Amazon Glitch Unmasks War of Reviewers

Very interesting NY Times Piece on the anonymously posted book reviews @ Amazon.com.
A weeklong glitch, which Amazon fixed after outed reviewers complained, provided a rare glimpse at how writers and readers are wielding the online reviews as a tool to promote or pan a book — when they think no one is watching. Several prominent authors have apparently pseudonymously written themselves five-star reviews, Amazon's highest rating.

"That anybody is allowed to come in and anonymously trash a book to me is absurd," said Mr. Rechy, who, having been caught, freely admitted to praising his new book, "The Life and Adventures of Lyle Clemens," on Amazon under the signature "a reader from Chicago." "How to strike back? Just go in and rebut every single one of them."

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Can't believe everything you read on the 'net?

For me, the most telling paragraph from the story was this:

The word-of-mouth advice is widely seen as empowering to consumers who no longer have to rely on privileged critics with access to a television station or printing press to disseminate their opinions. But the reliability of the new authorities is the subject of increasing debate, at least among active Amazon users.

This NYT story should be added to examples in information literacy courses under the heading of "don't believe everything you read on the net" -- even from heavyweights like Amazon. They provide some tools, such as the description later on in the article about the rate-the-reviews system, but ultimately Amazon is interested in selling books, not providing a credible rating system. In fact, it could probably be argued that it is in their financial best interest to continue with the current system so that "buzz" is generated around books -- not necessarily the buzz that comes from good meta-content but the buzz that looks more like noise.

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