Answering readers’ questions about fake ebook reviews

Actually, more like the questions I imagine readers asking . . .

You titled your post yesterday “Fake ebook reviews: Worse than plagiarism?” But you never answered your own question.  What’s up with that?

I got sleepy.  Here’s a writing rule: Avoid blogging when you’re sleepy.  Bad things are bound to happen.

Are you sleepy now?  Will you answer your question?

No. Yes. Writing (or obtaining) fake reviews for your ebook is obviously not as bad as plagiarizing your ebook.  Don’t be an idiot.  But it has the potential to do much more harm.  I can’t imagine that many writers plagiarize to any great extent.  But faking ebook reviews is easy to do, could have a major upside for the individual writer, and has a huge downside for the whole ebook enterprise.  If readers start questioning the validity of those customer reviews, it will become a lot harder for good writers to get their attention.

What does the blog “Lawyers, Guns, & Money” have to say about this?

Oh, do you read Lawyers, Guns, & Money too? They ponder the larger issue of whether this is a part of the breakdown of our faith in the crowd, and may lead us back to a reliance on expertise:

For that matter, is there any reason to believe any kind of customer review online? This Times piece on professional “reviewers” being paid by self-published authors to give positive reviews, a process that seems to lead to increased sales for many, suggests to me that we, even the most supposedly savvy of us, are as manipulated now as ever. The crowd and the empowered individual does not protect us in any way, in fact, it may make us more vulnerable as our confidence lets our guard down.

On Twitter, Matt Zeitlin (@MattZeitlin) said about the Times article, “Possible future scenario: online customer reviews are ruined, publishers become more authoritative.” I thought that was interesting. Does the fact that anyone can say anything mean that all statements become equally worthless without some kind of expertise to back it up? For that matter, could we see a future where, as a broader society, we see the pendulum swing back toward expertise and institutionalized leadership in books, politics, or all the other ways in which we distrust expertise today?

Doesn’t xkcd have a funny strip about online ratings?

Yes, it does.  And here it is:

Are there any good fake ebook reviews?

Well, it depends on what you mean by good.  Have you seen the reviews for the pink “BIC for her” pen on Amazon UK?  I guess they’re not fake, but they aren’t exactly “real.”  And they’re awfully funny:

I bought this pen (in error, evidently) to write my reports of each day’s tree felling activities in my job as a lumberjack. It is no good. It slips from between my calloused, gnarly fingers like a gossamer thread gently descending to earth between two giant redwood trunks.

If I get (or think up) more questions, I’ll be happy to answer them.

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