Amazon Review Content: Great Metadata, So So Content

November 5, 2013

I am quite interested in Amazon book reviews. For my research, I find that locating specific reviews is quite difficult. One reason is that Amazon’s fab search engine is not set up to meet my approach to information retrieval. I know that Amazon has a number of search systems available, but the method for pinpointing a specific reviewer’s comments about a category of books is, in my opinion, non functional. My hunch is that this crippling of search is by design.

Another reason is that reviews provide a pool of quite useful information about who reads what, the “sentiment” each reviewer expresses in his/her review, and the timing of the review flow. If these factoids are not available to me, my thought is that the data should be. But, hey, what do I know. Amazon is not a search vendor.

I read “Responding to MacKenzie Bezos’s One-Star Slapdown” review of a book about Jeff Bezos called “The Everything Store.” I have not read the book, and I don’t read as a curious human any Amazon reviews. But I do process reviews for other purposes; for example, what is the hobbyhorse a particular reviewer of current political books is riding. I find this type of “hobby” interesting.

Several observations:

First, like any social content stream, the content marketing mentality has taken over. For me, it means that the value of a review is in its syntax and semantics. The “facts” in a review are of zero interest to me. In short, I don’t “trust” any review of any book available on Amazon. The review referenced in the write up from Bloomberg fits in this category. Is there an axe to grind? For sure.

Second, the review is going to do little to halt the buzz about the book. I am waiting for Amazon to “disappear” the book. That would be interesting. In my experience, I have encountered books that become very hard to find or just are not findable. I recall one instance when my Kindle lost a title.

Third, who believes a book anyway? With the spoofing of sci tech data for peer reviewed journals, why would a book about a high profile figure rest on a bedrock of facts. Making sales is the name of the game.

Net net: The one star review is likely to boost sales. That will make some folks at Amazon really happy. So is the criticism of the book valid? Yep, it builds sales. Come to think of it, isn’t this the purpose of Amazon? I will wait for the Washington Post review of The Everything Store.

Stephen E Arnold, November 5, 2013


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