As mentioned Monday, I found The Big Short discussion on 60 Minutes quite interesting. I went over to Amazon to check out the book — and was stunned at the very low review ratings for a book that had yet to be released.

At the time, there were but 7 reviews. I clicked through a few a One Star ratings, and saw some jackass had written the following:

“Watched the interview on 60 minutes last night could not wait to order the book this morning on my kindle. Your loss.”

My response to the dolt reviewer:

“The book isn’t even out yet — and because the publisher has yet to release the kindle edition, you give the book a 1 star rating? An author spends 2 years researching and writing — important enough of a subject that 60 Minutes does a piece on it. What sort of creep dismisses 2 years of someone’s work because their infantile demands could not be satisfied THIS SECOND?

There are now 77 reviews, and 41 are one star reviews for kindle related  issues. Most of these brain damaged eejits who won’t understand this, but Amazon sure as hell should:

Authors do not control when the Kindle version comes out any more than they do when the paperback is released. Publishers typically release a kindle version sometime AFTER the hardcover. My book, Bailout Nation, was released May 26, 2009, and the kindle edition came out sometime in the Fall . . . the paperback is due June 28, 2010.

As an author, you have precisely ZERO control over these dates.

Considering the 1 star ratings/complaints about the Kindle edition were posted BEFORE THE BOOK was even released, they are utterly absurd. Amazon needs to step up and delete these non-reviews of books. At the very least, they should not count in the book’s star ratings. (And as commentors have suggested, they should require a purchase prior to any reviews).

That’s the equivalent of giving a movie a bad review because the popcorn concession in the lobby was out of butter.

These pro-kindle, anti-author reviews are completely unfair to the writer. A review is supposed to be about the book, not the publishers format release schedule.

If Amazon wants to be a fair vendor of books, they need to delete these idiotic, pro-kindle, fan boy reviews. Is Amazon a fair arbiter of this, or has their mad kindle lust blinded them to what is right?

Hey Jeff Bezos !  Please show me my trust in Amazon is not misplaced! Fix these damned reviews

Category: Markets, Web/Tech

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

48 Responses to “Hey Bezos! Fix Your eejit Pro-kindle Anti-Author Book Reviews!”

  1. scharfy says:

    I shall second the motion.

    Many one star reviews of existing books are common due to the pricing of Kindle editions.

    Very common is Hey the Kindle in 18.99$. WTF? The Hardcover in 25.99 why the Kindle so much?

    I really don’t read Kindle reviews, so to speak, but they clutter things up and throw off the ratings results.

  2. The Window Washer says:

    How about charging MORE for the kindle edition at or before release. The watch the dataflow to make price changes. I bet everyone would like the margins on those early kindle sales.

  3. The Window Washer says:

    whoops

    Then watch the dataflow and make price changes.

  4. you know, in case Bezos needs some clarifyin’..

    eejit

    ee·jit [ jit ] (plural ee·jits) noun

    Definition:

    (Ireland) an offensive term that deliberately insults somebody’s intelligence or foresight ( informal insult )
    [Late 19th century. Representing a pronunciation of idiot]
    http://encarta.msn.com/dictionary_561504149/eejit.html
    ~~
    –that’s one way to commemorate St. Patrick’s Day~

  5. jgrabell says:

    This calls for a twitter-era solution: grass roots facebook campaign: “Vote Michael Lewis’ Book 4/4 on Amazon”. The anit-Wall Street crowd should be all over this.

    Outliers on both sides of irrationality should cancel out and we should find the true mean.

  6. scharfy says:

    On second thought, I am not so sure that these reviews should be censored.

    Yes the author has no control over such issues, but the publisher does have input with respect to this. The reviewers are reviewing the book in its entirety. Thus, even the condition of used books, kindle issues, and shipping problems have been known to generate one star reviews.

    I’m acknowledging the author’s plight, but censorship not the solution, even if well-intentioned.

    What would the king of open-sourcing issues, Google, do with this issue?

  7. spm says:

    The Big Short arrived at my house (from Amazon) yesterday – read it cover to cover yesterday afternoon and into the evening. I recommend it. Not much new from a macro perspective but Lewis is a great storyteller and this book is no exception — hopefully the fact that someone of his broad-based appeal addresses the criminal behavior that went on (and ripped them all off) will educate the masses to take some action.

  8. As I said, removing them from the star rating would be fine

  9. The Curmudgeon says:

    Google would give you the book free of charge, just so long as you clicked on half a dozen ads in the process.

