The Wayback machine has shown that there is a scintilla of truth to Aaronovitch’ claim, in that one single one star review was posted before his procured five star reviews arrived. But it also shows that four one star reviews, which arrived no earlier than a larger number of five star reviews and appear equally genuine, were deleted by Amazon. No five star reviews were deleted.
I therefore contacted Amazon’s press office to ask for their reaction to Aaronovitch’s admission of posting fake reviews, and asked who initiated the deletion of his poor reviews. They asked me to put my questions in writing by email. This I have done. Answer came there none.
Re: Voodoo Histories
“Something like half of all book sales are now made through Amazon, and when you find a book on Amazon it is accompanied by reviews from “readers” who give it a 1 (lowest) to 5 star rating. So, almost before my book was published, the first 1-star reviews started to appear, from people who had never read it. After a week, even I wouldn’t have bought it.
There is only one thing you can do in this situation. You ask every friend and family member to go onsite PDQ and 5-star your baby. You get your frauds to balance off their frauds. Ce n’est pas magnifique, mais (grâce à Amazon) c’est la guerre.”
These are my questions:
1) Do you agree it is a reasonable practice for authors to persuade friends and family to post favorable reviews on Amazon? Do you agree with Mr Aaronovitch’s implication that Amazon’s policy forces authors to do this?
2) A wayback archive search shows that in fact a number of poor reviews of Voodoo Histories were deleted by Amazon. Did Mr Aaronovitch contact Amazon to initiate these deletions?
3) In fact, the poor reviews deleted were not, with a single exception, posted any earlier than similar quantities of five star reviews. Why was it decided to delete several one star reviews and no five star reviews? Who took this decision? Was it in any way motivated by Amazon’s own political sympathies? Was it motivated by a desire to boost sales?
4) Now Amazon has been informed by Mr Aaronovitch that the five star reviews were procured, will it be taking action to delete these early five star reviews, particularly those posted on the very day of publication?
5) Do you agree that Mr Aaronovitch’s boasting in the Times of his action in procuring false reviews for Voodoo Histories may, if Amazon will not decry it, encourage other authors to do the same?
I would point out to you that Mr Aaronvitch has himself put these matters into the public domain by publishing his actions in The Times. It therefore makes no sense for Amazon to refuse to answer any of these questions on the grounds of Mr Aaronovitch’s privacy.