I love Amazon. I really do. They have a seemingly infinite supply of products, great prices, efficient distribution, and speedy delivery. As an author, I also enjoy the benefits of their KDP Select program. They have made self-publishing easier and more profitable than ever. And Amazon continues to roll out innovative programs for authors who choose exclusivity with the online Goliath’s KDP Select program. These marketing programs, such as FREE days, Kindle Countdown Deals, Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL), and now Kindle Unlimited (KU), all provide authors a variety of avenues for promotion and exposure, while giving readers additional ways to find new authors. It’s a win-win.
Take the new Kindle Unlimited program. A member pays $9.99 per month and can download as many books offered under KU as she wants, each and every month from KDP Select authors. Then there are the Amazon PRIME members who pay $99.99 annually and, as one of their perks, can use the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library to download one book per month, free, from scores of authors. Who, again, participate in the KDP Select program.
I personally love the new Kindle Unlimited initiative. I have seen a nice spike in downloads of my books, which in turn boosts my sales rankings and makes my books more visible to even more readers. Thank you, Amazon! I really mean that.
Do you hear the ‘but’ coming?
If you’ve ever left a review on Amazon, you already know that if you purchased the product from them, you can choose to leave a Verified Purchase review. This means that Amazon can assure future readers of your review that you did, in fact, purchase the item from them. I have absolutely no idea what the point-of-sale has to do with the veracity, quality, or relevance of a review. However, a lot of emphasis is placed on the Verified Purchase review label:
“The Amazon Verified Review label offers one more way to help gauge the quality and relevance of a product review.”
That language is from Amazon. You can read it for yourself here: Amazon Verified Purchase Review.
Now, I don’t know about you, but that statement makes me think a review without a Verified Purchase label is somehow inferior, lesser in ‘quality and relevance’. Why? Why does it matter where a consumer purchased a good? If they have experience with it, or have read it, they should be able to leave a review that carries the same weight as anyone else. And I’m sure those Amazon subscribers to PRIME and Kindle Unlimited have the option of clicking Verified Purchase…
BUT they don’t. Again, these consumers are purchasing a service from Amazon, but apparently their reviews don’t have the same ‘quality and relevance’ when using Amazon’s subscriber-only services. Why? And I’d like an answer other than: Because Amazon says so. I think if I’m paying $9.99 a month to download and read as many books as I want, I should be able to leave Verified Purchase reviews for those books. Amazon knows what I’ve downloaded from them to my kindle. It shouldn’t matter that I didn’t pay a separate amount for it, because I’m already paying Amazon monthly, or annually.
Who cares? Right? Well, here’s the problem. Amazon makes a big deal out of Verified Purchase reviews just by offering it as an option and now by allowing reviews to be filtered using that same label. And authors know that readers like to see this label on reviews, especially if it’s a new-to-them author. And even though I’ve seen a spike in downloads for my books since the start of Kindle Unlimited, I will never see the all-important Verified Purchase review label for any of them, which makes those reviews seem suspicious in some way, less ‘quality and relevance’… Doesn’t it? And readers could download a great book from a competing vendor and love it so much they want to shout it from rooftops, and leave a review at every book-selling site possible. But those reviews are suspect, too. Right? After all, it’s the point-of-sale that’s relevant when it comes to reviews. Agreed? Without the Verified Purchase label, you can never really be sure it’s a legitimate Amazon purchase? And that’s important, because…?
Other than the obvious digital purchase trail, what does a Verified Purchase review really mean? Nothing. Since I understand how this works from an author’s perspective, I no longer, as a consumer, give any credence to that little label when I’m deciding on a purchase at Amazon. I get it now. I’ve seen how the game is played from the inside. However, as an author, I know that readers feel it’s important. And because of that, I’m not happy that Amazon doesn’t allow the Verified Purchase review as an option for PRIME (KOLL) and Kindle Unlimited members.
In my opinion, Amazon either needs to get rid of the Verified Purchase review option (my preference), or offer it to ALL paying customers. And that includes their very own PRIME and Kindle Unlimited subscribers.