    Amazon is definitely my favorite place to shop for books, and partly because of the reviews. But I don’t and won’t use Kindle, as long as real paper and ink is still around, so I just ignore the reviews based on technical difficulties or cry-baby Kindle fanatics. Most of the books I buy have been in print for years– I’m not much of a fad follower–so most of the review ratings haven’t been polluted by people that haven’t even read the book.

    I saw the 60 minutes piece on Lewis, and I bet his book is a dandy. But I’ll wait for the paperback.

  10. CardinalRam says:

    Don’t count on Amazon doing the smart or ethical thing.

    Look at how they are retaliating against Colorado for wanting to collect sales tax! Not by threatening a lawsuit, but by CANCELING all of their contracts with partners who reside in Colorado!

    “If you don’t do what I want, I’ll break the legs of any member of your family I can reach!”

    Talk about Racketeering….

  11. dc714 says:

    Agree with you 100% in principle but maybe not in practice. Two points: (1) Typically when a Kindle edition is to come out later than the hardcover, Amazon at least indicates that in the website. Here, there’s no indication that a Kindle edition will be available at all, any time in the future. (2) Michael Lewis is a big time writer at least in some circles. He’s got influence other authors don’t. If he wanted there to be no kindle edition, there would be no kindle edition. Don’t know this for a fact, but just my take. If Michael Lewis himself ordered the kibosh on any Kindle version of his book (and the fact that there isn’t even a link to pre-order a Kindle edition suggests this is the case), then the crime is arguably more egregious than you indicate.

  12. stevesliva says:

    I’m pretty sure that the weighting Amazon gives to reviews has a lot to do with whether others mark the review as “helpful” combined with the freshness of the review. So fear not too much.

    But I agree that online reviewers suck. I really hate similar reviews that are something like:

    “I love this product! It’s the best giblet I’ve ever owned! But I’m giving it one star because I got the wrong size and this site’s customer service sucks, and a product review is the most public forum available for me to whine…”

  13. Cleodus says:

    Just to clarify, Amazon’s fairness about their role as a vendor of books extends only as far as their desire for profits. In the short run, Amazon helps the book consumer (cheap books, easy to search/order), hurts the bad old book publisher (demands deep discounts, forces terrible return policies), and both helps/hurts the author (strokes the ego and makes book widely available, but kills royalties). In the long run, Amazon will do to publishing what Walmart is doing to small businesses.

  14. I agree. I noticed this same behavior on Samsung 3D TVs which had yet to be released. Multiple 1-2 Star “reviews” from people who had never seen the TV. Just jackass comments about the TV being too pricey and lack of current body of 3D content etc. I am sure Samsung will do fine but an author can lose 10′s of thousands of sales from having an initial poor review rating.

  15. Hisham says:

    The fix to this problem is relatively easy if Amazon choses to do it: allow feedback *0nly* by users who have purchased the book (or any other item sold on Amazon).

    Apple had the same problem when they launched AppStore: tons of bugs feedback, either excessively negative by morons or excessively cheerful by friends of the programmer. Now, you must have purchased the app before leaving feedback.

  16. Heretic says:

    I can see how bad reviews, especially over issues which the author does not control, can be annoying. But the reviews should stand. If Amazon takes steps to try to identify or remove these reviews, the fan boys just become more devious. It’s just too easy to write a plausible sounding bad review. As it is, the fake one star reviews are easy to identify and discount. In fact, for many experienced shoppers, the bad reviews are endorsements. I often read the one star reviews first: If morons hate something, it must be good …

  17. tude says:

    yet another reason Kindle (and e-readers) suck. No one bothers to think about the fact that they are made of soon to be thrown away electronics in China, they also are another way we seem to be spawning more and more “must have it now” and “must have it cheap” assholes.

  18. jdjed says:

    It is unfair to the authors. If Amazon didn’t have lousy customer service people wouldn’t vent via the reviews.

  19. GlennF says:

    Long ago, I ran part of Amazon’s operations dealing with information that appeared on book pages. One of my jobs was dealing with requests for the removal of unfair reviews. I favored the author and publisher, because most unfair reviews were obviously so.

    That was 13 years ago. I have no idea how Amazon handles the load today, but even a few years, I was able to email via an author program address (somewhere on the site, there’s an “Amazon for authors” section) and complain about a few reviews that were poor but reviewing something other than the book (like things not covered in the book that were, in fact, not in any way promised to be in the book). Those reviews were removed.

