Thursday, August 30, 2012

Streitfeld on Counterfeit Reviews

In the August 25, 2012, edition of The New York Times, David Streitfeld discusses an industry that has risen in popularity along with self-publishing -- faux book reviews. Excerpt:
Todd Rutherford was 7 years old when he first understood the nature of supply and demand. He was with a bunch of other boys, one of whom showed off a copy of Playboy to giggles and intense interest. Todd bought the magazine for $5, tore out the racy pictures and resold them to his chums for a buck apiece. He made $20 before his father shut him down a few hours later.

A few years ago, Mr. Rutherford, then in his mid-30s, had another flash of illumination about how scarcity opens the door to opportunity.

He was part of the marketing department of a company that provided services to self-published writers -- services that included persuading traditional media and blogs to review the books. It was uphill work. ...

Suddenly it hit him. Instead of trying to cajole others to review a client's work, why not cut out the middleman and write the review himself? Then it would say exactly what the client wanted -- that it was a terrific book. A shattering novel. A classic memoir. Will change your life. Lyrical and gripping, Stunning and compelling. Or words to that effect.

In the fall of 2010, Mr. Rutherford started a Web site,
Read the whole thing. If you have the least bit of interest in the world of Kindles and Nooks, you owe it to yourself to read Streitfeld's piece. Not that he uncovers anything particularly new or surprising. Anyone who has paged through's user reviews knows that many of the overblown accolades must be fake. But Streitfeld excels at putting facts with faces, with embodying the trend his article addresses. I take some small issue, though, with him describing the faux-review industry as "a vast but hidden corner of the Internet." Frankly, there's nothing hidden about it. I freelance in my spare time, and not a day goes by that I don't see ads soliciting everything from paid blog comments and forum postings to dating-site profiles and term papers. The Internet is populated with people, and as a species we aren't known for eternal, ironclad honesty. But we can still set boundaries. For my own part, I stopped taking review copies of books some time ago. Brilliant or boring, striking or stupid, my opinions are all my own.

(Picture: CC 2009 by Steve Rhodes; Hat Tip: @JosephDAgnese)


Joseph D'Agnese said...

Thanks for the hat tip. Unnecessary but nice.

Loren Eaton said...

Gotta let people know where I got it from!