Between the Covers: 28/10/2012


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The Independent Culture

Good news and bad news about the Amazon press office, whose strange disappearance we reported back in September.

On that occasion, we had been trying to contact them regarding fake "likes" for Amazon on Facebook, which had many users jumping to the (probably wrong) conclusion that Amazon was using them for false advertising. Facebook answered some of our questions, and implied that it wasn't their fault. So what did Amazon have to say? Absolutely nothing. Despite calls to their landline, four mobiles and their external PR firm, and several emails.

The day after our September story, we did receive an email from Amazon, telling us to contact Facebook. Despite several replies asking for any comment at all, Amazon still wouldn't put the record straight.

Last week, we tried them again. Since we were chatting, we asked, what does Amazon have to say about "sock puppet" reviewers writing anonymous online reviews denouncing their rivals' books? Or about the allegation that it wiped a Norwegian customer's Kindle of all her paid-for books, and that its customer services refused to tell her why? There were no answers to our calls or emails. But then we contacted Amazon publicly on Twitter, and several authors echoed our calls for a response.

Suddenly, the press office sprang into action! Sort of. "We would like to clarify our policy ... Account status should not affect any customer's ability to access their library. If any customer has trouble accessing their content, he or she should contact customer service for help," they wrote, adding that "we responded previously" to questions about Facebook. When we offered them a chance to deny or defend any of these allegations, there was no response.

Amazon is aware of the deadline for this story, but remains silent about its policy on "sock puppet" reviewers. Maybe they have this cold that's going round. Poor Amazon. Get well soon. We'll still be here to listen ....

Never mind all of this, though, because Amazon has a brilliant new new ruse: suggesting that writers buy books by … themselves. "Amazon email with suggestion I might be interested in Apology for the Woman Writing in their biography store," says Jenny Diski, continuing, "I wrote it, and it's a novel." (Virago, £8.99, in all good bookshops.)

Between the Covers has received a threatening email from the publisher of a new work of erotic fiction – one of many that mimic the cover of E L James's now-ubiquitous 50 Shades of Grey. "This genre is not going away," it warns. Thanks, but Between the Covers isn't really into masochism.

It's nice to see authors getting along and endorsing things, so three cheers to Val McDermid for a truly terrifying Halloween recommendation: the scary cake shop which is setting up camp for this weekend only at St Bart's Pathology Museum in London, courtesy of, with free entry until 6pm today. Between the Covers is not a prude, but STI Cupcakes ("available in a £3.50 lucky dip – you don't know what you'll get") are really not on. And, McDermid, sending a link to that nice Sue Perkins from The Great British Bake Off? Shame on you!