Amazon and Payola -- say it isn't so!

Janie L. Wilkins (
Tue, 16 Feb 1999 17:13:24 -0500

Sigh. This could be considered old news by now as I have
just returned to civilization after spending four days on a
mountain skiing... but since I am feeling betrayed at the
moment and no one else has commented on this story yet, I am
going to FoRK the Amazon Payola scandal just so I can vent a
little. There are murmurings about shady transactions at
Amazon (see link and story below), one of my all-time
favourite Internet success stories. The whole idea of a
start-up company coming out of nowhere in late 1995 and
beating the megabookstores like Barnes and Nobles in the
world of e-commerce by 1998 really appealed to me and I've
always promoted their site to my patrons. I've used for 3+ years, both personally and
professionally. Many librarians have come to rely on for book news, reading lists and even for their
links to reviews. In fact, I probably use Amazon at least
5-6 times every shift on the reference desk and I check it
regularly to keep up-to-date with the pulse of what America
is reading. I will probably continue to use Amazon because
they are still one of the most comprehensive sites in the
book business, but I will no longer trust their reviews when
making selections for the collection (and I will no longer
be a fan, cheering them on to squash the big guys).

Book News from Bookwire Offering Refunds Following Payola Accusations
(February 12, 1999)
Online bookselling Goliath
is offering refunds to customers
following accusations that it charged
publishers for positive endorsements.
According to press reports,
was receiving as much as $10,000 in
return for a prominent display of a
book on its main page, an author interview, as
well as what is described as a
"complete editorial review." A
company representative stated that the
bookseller began receiveing
"expressions of concern by people who
are very important to us -- namely our
customers" regarding the practice of
essentially selling flattering reviews, and to
make amends, it insists it will
henceforth inform the public when a publisher has
paid for special treatment.

Am I overreacting? Perhaps this is common in the world of
business and I am just to naive to know any better...