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Amazon cuts space for book reviews



FALLS CHURCH, Va., Jul 08, 2007 -- America’s newspapers are cutting space for book reviews to control costs, and who can blame them? Book reviews suck up space, and they’re one of the least popular features of newspapers.

Surprisingly, is cutting space for customer book reviews too. But unlike newspapers, book reviews are Amazon’s most popular feature, and cost them nothing to display.

The change does away with Amazon’s familiar one-column display of six reviews. Now just three reviews will be displayed in their entirety, followed by a link to other reviews.

Another unpopular change: The new design is dominated by the three reviews voted “most helpful” by other shoppers. Traditionally, the most recent reviews were displayed first, along with a pair of “Spotlight” reviews. But with the new design, only snippets of some recent reviews will appear in a sidebar on the right.

Many of Amazon’s most active book reviewers are outraged, complaining that most shoppers won’t click through to read the newer reviews, reducing their chance of attracting votes.

“This new design is a terrible disincentive to all reviewers, especially newer ones,” said frequent reviewer Daniel Jolley. “It’s just a fact that most users simply do not go beyond the first page of whatever they are pulling up online. You’re effectively banning most reviewers from ever being on the main item page, even temporarily.”

Jim Robinson, an Amazon employee who is guiding the update, defended the new design and said it was unlikely to discourage readership of recent reviews.

It’s clear that Amazon is trying to reduce clutter on its book detail pages. Shoppers must wade through dozens of features competing for their attention, such as author blogs, related books and advertisements. Amazon recently reduced the amount of space devoted to its wiki and “customer discussion” features, which appear near the bottom of detail pages and are seldom used.

Amazon is also adding a chart at the top of book reviews indicating the number of reviews awarded at each star rating of one to five. For a picture of the new review design, see:

Steve Weber is author of “Plug Your Book! Online Book Marketing for Authors.” For more information, see


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