  20. franklin411 says:

    Life’s not fair, Barry. Well, more importantly, most people are morons, Barry. I’ll resist the temptation to point to the “tea partiers” as an example of the moron crowd lashing out at the nearest target (the Democrats) rather than the actual cause (The Republicans).

    Instead, I’ll point to education. In my years of teaching, I’ve gotten a handful of idiotic student evaluations. My favorites are the ones who criticized me because the professors’ lectures were boring, and the one who criticized me for making people talk in discussion class rather than simply giving them the answers outright.

  21. foxmuldar says:

    First let me say I won’t buy a kindle. But! I did download the online version of Kindle which is free. I’m not a traveler and reading a book on my 24 inch monitor at home is less of a strain on my eyes then reading it on a norml kindle. The price I pay for the kindle edition books are the same for the online kindle so why would I want to pay the $200 plus for a kindle.

    As for Amazon cutting business with Colorado, I have no problem with that. Afterall, any increase in costs to Amazon will eventually be passed on to us coustomers. And if you had the option to buy a product at two different stores. Wouldn’t you want to buy where its less expensive?

    And back to the online Kindle. Its free to download and even if you have the normal kindle, your books can be accessed on either version.

    I do have a grip on the cost of some kindle books. I guess it depends on how popular the book is or perhaps the publisher or writer doesn’t want the price to be much less on a kindle. I recently purchased the Quants from Amazon, and it was 9.99 if I remember. Thats a fair price for a good read.

    Amazon does have a place on the kindle books site where you can add your request to view a book on Kindle. I don’t know how much of an effect that really has in getting a book added to the kindle but I usually click on it anyway.

    Don’t bother thanking me for saving you hundreds of dollars by mentioning the online kindle version. You all probably got too much money to waste on bells and whistles.

  22. King Rat says:

    I fail to remember where in the constitution or bible or any document whatsoever that promises “fairness” in online reviews. If an author is a flaming idiot in person is good enough for me to avoid their books, even if the book is known to be decent. We’re allowed as people to consider whatever the hell we want when making reviews, even if it’s irrational. This explains Republicans. And if that means people will pitch a fit about a book because it doesn’t have Kindle, that’s fine by me. (as it is fine by me if authors want to pitch a fit over Amazon’s review system.)

    Amazon can certainly decide to restrict such reviews from appearing on their site, but why would they? It’s in their interest to steer people to Kindle formatted books, and this helps that goal. The flip side is it pisses authors off, but authors already love to hate Amazon. They want a non-monopolistic Amazon but want Amazon to continue carrying their books until that happens. Anyhow, what could authors do that will actually matter to Amazon to get this to happen? Zero. Unless it gets bad publicity or the customers revolt, there’s no incentive.

    And saying an author has zero control over whether a book appears in Kindle format is false. Author could have self-published and used Kindle format, but he/she chooses to make more money by publishing with a big publisher that decided to put out the Kindle format later if at all. There are no innocents.

    Sure, it’d be nice if Amazon played “fair” but you might as well get used to things not being fair.

  23. kaleberg says:

    I think the reviews should stand. It’s a substantive issue, like software or drivers not supporting the most recent operating system release. Also, they let you, the author, get an idea of how many sales your publisher is cheating YOU out of because they don’t feel like releasing the Kindle or Nook version, or they’ve mispriced it. Amazon is a marketplace. This is marketplace feedback. The NYSE doesn’t ignore stocks bought or sold because they can’t grok the investor logic.

  24. egockel says:

    think you’re behind on this one Barry
    http://kottke.org/10/03/the-new-rules-for-reviewing-media

  25. call me ahab says:

    explain to me BR the fascination w/ Kindle by anyone-

    beyond gay-

    and only fit for techno dorks- because a book is beyond improvement

  26. Mannwich says:

    Call me old fashioned but I won’t be buying a Kindle or an I-Pad any time soon regardless of how “cool” they might be. I prefer reading books the old fashioned way.

  27. Jack says:

    So I should buy/not buy a book based on Amazon ratings? Or go/not go to restaurant because of Zagat? Yelp? Trip Advisor?

    I should buy/sell/hold investments based on your (me included) comments?

    Mr. Ritholtz, I am sure that you and yours read the comments like these about your topics but I am hard pressed to understand why anyone would take action on those comments without further research.

    You’re bitching about a “star rating” from readers who may or may not have read the book, have an axe to grind, be a competitor, et fucking etcetera (Jonathon Gash, Lovejoy books).

