I am left speechless as I don’t know any authors on a level you are suggesting. I merely follow authors on Social Media: Twitter, Facebook, Google+, tsu, and on your partner site Goodreads. I interact with these authors during takeover events. I am an avid reader and I buy my books like anyone else does.
Your claims are unfounded, and as a paying consumer, I demand my review be posted. It is unfair to the authors whose work I love, to be punished for a claim that simply cannot stand. I don’t know any authors on a personal level.
Expecting your prompt response,
(Amazon user: email@example.com)
Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPhone
I was hoping for a better outcome. It took them a week to answer back. To my dismay, this below screenshot is the response I received today.
Amazon has crossed the line.
I pay for my eBooks. I take the time to read and review books I love. The Big Brother mentality Amazon is employing is appalling, and crosses an ethical line of unfathomable proportions. They are not God, and are censoring my passion for the written word. Because of them, I will not be allowed to write and post any further reviews on their site, regardless if I paid, or not. It is a disservice to readers, and a back-handed slap in the face of all authors across the board.
What quantifiable and verifiable ways is Amazon using to determine if I know the author of a book, or not? The fact that they refuse to elaborate as to how I “know the author personally” is highly concerning.
This is what happens when you are a published writer, and write reviews for the books you paid for.
This is wrong, and it has to stop.
It is censorship at its finest. I have interacted with a couple hundred authors over the past year; from events to signings, authors and writers rub elbows during networking sessions. This does NOT mean I know you personally. Knowing someone personally is bearing knowledge about them, from say… their favorite color to their social status.
Amazon, you have spat in the face of those authors and writers whose work deserve praise and recognition. I am shocked and appalled. At this time, I will discontinue writing peer reviews. I will complete my list of pending reviews, and will cease from posting them on Amazon.
I’m truly sorry, but my wings have been clipped.
Don’t hate me for it.
Blame Amazon for their questionable business practices.
Feel free to post your comments below. I’m eager to read your thoughts.
Please share this blog post if you think this business practice is unfair.