Friday, 9 November 2012

Amazon Fail - Again!

Amazon appears to be doing another stupid. As if bigotry dressed up as faulty software/caving into consumer pressure* was not enough, they have continued along the path of pissing off the people they should be making efforts to keep onside. Yes. Writers. Those people who produce the things you sell.

Writing is not well paid. There are a few exceptions, but the majority of us can only dream of getting close to a living wage. It doesn’t make us any happier then to see a highly successful company that has already eroded our income with bully-boy tactics to cut their costs now doing all it can to avoid paying tax. Tax that, in part, helps to seed fund the arts, a sector on which writers rely and which, incidentally, is one of the largest sectors of the UK economy.

That is bad enough; now they are trying to censor writers. Reports are circulating that Amazon intend (and have already started) to remove any book review on their sites that is written by an author. Presumably this means anyone who has an Author’s Page. It would seem this is a belated and ill-conceived response to the sock-puppetry that went on. There is a simple solution to this problem. Do not allow reviews to be posted anonymously or pseudonymously. They must have your real name on, the one on your account.

Censoring people who are likely to offer considered and knowledgeable opinions on a book is plain stupid. Why should I (a) be deprived of reading reviews of people whose opinions I trust and value; and (b) not be allowed to comment on books which I have enjoyed (or not, as the case may be) or which lie within my field of expertise and experience? And there’s more. There is also talk that Amazon wants to ban reviews posted on Amazon from being posted elsewhere. Quite how they intend to police that, I do not know – perhaps they’ll set up a spy unit funded by all that tax they didn’t pay.

Censorship isn’t the answer. It never has been. Attempts to impose it have always backfired. Transparency is the answer. It is simple and may lead to some people being a little less spiteful, which is no bad thing.

And remember, Amazon, taking on or pissing off people who are good with words is a particularly stupid thing to do, especially if your core business depends on their co-operation.

(*delete as appropriate to the particular excuse they trot out)