Between the Covers 04/11/2012

Your weekly guide to what's really going on inside the world of books

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The Independent Culture

Following last week's report about Amazon's amazing disappearing press office, Between the Covers has been the grateful recipient of a communication – of sorts – from the retailing giant. Regular readers will recall that we have been trying to contact Amazon since August to ask them three questions: what do they have to say about fake "likes" for Amazon appearing on Facebook accounts; how do they respond to the story of a Norwegian customer who had her Kindle wiped of all the e-books she had paid for; and are they bothered that malicious "sock puppet" reviewers are abusing Amazon's anonymous online reviews system to trash the reputations of their rivals?

Unfortunately, Amazon's press officers do not answer the phone, or emails, unless we either write about them here, or prod them repeatedly on Twitter – the attention-seeking little scamps – so getting any sort of response is a slow process. More than two months on, we have learned that: we should contact Facebook (we already have!); "If any customer has trouble accessing their content, he or she should contact customer service for help" (she already did!); and, not to worry, because according to their latest gnomic response: "We use a variety of mechanisms to prevent abuse of our review system, including algorithmic approaches .…" There's been no reply to our questions regarding these algorithmic approaches, of course.

Some naughty literary types on Twitter have suggested that we could pin almost anything on Amazon by putting a story to its press office and waiting (tumbleweed … ) for its non-response, but Between the Covers has books to read, so is going to give up now. Readers can draw their own conclusions about exactly how much of a damn Amazon gives about its customers; we couldn't possibly comment.


Stop press: Between the Covers has just received news that a consumer campaign is about to be launched, targeting Amazon for "abusing" its power. Ethical Consumer magazine will use the pre-Christmas period to inform customers about Amazon's tactics, and their tidings are unlikely to be glad: an article on their website,, discusses "the fact that [Amazon's] whole business model appears to be built around tax avoidance as a way of competing on price …. "

Until the campaign is elaborated upon, Between the Covers' advice is to support your friendly local bookshop, where the reviews are likely to be honest, there is always a helpful person available to respond to your enquiries and you get to keep every book you buy. Doesn't that sound like a happy Christmas?


One person who does respond – and with a sense of humour, too – is the squillion-selling author EL James, who is clearly amused by the enormous and continuing hype surrounding her book. She has replied to a Twitter feed by the author of the entirely unrelated book, Fifty Sheds of Grey, who recently tweeted: "I'm very proud to say that Fifty Sheds of Grey is published today in the USA!" James replied: "I hope you're going to send me a signed copy." "It would be a pleasure. I just hope it's not too racy for you", wrote 50 Sheds. "I think I can handle it," insisted Ms James. "I look forward to reading it." Modesty forbids us from speculating what might happen when BDSM meets a Black & Decker Workmate.