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20110710-015540.jpgWithin a week after Amazon ended its Affiliates Program here in California, I received this rather disquieting email from one of my freelance employers, 1776 Productions (they run online reputable book review websites and some of the last book review paper publications in the country):

Amazon.com has decided that Sacramento Book Review and San Francisco Book Review can no long post reviews books in the customer review section of Amazon.com and have removed three years of book reviews we’ve provided to authors. They feel it is a violation of their terms of service.

We’re sorry for the inconvenience this causes you. We’ve been posting our reviews to Amazon for almost three years now, without any issue, and Amazon were not forthcoming in the exact reason why they made this decision. This has also happened to several other companies that review books and post those reviews to Amazon (including Portland Book Review), so we don’t necessarily feel singled out.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us. We’re very disappointed in Amazon’s decision to remove all of our book reviews.

You can also send a comment about this decision to Amazon through their Help email system. You can find that by signing into your account and then going to Help (bottom right of the account summary page) and then selecting the Contact Us button on the right sidebar of the help page.

In addition to talking with Amazon about appealing this decision, we’ll be looking into new ways and places to post your reviews and will update you as we have something new.

Your review will remain always available on either (and, in most cases, both) of our websites: SacramentoBookReview.com & SanFranciscoBookReview.com

I was very surprised that a conglomerate–famous for its infallible consumer reviews–would delete three years’ worth of those self-same reviews but also that it would give no real reason for the sudden action. I replied back with an email of digital sympathy, wondering whether or not this decision was tied to the fact that 1776 Productions is a California-based company. I found out that several other book-review publications have had this occur, some of which are based in the other states where Amazon has closed its Affiliates Program.

Yesterday a source informed me that Amazon was actively searching out posts by book-review companies and websites that had some sort of sponsored review program and were removing their reviews (all of them, not just the sponsored reviews) as well as taking away their ability to post more reviews. Apparently, in each case no warning was given nor notification of exactly why this was happening… just the standard “you’ve been found to be in violation of our posting standards.”

Here’s the rub… it appears that Amazon only paints a few with this brush, seemingly ignoring the rest: Kirkus reviews are still posted, as are Forword’s Clarion reviews and Publisher’s Weekly. This is not even mentioning some of Amazon’s “top ten” reviewers that charge for their services. To be fair, Amazon’s terms of posting do clearly state that there can be no compensation for any review other than a copy of the book, a TOS that sponsored reviews violate.

That being said, what about the other 90% of the reviews which do not? In the last three years I have penned hundreds of books reviews, only a handful of which were sponsored… but for Amazon that little fact didn’t matter. Many authors, myself included, use Amazon reviews as part of a larger publicity strategy. It is quite a process to get a book to be picked up by a publication, reviewed and have that review published in places where folks will see it. If Amazon was not popular in consumers eyes for relevant reviews on a variety of products, then it wouldn’t matter who they exclude or overlook.

As far as the publications affected are concerned the lack of warning seems to be the most irksome part. Given some notice they could have (and would have) taken down any problem reviews thus saving the majority from deletion. I realize that Amazon can do what it likes with its own website, and the state of California has long been known as being rather hostile towards businesses by stacking the shoulders of entrepreneurs with numerous regulations, extensive fees and some of the highest taxes in the nation… and yet, Amazon taking down years of reviews–and leaving those of other companies–strikes me as extremely strange.

Do you think, as many on my fellow reviewers and LinkedIN contacts do, that this move is simply a scare tactic, aimed at the hulking ship of California (and the other states Amazon has severed virtual ties with), in order to make it turn from its current course and cut Amazon a deal?

Via Greene Ink

(Photo: Chris Radcliff)

 
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