Image: Mike Seyfang Image: Mike Seyfang

After yesterday’s update about the book sales to date, I’ve been thinking about the sheer power of Amazon in the retail world today.

How often do we turn to our mobiles to check user feedback on products, before purchasing? I know I’m guilty of it, even if I intend to purchase in store. Having said that, I’ll always have a sneaky look at the price on Amazon too – if there’s a clear difference, it’s worth asking the shop to match… if you don’t ask, you don’t get!

But how much of this is open to manipulation?

Clearly, there are different levels. I’ve seen husband / wife reviews on Amazon. Not so bad, but a little tacky (you definitely won’t see Sarah on any of my book reviews!). There’s the review schemes, where a free item is given for a review. Again, not so bad provided there is protection for the reviewer so that they can give an honest review as if it was purchased full price. Then, there are the paid reviews: such as those offered by the 1,114 traders who Amazon were taking legal action against. Hmmm.

On balance, there needs to be a better way. Perhaps an independent review site, with third party purchase verification. Surely any online trader has a vested interest in their stock being rated, rated well, and rated lots. The questions are, who funds it, how is it policed, and how will it dominate our smartphone searches?

Until then: if you haven’t reviewed my book (and you have actually read it), please do on its Amazon page. And I’m sorry. There’s no payment or bribes for reviews. You have to go to someone else for that!

By Carl Reader, author of The Start Up Guide and The Franchise Handbook