Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Amazon Vine, Suspicious

I seem to get a ton of emails from Amazon, most are commercials and most I ignore. When I received an email about Amazon Vine I ignored it.

Later I read a blog post on Selling Books about it and realized what Amazon Vine was. It is a new service by which Amazon is the go-between with top customer reviewers and publishers. Through Amazon's site, we may request to review certain new products and the publisher will send them to us for free.

I then went back retrieved my unread email (which I miraculously had not deleted yet). I re-read it and saw it was an invitation to join Amazon Vine. They were inviting me because I am still ranked as a Top 500 customer reviewer. So I filled out the online forms to become an Amazon Vine member.

So I did join the Amazon Vine. I was not clear on how it would work.

I received an email dated yesterday which was a listing of products much like a commerical. If I wanted to review that item, I could click the link and submit the request to send it to me.

However imagine my surprise when every single item I clicked on was already gone, meaning, all the review copies were already taken.

So really what happened was I read the paragraph about the item and was the recipient of what really was a commercial. And I have no product for "free" and no review to write.

But what I am left with is a curiosity to seriously want to read one of the books. So really so far my experience was to be the receiver of a commercial!

Anyhow, after reading on Selling Books that publishers are paying Amazon to be included in the Amazon Vine program, this really seems like a win/win thing for Amazon. I am a bit suspicious that we suckers, we unpaid customer reviewers have just been tempted by the lure of free product to get a lot of emails from Amazon which are really commercials. Hmmm.

I wonder how many review copies of these books the publishers are giving to customer reviewers versus the number of reviewers on the Amazon Vine. Is this more of just a commercial or is this truly going to pan out as a book reviewing service?

In the meantime, here is Steve Weber’s second blog post on the topic of Amazon Vine.

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Steve Weber said...

Very interesting, Christine. I hadn't thought of it from that angle -- that this will bring in more sales for Amazon because only a few copies of the books will be available.

When you think about it from the publisher's point of view, three prepublication reviews is all they need. Once those three reviews receive helpful votes, they'll be locked into position and more recent reviews from "real" customers will only appear for a short while on the sidebar, then they'll be bumped by more recent reviews.

Timothy Fish said...

I am less cynical about this than what you seem to be, but then I am looking at it from a different perspective. I am the author of a couple of books, Church Website Design: A step by step approach and Searching for Mom. There where several factors involved in my decision to write these books and to make them available through the channel that I have. One of these factors was my desire to learn about the publishing industry. I have learned several things in this process.

From some of the things that I have learned along the way, I know that publishers cannot afford to give away a lot of any book. The reason they give books away is so that people will review the book and give it more exposure. Before buying a book, people want to know what other people think, but there is a limit to the number of reviews they care to read. I would expect a publisher to give away no more than ten books for the purpose of getting reviews on Amazon. They may give away no more than two or three for that purpose. Other books that they give away may go to reviewers who write for other sources of information.

It is not that a publisher wants to entice you and then not give you the promised book, but they cannot afford to give a book to all 500 of the top reviewers. With some books, doing so would require them to give away half of their print run. A publisher does not mind if you become interested in the book and decide to buy it after not receiving it free, but that is not the primary purpose of the program.

Andrew said...

I found your post by googling "Amazon Vine."

I received an invitation too, and am pretty excited about the program. I read the "commercial" email first thing in the morning, Pacific time, and all the items were still available when I clicked through to the order site (though one of the items -- a CD -- had a big red label next to it saying "Only 10 left!").

I picked two books that looked interesting and one of them arrived via second-day-air today.

So I would imagine that the key to making sure an Amazon Vine email is an actual offer and not just a commercial is to jump on it as soon as it shows up and grab what you want right away.

J. Lyon Layden said...

I don't think that's the motivation.

I get the newsletter every month, and if you request something on the first day, it is usually in stock.
Can you imagine how much it would cost a publisher if they had to provide enough precopy that every Vine member could conceivably have one?
The pubs probably have to provide a certain number of books to be in the program, and most probably only provide that many.
I have seen products with upwards of 15 Vine reviews on them, however.
It's just that the free books go like hotcakes. Unpopular books are often available long after the date of the original newsletter.

Nope, they are doing this to get more reviews and to be able to charge a fee to publishers.

What I want to know is how I can get my next book in the program- 15 reviews on Amazon by top reviewers before you're book is even out has gotta help, whether you think Amazon is the antichrist or no.