Have you noticed that reviews from Amazon.com are aggregated across all other international Amazon sites, but that the reverse is not true? If someone kindly posts a review of a book on Amazon.co.uk, it is stuck there, and not aggregated to Amazon.com. Why? Is a UK review less valuable than a US review? Are reviews from Canadians, Australians or India inferior to US reviews?
Amazon, like many US tech companies, still really have a problem when it comes to internationalising themselves. If is it possible to aggregate US readers’ Amazon ebook reviews to all of Amazon’s international Kindle sites, then it is certainly possible to aggregate ALL international reviews back to an ebook on Amazon Kindle US, as well as on all the other international sites. I mean, it’s only a little bit of metadata!
This problem is especially painful for UK authors. While they may gain a lot of reviews from readers in the UK, not one is added to their ebook on Amazon US, which handicaps potential US book sales. But if they are fortunate enough to get US reviews, these are automatically added to their book on Amazon UK. Most streets are two-way, aren’t they?
It is undoubtedly frustrating to be a writer whose works are not being marketed to the fullest extent possible. However, Amazon’s lack of review aggregation is not likely to play a very significant role in book sales when all is considered.
For starters, while review aggregation may only require a little bit of metadata, it doesn’t follow that it only requires a little bit of processing power to handle the extra code on a site wide basis, so the cost-effectiveness of additional computing resources must be taken into account. Since Amazon makes money on every sale, they have an incentive to maximize their sales on the margin. If they aren’t aggregating reviews, it is most likely because the additional sales will not generate enough revenue to justify the additional costs of network infrastructure.
Second, reviews from unknown sources aren’t as motivational as recommendations from friends. Speaking from personal experience, I have never bought a book on Amazon based solely on the reviews posted on Amazon. Virtually every book I have purchased has been on the recommendation of a friend or a blogger that I have read for years. I simply do not browse through Amazon in search of new reading material. My experience is anecdotal, of course, but I would venture to guess that most people do not rely on practically anonymous recommendations on Amazon when looking for books.
If it is indeed the case that practically anonymous, aggregated reviews are only marginally useful to marketing books online, it would seem that this complaint about Amazon is scapegoating. Put simply, if one’s book sales are reliant on a top-down marketing push from an online seller, perhaps one’s books aren’t really that good. I would thus venture to guess that this particular author would sell more books if he spent more time honing his writing skills and developing material for a broader market instead of complaining about the lack of marginal marketing support provided by his main distributor.