The recent furor regarding Amazon book reviews being paid for frustrates me for a few reasons. Obviously there's my deep objection to the fact that people are so morally compromised that it doesn't bother them to write fraudulent reviews. There's also the fact that publishers and authors enact this practice. Deeper than that, though, I keep having this unavoidable, furious, selfish feeling that I've been cheated out of something. After writing reviews on Amazon.com literally since my childhood (I wrote my first reviews when I was nine years old and began to review consistently at the age of thirteen), I feel as though every minute I've spent on those reviews, every ounce of effort that went into writing a thoughtful and honest appraisal of a book I'd read... I suddenly feel as though all of this has gone to waste. My reviews have become meaningless.
My love affair with Amazon ended quite a while ago. I've felt a growing discomfort with the site for many years, these days avoiding it in favor of independent (or more forthcoming) bookstores. I continued to review on the site - indeed, I continue to receive Vine books for review (my only source for ARCs of any kind, incidentally) - but the frequency of my reviews dropped significantly. For a short time, I thought Goodreads might replace Amazon as my destination for online reviews, however it did not - Goodreads' style and approach differs so distinctly from my own that I usually feel uncomfortable truly reviewing there.
So the situation has been bad for a while. But now everyone is hesitant about the effectiveness of Amazon reviews. Now doubt has been cast about the legitimacy of every single book review that I have ever written for that site. It is obvious from my reviewing history that no publisher has ever paid for my opinion, or demanded that it be particularly positive (in fact, one of the reasons I still use the Amazon Vine program is because it is through an external dealer and not directly through the publishers). And yet it is done - my reviews will not be reaching the hoped-for audiences. The feeling that I - a simple reader sitting in front of my computer screen - can help another reader reach a particularly good book (or avoid a particularly bad one) has now been tainted.
And so I'm changing the policy of this site. Until a few months ago, I very explicitly avoided writing reviews - more specifically, the types of reviews I would have wanted to write - on the blog. Recently, I've experimented with significantly more book-oriented posts than usual, attempting to make these more similar to "standard" reviews. Today, I am taking it a few steps further. After almost four years of working on this blog, I will begin writing actual book reviews. I am not certain what the format will look like at first (and I am sure it will change before I find something I truly like), but I will begin to integrate reviews into my standard posting. Hopefully this will not change the shape of the blog too drastically - I still hope for the focus of the blog to be books in general, not book reviews, and especially not book reviews in one specific genre. But it will be changing, hopefully for the better.