    You are complaining to your own choir. Blogs rule. Lame thinking rules even more.

    I like reading your stuff. Your responders (posters?) are loud and unclear in giving opinions and facts and factoids.

    It’s fun. Fun. Lewis is good at what he does.

  28. Hantra says:

    Cardinal:

    You’re wrong about the Colorado sales tax deal.

    Same with NC. Basically, the state wants to collect sales tax for a sale that was not made in their state. THIS is what’s shady. NOT the fact that Amazon refused to be bullied into being double-taxed.

    If a user in Oregon clicks a link on BR’s site, and goes off to an Amazon server in California to buy a book, the user is responsible for paying sales tax on that book (in most states). BR is responsible for paying income tax on the referral fee from the click.

    Why do some states feel they can collect yet another tax on this transaction simply because BR lives in their state? Talk about racketeering.

  29. alfred e says:

    Except Oregon has no sales tax.

    A 9% income tax yes. But no sales tax. Ever wonder how Portland, OR retailers of big ticket items do so well. Except for cars.

  30. TripleB says:

    Eh, these days I get all my books and DVDs from the public library. Just queue up the online hold requests, and wait for an email saying it’s ready to pick up. Free and easy.

  31. @MEH

    eejit

    I thought that was the internet version

    @Barry

    I usually read the reviews to find out why someone has panned it. That is because people don’t always dis an author for the same reasons I would (my tastes being sometimes very different from mainstream) and often the amount of negative feedback is reason enough for me to buy it if the feedback is of a certain quality. It wouldn’t take me long to realize that the value of these negative ratings were useless for their purpose and I’d quickly move on to others. I also seldom buy a book or product without giving customer reviews a good solid going over even if I am already convinced that I want to buy the product.

    I hope other readers are the same. If it is the case then the kindle bashing reviews are going to have a smaller affect on sales than you fear. Except for kindle buyers of course :)

  32. donna says:

    You can also vote down the review as unhelpful, and help the reviewer develop a very poor Amazon reputation… ;^)

  33. hue says:

    these great reviews by the late Jon Swift were deleted by Amazon http://bit.ly/d4bBWY

  34. That’s a perfect example: EVERY SINGLE one of his reviews starts “I have not actually read this book but I . . .”

    He wants to use the book review as a platform to post political screeds, jeremiads, etc. Again, coming from my biased perspective as an author, that seems totally inappropriate and unfair.

    Amazon is supposed to be a retailer and a bookseller, not a blog software firm.

    As the saying goes, GYOFB, mate

  35. Chris says:

    Of course it is completely inacceptable to rate a book due to publishing details. But in some twisted way the ebook fanboys are actually promoting their case: If the hardcover version will not sell due to one-star reviews of ebook-fanboys, publishers will be more succesful if they release the ebook at the same time as the hardcover.

  36. Taliesyn says:

    Foxmaulder says:
    ” Don’t bother thanking me for saving you hundreds of dollars by mentioning the online kindle version. You all probably got too much money to waste on bells and whistles. ”

    No one is going to bother because the Kindle becomes kleenex once AAPL’s iPad arrives. Already have my pre-order in the maxxed out 3GS version so I can say good bye to physical newspapers/magazines/books while being able to show my demo reel 3D animations to prospective clients on a Time-sized magazine screen in hi-def with decent ear-bud and mini speaker-free sound.
    After iPad Kindles reduced to being the free prize in a breakfast cereal box just to sell the content. Recalling what a mess “Vista” was I often wondered allowed why MSFT didn’t just give XBoxes away as a premium for moving to Vista. I mean MSFT has been already been losing money on every XBox just to get it into as many hands/home entertainment rooms as possible.

  37. bman says:

    Sounds like weenies to me. If you decide not to publish on kindle wouldn’t that effectively justify throwing out their complaints?

  38. I recommend marking the reviews as both inappropriate and unhelpful if you decide they are. Doesn’t take long to flag them.

    Reviews and ratings ARE important to authors, restaurateurs and artists (though most will not admit it), if not to you. I see the same prob with emusic.com, where the only reviews for incredible albums are 1-star “it’s not available in my country” complaints. That hurts the artist, not the site.

