From the Sunday New York Times:
After several well-publicized cases involving writers buying or manipulating their reviews, Amazon is cracking down. Writers say thousands of reviews have been deleted from the shopping site in recent months.
Amazon has not said how many reviews it has killed, nor has it offered any public explanation. So its sweeping but hazy purge has generated an uproar about what it means to review in an era when everyone is an author and everyone is a reviewer.
The world of reviewing is certainly open to abuse and violations of ethics. (Not long ago I read a story about a British mystery writer who, under a fake name, wrote torching reviews of his competitor’s works, praising instead his own.)
So I understand the desire to regulate here. But what’s odd to me is this quote from an Amazon spokesman:
We do not require people to have experienced the product in order to review.
It would be difficult to prove “experience” of the product one way or the other, but I certainly don’t put any stock in reviews that say, “I haven’t read this yet, but….”
As one commenter on this article noted, what I often find most helpful in shopping on Amazon–whether for books or other products–is the negative reviews.
That doesn’t mean that 5-star reviews, however, are not all to be trusted. There’s a bit of self-selection that goes on here. To wit, I tend to only request review copies of books that I think will be worth my time, so my ratings are most often four and five stars. But honesty comes first, so three stars and lower is not out of the question, and has happened before. And I am not always right that I book I want to review ends up being as good as I might have thought.
It’s a no-brainer to me that someone ought “to have experienced the product” before reviewing it. But what are some other principles of reviewing that should constitute a good ethic for product reviews?