Book Review Controversy

Amazon’s book review system has been a great way to learn what others think about a particular book. Then, it was discovered that one of the most successful self-publishing authors had been using dummy accounts to write glowing reviews of his own books and poor reviews of others. As a result, Amazon has tightened up enforcement of its review policy. Their reply to a Los Angeles Times query stated that they “do not allow reviews on behalf of a person or company with a financial interest in the product or a directly competing product. This includes authors, artists, publishers, manufacturers, or third-party merchants selling the product.”

This can be a blow to authors in the genealogy community – self-published or otherwise. I haven’t seen any of the reviews I’ve written removed yet, but that could happen at any time. I can understand issues with bad reviews posted by competitors, but this punishes the “little guys” like us since most of our reviews come from other authors.

There are alternatives. One I recommend is Goodreads. Not only does it provide a wonderful place to discover books, but it’s also a book lover’s community center. Here you’ll find groups for just about any topic imaginable. I’ve joined my local library’s group, two genealogy groups and an English mysteries group. All of them have introduced me to books I would not have found otherwise and all have provided thoughtful reviews and comments to help me decide what to read next. I am so impressed with Goodreads that here is where I’ll first post a review. From there I’ll post copies to whatever book seller too.

Goodreads Groups page

For the reader, you can keep track of your books by building out your own book shelves. The free iOS and Android apps include a barcode scanner making it even easier to build your library. You can browse books and mark the ones you want to read. You can even follow the book’s link to your preferred bookseller to purchase it. Once you’ve read a book, you can add a rating and write a review. You can connect with other readers to see what they’re reading and share notes. Some of the book groups even offer a virtual book club with monthly discussions around that month’s title. Goodreads can be as much or as little as you want it to be.

For family publishers, Goodreads offers authors a page that you can use to promote your own book(s). It costs you nothing but your time and gives you access to its growing population of reading fanatics. You can follow a favorite author to get news on upcoming books and other items of interest.

I hope to see you there soon. Stop by my page at Goodreads anytime and say hello.


  • Dawn Westfall

    Hi Denise! My daughter hooked me up with Goodreads not too long ago. I checked out your page at Goodreads and expanded a little by joining a couple of book clubs. Thanks!

    • Denise Barrett Olson

      Super! I’ll look for you out there.