by Phyllis Chesler
Dear Jeff Bezos:
Please know that I love bookstores. I may have spent at least a quarter of my life there, happily browsing, buying, dreaming, attending book readings—and delivering some readings of my own. Once, at Books and Books in Coral Gables, Florida, I got lost in their voluminous bookshelves and had to be gently guided to the waiting audience still patiently waiting for me to preach the word.
I get lost in books, not in the stars.
Over time, one independent bookstore after the other disappeared, prey to the chains. Now, in our plague years, so many stores have either gone out of business or have shut down for the duration.
And so I came to love online bookstores, especially your Amazon because they sell so much other Stuff too. Alas, is my love so unrequited, my business so inconsequential?
The Amazon Bookstore has been rejecting potential ratings and reviews for my new book, “Requiem for a Female Serial Killer” and I do not know why.
I love the ease of Amazon. All of my twenty books are being sold at Amazon online, (as well as everywhere else), even those which were published in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, long before books had an online presence or could be downloaded to a kindle or listened to.
Nevertheless, four of my books (“Women and Madness,” “Woman’s Inhumanity to Woman,” “The New Anti-Semitism,” and “An American Bride in Kabul,”) collectively display about 800 “ratings” or reviews at Amazon.
My new book has only 16 “ratings” or reviews. Fine. But not so fine. And why? Because disgruntled potential reviewers have been writing to me (as if I controlled Amazon) to tell me that their reviews had been rejected and “could not be accepted from this (their) account.”
One would-be reviewer was told that her review “did not meet (Amazon’s) community standards.” Some potential reviewers were advised that they had to purchase at least $50.00 worth of Stuff at Amazon and also had to prove that their copies of Requiem had been purchased at Amazon. Is this true? In any event, they had, they did, but still their reviews were not posted.
Has this been happening to anyone else?
The reviewers who found me were not relatives or friends. One was a distant colleague, not a friend, and she was eventually told that an “image” that had affixed itself to her review was “unacceptable.” She affixed no image. Who did? I finally did ask someone close to me to test drive a review at the site. She, too, was told that her review was not acceptable “from this (her) account.”
What weird algorithm can I have offended? Could this be a political fix? But of what kind? By who? The CIA? China? Russia? Pimps who fear my abolitionist view of female sexual slavery on full display in Requiem? Envious competitors with strange powers of control over Amazon? Really? I find these ideas all quite implausible.
Has this particular site been hacked?
Gloria Steinem endorsed the book but her quote is not yet up at Amazon. My publisher sent it your way almost a month ago but it has still not appeared. Barnes and Noble has displayed it. What can Amazon’s problem be?
Are you that overwhelmed? Understaffed? Simply and regrettably behind?
Or is it something that I wrote or said, either in this book or long ago in other books?
Who knew you cared?
Dear Jeff Bezos: Can you please help? I am at my wit’s end here. I know that books do not sell that well online if they do not have many reviews. Please, make my day.
Will someone human please call me to clarify this once-in-a-lifetime situation?
Phyllis Chesler is one of our greatest feminist writers; her clear writing style, her informed intellectual arguments, her sharp sense of humour all contribute to a unique perspective from a unique writer. One has to wonder about the emerging forms of censorship we are witnessing more and more each day. Ms. Chesler deserves to have a receptive audience and Amazon should ensure that she has the exposure to do so. Get with the program, Mr. Bezos- we are watching !