In the wake of the scandal where Amazon.ca accidentally revealed the identities of it's anonymous reviewers (Amazon Glitch Unmasks War of Reviewers - NYTimes.com, free registration required), it seems Amazon has revised their review system.
From the NY Times article:
The weeklong glitch, which Amazon fixed after outed reviewers complained, provided a rare glimpse at how writers and readers are wielding the online reviews as a tool to promote or pan a book -- when they think no one is watching.
I always knew Amazon's review system was flawed & viewed many reviews with a skeptical eye, especially top 1000 reviewers: who has time to review that many products unless they're paid to do it? Also suspect were anonymous reviews, reviews by people without an "About" page, and empty glowing reviews that received too many votes.
I once read over 100 reviews for a book on marketing, with the vast majority of them being vapid, empty, and positively glowing, with a tiny minority telling the truth - there's nothing to the book. In fact, each of the positive reviews was a near carbon copy of the other, with just the sentance structure changed, the same way a high school student plagiarizes his reports by changing the wording of some other published article on the same subject.
Authors and publishers were exploiting Amazon to write glowing reviews of their own books & negative reviews of the competition.
Well, I'd just received a book in the mail with lots of glowing reviews - so many that I thought I was safe in ordering this book, but alas, this book was empty too & I decided to return it. While returning it, I also decided to write a review of it & stumbled on the following:
Create your Real Name
Amazon.com uses your Real Name to sign content that you submit. If you submit content under your Real Name you will receive a Real Name badge (see the example below).
Your Real Name will be displayed in your About You area and next to any reviews you submit, including those submitted in the past. Your Real Name will not be displayed with reviews submitted anonymously.
Amazon.com generates your Real Name options from the cardholder name on your credit card. You may also enter a personalized signature and your location, which will be displayed with your Real Name. Learn more about why we are doing this.
Example of a Real Name with a badge:
Jane Smith "book maven" (Seattle, WA USA)
So now reviews by real people will be noticed & it will be harder for publishers fake a mass of anonymous reviews or pseudononmyous reviews - they can still do it, but at least you can know when a real person is behind a review. It's not a perfect scheme (I can hire people to write reviews, and still get friends & family to do the same), but it's a step in the right direction & I applaud Amazon for taking this bold step.