A “puffer” (the providing of paid reviews) caused Amazon to file a lawsuit to prevent this activity from continuing. Amazon’s actions are of course is commendable, but is it only now that the hierarchy at Amazon just figured out that a great many of the posted book reviews are purchased? Didn’t John Locke’s public admission last year, that he bought hundreds (or was it thousands?) of five-star reviews, clearly explain what was going on? Come on. I’ve read perfectly horrid books that received sterling reviews, and when I checked a particular reviewer’s history every book he or she reported on was given five stars. In other instances I know of certain “publicist” outfits that arrange for five-star reviews as part of the firm’s service.
The whole “puffer” thing has long been a pure game, and there’s no other way to gloss over what’s happened. I’m guilty of asking subscribers to post a review for my book of articles, but I certainly wouldn’t ask anyone to write something he or she didn’t believe regarding the quality (or lack, thereof) of my material. The bottom line is that reviews are a part of this business, and one can only hope that Amazon’s effort to ferret out “puffers” will move the entire process in the right direction. However, there are always ways to trick the system, and this is why I start by reading the one-star reviews for any book. I’m dead serious.