This week, a controversial practice at Amazon HQ was brought to light by an author and blogger in the US. It seems that officials at the world’s top online retailer of books has decided that authors are not permitted to post reviews—either positive or negative—of other authors. Yes, you read it correctly. Writers have been banned from providing feedback of any kind on any book, even if they write in a completely different genre.
I recently encountered a similar problem, where an editorial review we posted from a well-known stage and screen actor (who happens to have written a memoir) was removed from my page. Reports of this policy bother me greatly.
Amazon’s rationale apparently seems to be that at any author necessarily has a competitive and financial interest in books of all kinds and as such, is incapable of writing an unbiased review. Aside from the more obvious fact that someone who, for example, has written a book of limericks is hardly going to be competition for someone who’s written a comprehensive history of the American civil war, there’s another concern.
The fact is that writers, in fact, constitute a relatively small percentage of the overall population. As such, writers tend to know a lot of other writers and as a result, are often going be asked to read and review a fellow colleague’s creation.
Granted, you don’t want to see a bunch of authors clearly fawning over a colleague’s book simply because they’re buddies. Nor do you want to see an author intentionally low-balling someone else’s book simply to get the upper hand. But the fact is that this type of behaviour is likely to exceptional, rather than the norm.
The renowned New York Times book review, among other myriad other literary publications, employs writers to, GASP, review other writers! It’s a common practice. If the world’s top literary publications realize that often times the best person to assess someone’s writing is another writer, then surely that should be ‘good enough’ for Amazon.
So far Amazon has been unwilling to revisit this policy, responding to inquiries with: “We will not be able to go into further detail about our research.”
I urge readers and writers out there to contact Amazon and let them know that this is not how the literary world works. Barring writers from reviewing other writers doesn’t serve anyone, let alone readers.