Fake reviews, Amazon and life

I usually fall for two type of traps.

Buying something cheap, or buying something expensive. Shocking right?

I’ve spent the best part of September in California, the last week of that in San Francisco on a conference. I’m some sort of a geek we could say.

Conferences are surprisingly good opportunities to buy books for cheap. Books you would never buy under normal circumstances, but hey: self-economics.

Found this fascinating title that delved right into my professional area, but it was a very expensive, even with the major discount.

I was upset, so I figured I should see if the Kindle version is any cheaper. Was not (traditional publishing still hasn’t caught up in this sense).

But I’ve found something else I fancied.

Author and title removed, as I’m such a nice person

Bought it, read it. Took more than a week to read it, not because it’s long, but because I only had the mornings during breakfast.

The editing wasn’t very good. Or the content. And that is okay. As silly as it sounds, bad not so good books have their place.

I decided the give a review and things started to go south from there. Found 14 reviews, with a ~ 4.5 average on Amazon, which even with the occasionally occurring valuable information was way too much I thought. Checked the two 1 star reviews and they seemed to mention something interesting.

One mentioned, that the book is basically a collection of Wikipedia snippets. Next stop: let’s see what other books are out there from this author. Actually a lot.

They all have extremely generous reviews, which is great for the author I guess.

The issue is that as I started to check out those reviews, I noticed a worrying trend of repeating names. Basically a huge portion of those reviews were made by the same group of people.

Loyal fans of course I presume.

To put you into context, said read was about Software Quality Assurance. This is a moderately specific software development topic, and it’s not far fetched to assume the audience has a special interest. One review suggested the following valuable detail about the book (paraphrasing but the content is extremely close to the real one):

Working with computers is difficult, but I read this book and it’s not so difficult after all.


At this point I was laughing. David, my colleague told me, that when he wanted to review my book (after buying, and finishing the exercises from it) Amazon said: sorry, but you are clearly involved. So we figured that’s actually correct, and maybe it would not be fair after all.

On various self publishing podcasts you would hear about how people tried to trick amazon by purchasing fake reviews from fiverr, but the system caught them! Well I guess not this bunch.