Saturday, July 4, 2015

Amazon Starts to Enforce Draconian e-book Review Policy


Independent author and blogger Imy Santiago bought an e-book from Amazon, read it, and posted a review. Then things started to go awry, according to her recent blog post,  that had Amazon pull the review because she followed the author on Twitter.

Amazon's Review Guidelines state that only that "family members or close friends of the person, group, or company selling on Amazon may not write Customer Reviews for those particular items." It doesn’t mention interactions on social media services such as Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.

So how does Amazon decide who an author's friends are? In theory, the company could be looking for things like similar last names or residential information on accounts, or watching for patterns in review activity, like a back-and-forth exchange of reviews between two authors. Amazon may also be able to look for contacts and interaction on social media accounts that users have connected to their Amazon account, or they may be doing something else entirely. So far, they refuse to talk about it.

"Due to the proprietary nature of our business, we do not provide detailed information on how we determine that accounts are related," Amazon's review moderator told Santiago in that final email, helpfully adding another link to the company's Review Guidelines.

That secrecy is raising questions among authors and reviewers. "Where is the 'oh, you know the author, your thoughts are no longer valid' line? Are fans who attend events and meet me ineligible?" asked author Seanan McGuire on Twitter, adding that she often interacts with fans on social media and at conventions. "Do I need to avoid friendly Twitter banter or at-con selfies with bloggers to keep them from 'knowing' me and thus being blocked?"

Princess S.O. Obriot  has also been a victim of Amazons draconian review policies “I've had several reader fans message me that their reviews were blocked. One of them was persistent to find out why and finally got a response. He had entered a drawing I had going and he won an Amazon Gift card. He used it to buy more books from a variety of authors. He already owned mine so I wasn't among the purchases. but because I had sent the GC from my Amazon account that translated into "He knows this author personally." It's been two years since then, he still attempts to leave reviews and continues to 'nag' them about it. But so far Amazon has not appealed their ruling on it.

Indie authors often find themselves spending a massive amount of time interacting with their fans and readers in order to build up a fan base and sell more books. This could be a double edged sword if the interactions can easily be found online. The author will see their efforts as organic, fostering meaningful dialog and creating strong bonds between writer and reader, whereas Amazon sees it as collusion.

This entire debacle is likely due to a new review policy Amazon has implemented over the course of the last few months. This is the first major initiative in Amazons twenty year history to revise the way the product review system works.  A new in-house machine learning program is putting more weight on verified purchases, new reviews and reviews that people have rated as being useful. The system will learn what reviews are most helpful to customers…and it improves over time," Amazon spokeswoman Julie Law said in an interview. "It's all meant to make customer reviews more useful."

Kindle Paperwhite 3 Review (+Video)

Review Date: July 2015 – Review unit purchased from Amazon Overview The 3rd generation Kindle Paperwhite was released on June 30th, 2015. It’s still basically the exact same device as the Paperwhite 3 but it comes with an upgraded higher resolution screen and a boost in RAM. It also has twice as much storage space […]

Hoopla is giving Overdrive a run for their Money


Hoopla is quietly becoming a force to be reckoned with and is constantly adding content to their catalog and will soon give Overdrive a run for their money.

The success of Hoopla is attributed to their unique pay per use system. This means that libraries only pay them money when a patron borrows a title, each e-book does not cost money on its own. This is a big advantage because 3M and Overdrive both charge big bucks per copy, sometimes over $100 each.

Hoopla started to make a name for themselves a few years ago when the company rode on the success of the emerging audiobook space. Their catalog is one of the largest in the business with 13,000 digital editions and are adding a few hundred every month. Due to the success of digital audio they started a modest e-book collection and currently have 5,509 of them from publishers such as  from Dundurn, Tyndale, Chicago Review, Rosetta and Orca.

Since e-books have proven to be success for Hoopla they are starting to field requests for other written content, such as graphic novels and comics. This has prompted them to sign a distribution deal with DC Comics to offer hundreds of graphic novels. As of July 2015 Hoopla now has 800 comics in total and they have been using conferences such as Book Expo America and the American Library Association Annual to get more deals done.

"We wanted to give libraries a way to be relevant in the digital age," explained hoopla's Jeff Jankowski in an interview with Good e-Reader. "Why take the limitations of the physical world and apply them to start of the art digital?"

Hoopla currently deals with 800 libraries in the US and that list is growing. Libraries have told me that they dig the fact that they can just add a ton of content and can set certain monetary thresholds so they can keep their digital spending within reasonable limits. It seems to me that Hoopla has a very compelling value proposition for libraries, that is hard to ignore.