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Klausner’s Fall From Grace

As noted in our now-infamous Klausner Post, it appears that Amazon has changed their reviewer rating criteria. This has caused everybody’s favorite reviewer, Harriet Klausner, to plummet from her long-held #1 spot to #442 overnight. Ouch! I’m not sure, but I think that’s a faster fall than Shelly Long’s career.

All good things must come to an end, they say, but Klausner being at #1 was hardly a good thing – except maybe for publishers seeking empty platitudes, unknowing authors, and the awesome Harriet Klausner Appreciation Society anti-fan site. Amazon customers, on the other hand, were blatantly subjected to over-inflated ratings and shallow reviews (even by my low standards). I’m not saying everyone else’s reviews are honest and/or helpful, but having Amazon’s #1 reviewer say a book was great (always with the 4- or 5-star rating) looked good – until you zoomed out and saw that all her reviews were rated similarly. But how many people did that?

A close look at Amazon’s reviewer rating change reveals…not much. Their new rating system is still a mystery to us. It does appear that reader votes count more than they did before. Given the ever-increasing army of Klausner naysayers, an audience that surpasses even Dave Itzkoff haters, maybe it’s no surprise of the huge drop in rating. But the details of the precise calculation are left hidden in the togas of the Gods at Amazon.

It also look as if Amazon will maintain both the new and “classic” ranking next to reviewers’ names, with the “Top X” badges applying to the scale with the highest rank. So Klausner’s reviewer profile shows both her #1 and her #442 ranking. (You’ll note that her profile says she reads merely 2 books a day and has posted 103,397 reviews. But don’t get me started again.)

[Okay, you got me started again – but only for another quick installment of “Do the Math”. 103,397 books (as per her profile page today) at 2 books each day would take her 51,698 days, or approximately 141 years. I’m pretty sure Ms. Klausner is not 141 years old, though I admittedly don’t know if Amazon’s influence extends into the area of time travel. Tell me, how is that possible? Sweet Lady Justice, you came just in time…]

I’m tempted to throw a block party in light of this news of Klausner’s downward tumble, but what difference does this really make? Not much as far as I can see. All of Klausner’s reviews are still posted out there for the world to see. They’re still visible for the unwary consumer. Nothing much has changed.

So, despite appearances to the contrary, this is a shallow victory for Justice, my friends. I’m not sure why Amazon bothered, unless it was trying to address some Klausner backlash (pure speculation on my part).

About John DeNardo (13012 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

8 Comments on Klausner’s Fall From Grace

  1. About friggin’ time. Btw, your Saw V advertisement is covering the full text of this article. I was able to copy and paste to another page to read it (cause I’m determined like that) but I couldn’t read it otherwise.

  2. Well…I checked and my classic ranking is 232 (I had a high of 221, I believe) and my new ranking is 416…which comfortably puts me above HK.  πŸ™‚ 

    I imagine I could be higher, but when I started to get serious about the blog I pretty much stopped posting to Amazon except when I receive stuff with specific requests to post on Amazon if I review it (Disney DVDs, mostly).

    I guess given my lack of recent output that I’m surprised I’ve been hanging on to the classic rating I do have, and perhaps more than anything, the ranking criteria had to change for that reason.  I posted three reviews in 2008 and while I posted a bit more in the first half of 2007 those were all cross-posted and written for the blog, so I probably shouldn’t be holding on to that review rank. 

    Amazon is placing a premium on helpfulness and recent activity.

  3. I pulled all my reviews from Amazon a year ago. I was told (and I think the person was correct) that Amazon holds rights to your reviews if they’re posted on their site. Why would anyone want to sign away the rights to their hard work? Unless, of course, you can pump out 7 reviews a day. Then, I’d say you weren’t too worried about your reputation…

  4. I wouldn’t have objected to her so much if her reviews actually gave me more than a reworded blurb. They’re about as deep as reading the back of the books!

  5. Mary Long // October 30, 2008 at 3:03 am //

    Giving more than a reworded blurb would imply that she reads the books, and who can actually read hundreds of books every month. Her goal is posting billions five-star reviews, not reading anything.

  6. John, to be fair, you’re confused by the mass of numbers there: she’s reviewed 17,571 books, not 103,397 as you say. This last is the overall number of _votes_ that she has received (that were counted: she’s also lost about 30,000 votes, probably cast by what Amazon euphemistically calls “fans”, whose number Amazon quotes as — please sit down before looking — 2,715 people [ according to the table at ] ).


    But I agree with the rest of your message, and if you redo your math it’ll still come up to someting absurd. She reviews (a decade-long average) about six books a day. Again, this is an average, the real number fluctuates wildly and is frequently well above this.  This is a grotesque and you’re right that instead of merely dropping her rating and curtailing her votes (though this is, certainly, most enjoyable per se) she should have been banned from Amazon.

  7. I suppose this does mean no innocent customers are going to go to the list of reviewers and, not noticing the number of reviews or thinking that much about it, just click the top one under the mistaken impression that being #1 makes them credible.

    On the infamous post linked above, I did some other math, related to the amount of stuff reviewed per day. Bascially she posts on average 5.56 views per day. The entire proof is on the post John links to, but basically, assuming she reads non-stop for 16 hours a day, and each book being 360 pages on average, she has to read 1 page every 29 seconds non-stop.

    I think there is more than enough proof she’s a bit dodgy. I just want to find out how long it takes her to work out how long it takes for her to work out how the new system works, and get herself back up to number 1. Bets open…

  8. No doubt Miss Klauser doesn’t read the whole book. She probably skim reads and then reviews. 

    Some reviews are obviously dodgy. But that’s not to say all review websites are pointless.

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