Amazon leaves authors open to abuse

Reg hack's brother savaged online

Online retailer Amazon has come under fire for letting any old person pose as an author and submit a comment about a book they haven't written.

According to The Independent, children's writer Philip Pullman, sci-fi novelist John Christopher, and Terry Goodkind (not sure what genre he writes in) have all suffered and they are not happy. In the case of Pullman, the bogus comment maker was illiterate. It read: "Trully my best piece of work. Good day to all my readers, I never new I had so many ..."

But the Indy didn't say if this was Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com. The comments have since been removed (if you find them let us know), but Amazon.co.uk says it must be Amazon.com because the UK site does security checks. It wouldn't say what these are because then we'd know how to get round it.

Amazon.com's US spokesman Bill Curry told the Indy it does some screening.

On the Amazon.co.uk site, all it says when you click on the line 'I am the author and want to comment on my book' is:
Just a Moment! Are you the Author?
If you are not the Author or the Author's authorised representative, please fill out a customer review.

This security is not as tight as it could be.

Now my brother Nicholas Blincoe has written four top novels, and posted comments about some of them on Amazon.co.uk, and had no checks back from the company.

The only evidence that he was who he said he was is an email address, set up with his ISP Demon, which includes the word Blincoe. Based on this I could pretend to be my brother and write some old rubbish about his books. But I don't need to. Someone else is at it, but not posing as him.

A Mr Dean Cavanagh from Bradford, England wrote to Amazon.com to share his views on Nick's first novel Acid Casuals - One of the most overrated authors in the uk fails again. It warns against reading Blincoe and operating heavy machinery.

"Blincoe is a poseur and charlatan and Acid Casuals goes further than any other of his projectile vomits to sustain this belief. God only knows how he manages to get into print."

Now, not everyone loves my brother's tales of drugs and crime. But by an amazing coincidence a Dean Cavanagh submitted a novel to my brother (he has a day job as a book editor) which he rejected.

And then a Gnasher.fsnet.co.uk from Bermondsey wrote to Amazon.co.uk to say what he liked about Acid Casuals - a wholly improbable and moribund yawnfest. It mentions that Nicholas"...hasn't got a clue about the characters he writes about. He writes about Gangsters but you get the feeling that if he were to ever actually meet one,he'd Brad Pitt his pants..."

We haven't employed a literary style expert to analyse the prose in both these crits but there does seem to be similarities beyond a dislike of the book. And there's more.

An Irishjames.yahoo.co.uk from South East London wrote to Amazon.co.uk got his say on Nick's book Jello Salad - corny unrealistic gangster drivel. "If you're not going to buy one book this year,make sure it's this one. Blincoe obviously knows nothing about the London Underworld so why even bother?"

Nicholas believes this guy might have a future as a writer after all, rubbishing the work of someone who has not recognised the genius of your own effort - usually in the form of a book review - is an essential part of being in literary London.

But to prove my brother isn't under the impression there's just one person who can't stand his books, a blairlockhead@hotmail.com from LONDON wrote this about Jello Salad on Amazon.co.uk. Truly awful - "Please save your pennies. This book has to be the worst ever written. Can anyone with a PC get a book deal these days? No plot, no character development, no depth.

"Unfortunately I think they're a genuine reader," says Nicholas.

Amazon.co.uk's own guidelines on submitting reviews says "...we respectfully request that you refrain from including the following in your review: * Profanity, obscenities or spiteful remarks..." ®

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