A new tactic has emerged in the book industry: Foes of new titles flood Amazon with one-star reviews to try to torpedo sales and even get books removed from the website, the New York Times reports.
Among the recent victims: Randall Sullivan, author of “Untouchable: The Strange Life and Tragic Death of Michael Jackson.”
In the book, according to a Times story published this week:
Sullivan writes that Jackson’s overuse of plastic surgery reduced his nose to little more than a pair of nostrils and that he died a virgin despite being married twice. These points in particular seem to infuriate the fans.
A group called the MJRapid ResponseTeam – mission: “Defending the king and promoting his legacy” – ran a campaign to trash the book, managing to get several favorable reviews “erased” and “even took credit for Amazon’s briefly removing the book from sale,” the Times said.
Trevor Pinch, a Cornell sociologist, has studied Amazon reviews. The Times quoted him as saying:
Books used to die by being ignored, but now they can be killed — and perhaps unjustly killed. In theory, a very good book could be killed by a group of people for malicious reasons.
Today in Introduction to Mass Communication, we’re going to talk about the book industry. The topic is covered in chapter 3 of Baran’s Introduction to Mass Communication. A few notes from that chapter are below:
- Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Former book burner Guy Montag watches an old woman burn to death with her books. He says: “There must be something in books, things we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house…”
- Books have traditionally been a powerful force of social and cultural change (Examples: “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, “The Grapes of Wrath”, “Our Bodies, Ourselves”).
- Baran: “Books tend to encourage personal reflection… We are along when we read a book.”
- Censorship. YouTube: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
National Endowment for the Arts: Reading proficiency is declining among people 15 to 24 years old. Time reading anything at all: 7 to 10 minutes per day. Time watching TV: 2 1/2 hours. NEA chair Dana Gioia: “Because these people read less, they read less well. Because they read less well, they do more poorly in school, in the job market, in civic life.”
Question for discussion: What are the consequences of a decline in leisure reading?
Impact of Internet and digital technology on book industry. Talking points:
- Participation of the crowd, which can include using Amazon reviews as “attack weapons,” as the Times put it.
- Restructuring: Convergence, E-books, Print on demand.
- 81,000 book publishers. Industry dominated by a few giants.
- Electronic-books: Threat or Opportunity? – number of eBook readers not entirely clear
- Association of American Publishers: “…fewer than half of Americans even buy a book in a typical year. So for 12 percent of all Americans to have an e-reader is not trivial. Meanwhile, print sales are down about 25 percent.”
- March 1, 2011: Is Borders’ Bankruptcy the End of Brick and Mortar Stores?