Even if we were able to pretend that compensation for digital books on Amazon were fair and manageable to authors (especially smaller authors), the platform itself is still not supportive of being a community of readers. The focus on books is so minimal now, and I know, that’s pretty obvious news. But today I was struck by two things that really hit me with how non-reader-friendly Amazon is.
Problem Number One: The Results
First is that I searched “Queenie” to see if I’d already left a review or not. As a brief reminder, this was an extraordinarily popular book that was in press and media and nominated for awards and selected as a “Debut Book of the Year” and seriously, this book was SO POPULAR not that long ago.
So when I go to Amazon and type in Queenie, I feel pretty confident that there’s one obvious result that I should be directed to and getting.
What the crap is queenie ke and why is it overtaking this rave-reviewed publication? (That’s rhetorical, but the answer is generic-looking spandex leggings and sports bras that probably wouldn’t help much). The fact that there’s only one result and it required specifying “book” after it is leaving me kiiiind of salty, here.
Seen here is that books are no longer the main result type prioritized when looking for search results. Although, sure, that’s likely in large part due to what people are most often looking for – and I’m quite confident most people aren’t looking for books. 😔
Problem Number Two: The Rules
Ok, so the search had me feeling a bit unsteady, but whatever, I’ve made it to the book’s page. Looks like I haven’t actually put my review up yet, so I’ll do that now. I click to submit the review and am given a bizarre message:
“We apologize but this account has not met the minimum eligibility requirements to write a review. If you would like to learn more about our eligibility requirements, please see our community guidelines.”
So now I’m panicking, because what could have possibly happened to have my account be banned from leaving reviews? I had no idea that was even possible; it’s AMAZON, reviews are like 90% what people use Amazon for. Maybe my account was hacked… and someone left a naughty review? I have no idea. Let’s click on that link they gave.
OHKAY…..so apparently gift card payments don’t count. But even beyond that, I have to pay to leave reviews now?? I’ve got to pay a yearly fee in order to leave reviews. Which is… baffling.
Online Bookstore No More
And here we have the final smack-you-in-the-face sign that Amazon doesn’t really care about books or readers anymore. This is particularly frustrating to me because I love to support new authors by reviewing their books on Amazon. Through NetGalley, Booksirens, or any other requests I might get, this is usually one of the main things they request. Like I said above, people use Amazon primarily for the reviews. Now that they restrict that capability with a paywall, I have this uncomfortable slimy feeling about the site.
I’m having a hard time putting this feeling clearly into words. I’m sure they have some legit reason for implementing this policy. (For example, they’re a business and they want more money. That’s usually the reason, right?) My point, though, is that this policy is exclusionary, which is not a great quality when seeking to be the top place of research for consumer products. A range of opinions is critical, and this stifles that range.
For anyone who is too young or too forgetful to even have a clue what I’m talking about when I say like “Amazon is no longer a community for readers” or that it’s no longer an online bookstore: when Amazon started, it ONLY sold books. Yeah. Can you even imagine that anymore?? If you don’t believe me, ask Wikipedia. It knows everything.