    @ JACK: I’m WRITING IN CAPS BECAUSE I’M LoUD AND UNCLEAR!1!…

  39. Cleodus says:

    This just in, more proof of what I mentioned above (“Amazon’s fairness about their role as a vendor of books extends only as far as their desire for profits”)

  40. TDL says:

    Reason.com not too long ago covered a story about how a blog and his readers attempted to poorly rate a book on manners because the blogger did not like something the author had said. None of the people who gave poor ratings had read the book and many of them were cutting and pasting the bloggers comments on the book. When Amazon caught wind of the issue they worked to remove the low ratings. Also, you can vote on the ratings/reviews, if the rating receives a low enough score the rating will no longer be reflected in the average and the review will be “covered” up. If this bothers people so much, log in and negatively score these reviews/ratings.

    Regards,
    TDL

    P.S. no link for the Reason.com post.

  41. Alex says:

    (To Barry)

    Me…standing up and clapping in my office.

  42. Casual Onlooker says:

    The problem with off-topic/silly/inane reviews is not unique to Amazon. Other services like iTunes have similar issues. People there will often downvote a book, movie, app, etc., because they disagree with the price, or have an axe to grind about the genre. The problem is how much manpower it takes to overcome the numbnuts posting this drivel.

    To overcome the problem something other than sheer brute force needs to be applied, there are too many idiots. One site that takes a very innovative approach is http://stackoverflow.com Now mind you this is a site for programming professionals to interact, but the model they use to self regulate the site content could be applied equally to reviews. The approach relies on peer pressure and competitiveness rather than direct moderation. Where best of the reviewers have the most control, and the idiots sink to the bottom where they belong.

    I agree with and understand Barry’s viewpoint, these “bad reviews” or even silly good ones do not serve the community well. But ultimately it would need to be the community that regulates the reviewers to be effective and fair.

  43. jclaeson says:

    Barry – I assume you feel the same about censoring people on this blog… I notice that there are a few commenters off-topic/offensive so I assume the censoring out of those comments is imminent?

    Amazon provides an open forum for customers to review products and those reviews – I believe – should rightly review the whole product as another person stated. I got a Kindle for Christmas and I really didn’t think I’d like it as much as I did but it really is a fantastic device. While I don’t condone people posting inane reviews anywhere in this manner, I will say that it’s annoying to not be able to buy a book on the Kindle. At least publishers will hopefully see that customers want Kindle editions and react and perhaps authors such as yourself can do more to make sure that your potential readers are able to read your book in whatever manner they choose.

  44. I find the comment stream on so many other blogs, and espicially, any Yahoo property to be polluted to the point where its no longer useful. So I have worked hard to keep these comments intelligent, useful, and free from the usual nonsense. If that means sacrificing quantity for quality, so be it.

    As to your annoyance in not being able to make a kindle purchase immediately, that is an issue between the publisher and Amazon.

    Let me hasten to add that Amazon has foisted upon the publisher a price scheme they don’t like. I have no plans for getting the Apple iPad, but Apple’s willingness to let publishers set their own price suggests to me that the iPad version of a book might see the light of day sooner than the kindle.

    Bottom line: This is an self-created problem of Amazon’s making, and their allowance/encouragement of book review abuse is self-serving crap. I’ve been a huge Amazon fan, and I am deeply disappointed in Bezos, who I was hoping wouldn’t turn out to be just another corporate douche bag.

    There is still time for him to avoid this fate — but its his call.

  45. [...] Wednesday, I posted my disgust with the kindle fanboys trashing of Michael Lewis’ new book, The Big [...]

  46. photosports says:

    Ok, it’s ridiculous to rate a book because you disagree with the price. That said, I suggested to Amazon that they allow comments without a rating, maybe N/R – No Rating so that people could make comments about anything not having to do with the quality of the writing. For example, when I wanted to download “No One Would Listen”, I was surprised to learn that it was priced at $14+ when you could get the hardcover for a couple of dollars more. Now I may not know much about the publishing industry but it would seem to me that paper +ink+truck to distribution+truck to store+salesperson adds a bit to the cost of the hardback. I was going to make a comment to the effect that I would wait for the paperback. But there is no place to make that comment without giving a rating. So I left no comment. The happy ending is that I went on the site yesterday and the price was down to $9.99 and I bought it.
    Partly Amazon brought this on themselves. Part of the marketing for the Kindle was the $9.99 price for the books. Was it a sucker’s bet that the price would hold. Yes, but no reason to prohibit someone from showing their displeasure.

  47. [...] the book in question. As prominent investment writer and market strategist Barry Ritholtz described in a recent blog post, negative reviews of Michael Lewis’s latest book appeared before the book was even available [...]