Robert J. Sawyer

Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer

It only took a decade, but …

by Rob - November 27th, 2009.
Filed under: Bookselling, Reviews.

Back in June 1998, I met with the then-manager of author relations for at Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle. It was an opportunity to tell her what was wrong with’s online book-review system (in my humble opinion), which had been thrust into the marketplace without any consultation with writers’ groups.

I outlined numerous difficulties with the way the system was then set up, including most egregiously that although the author has the guts to put his or her name one what he or she wrote, reviewers could hide behind pseudonyms, and there wasn’t any way to verify that they even owned the book in question.

One by one, Amazon has slowly but surely come around to agreeing with me on each of the points I raised. They added a “Real Name” flag to reviews the authorship of which could be verified, and now they’ve finally added a flag that proves, within the limits of their abilities to verify the information, that the reviewer actually owns the book (or product) in question, something they’re calling Verified Purchase Reviews, described thus:

When a product review is marked “Amazon Verified Purchase,” it means that the customer who wrote the review purchased the item at Customers can add this label to their review only if we can verify the item being reviewed was purchased at Customers reading an Amazon Verified Purchase review can use this information to help them decide which reviews are most helpful in their purchasing decisions.

If a review is not marked Amazon Verified Purchase, it doesn’t mean that the reviewer has no experience with the product – it just means we couldn’t verify that it had been purchased at Amazon. They may have purchased the item elsewhere or had some other interaction with it. If we could somehow validate their experience with the product, we certainly would. The Amazon Verified Review label offers one more way to help gauge the quality and relevance of a product review.

Only took eleven years, but, hey, we SF writers are always ahead of the curve ;)

Visit The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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