By Iola GoultonFor as long as professionals or members of the public have been able to write product reviews (including book reviews), there have been people attempting to work their way around the system. Amazon is no exception.
What is the AVP Badge?AVP stands for Amazon Verified Purchase, and is supposed to be a way for Amazon users to judge the veracity of the review.
Amazon introduced the AVP Badge in an effort to curb fake reviews. It has been successful, to the point where many Amazon users claim they ignore reviews that don’t carry the AVP Badge. But just like any reviewing system, the AVP Badge can be gamed—which means it’s no longer a good way for Amazon users to judge reviews.
1. The AVP Badge is OptionalWhen you write a product review for a product you purchased on Amazon, you have the option to include the AVP badge or not. A reviewer who has purchased the product at Amazon may choose not to display the AVP badge (for whatever reason), which means there are a number of reviews of products which were purchased at Amazon, but which do not display the AVP badge.
2. The AVP Badge is Country-specificWhile Amazon.com (the US site) is the best-known, Amazon also have sites in Australia, Canada, England, and several other non-English speaking countries. Many reviewers, including myself, cross-post reviews at two or more Amazon sites. However, the AVP Badge only shows up on the Amazon site the product was actually purchased from.
3. Free Downloads show the AVP BadgeFree Kindle downloads earn the ‘purchaser’ the AVP Badge. But just because someone downloaded the book doesn’t mean they’ve read it. I currently have close to 1,000 free downloads on my Kindle, and have probably read less than 10% of them. But I could publish reviews for each of those 1,000 books, and they would display the AVP Badge. Even though I haven’t even opened them since I bought them, much less read them.
4. ARCs Don’t Show the AVP BadgeARCs are Advance Reviewer Copies (or Advance Reader Copies). As the name suggests, these are advance copies of the book sent to influencers including reviewers, bloggers, journalists, librarians, booksellers, educators and the media in an effort to promote sales and get book reviews, both online and in print. ARCs may be electronic (delivered through a website such as NetGalley or Edelweiss) or paper (an unproofed manuscript, either printed on A4 and spiral bound or, more commonly, a low-quality mockup of the final book).
ARC reviews are easy to spot. Some reviewers will disclose they received a free copy of the book (or other product) in exchange for a review. This disclosure is required by Amazon in order to comply with Federal Trade Commission guidelines. Others will be labelled by Amazon as Vine Voice reviews. Vine Voice is a programme operating in the US, UK and Canada that allows selected reviewers free products in exchange for an honest review.
Around 75% of the books I read each year are ARC copies, so none of those get the Amazon AVP Badge. But I can assure you, I have read the books, and if my reviews weren’t considered to be of sufficient quality, the publishers wouldn’t supply me with the electronic ARCs.
5. Borrowed Books Don’t Show the AVP BadgeThe AVP Badge only shows for books purchased through one Amazon country site:
- If you borrow books from the library (or friends), your review won’t show the AVP Badge.
- If someone gives you the book (even if they purchased it from Amazon), your review won’t show the AVP Badge.
- If you purchase the book from another source, your review won’t show the AVP Badge.
- If you purchase the book second-hand, your review won’t show the AVP Badge.
These are all perfectly acceptable, even normal, ways to acquire a book. Is your review somehow less relevant because you didn’t purchase the book from Amazon?
6. Fake Reviews Do Show the AVP BadgeIf you want a host of glowing five-star reviews and are a little short on character traits such as honesty and ethical behaviour, then you fake your reviews. The two most common ways of doing this are:
- Set up an Amazon account in a fake name, purchase your book and review it (so getting a wonderful review, and the AVP Badge);
- Contract a series of reviews from a “reputable” website (choke) such as ffiver.com, who will purchase your book and provide you with a five-star review within a day or two. Hey presto, a five-star review with an AVP Badge.
Neither method is recommended. It's cheating.
7. Fake the AVP BadgeYes, the AVP Badge can be faked. I’m not going to say how on an open forum (for obvious reasons), but a couple of my online friends have tested this and report it can be done with little effort. I suspect that any reviewer who goes to the effort of faking the AVP Badge almost certainly hasn’t read the book (or used the product ) they are reviewing. The only reason to fake the badge is to make a review look legitimate. Real reviewers wouldn’t bother.
So there you have seven reasons why the Amazon AVP Badge is meaningless. In a nutshell, the AVP Badge tells you nothing about whether the reviewer used the product. In the case of a book review, an AVP Badge is no guarantee the reviewer read the book—and surely that’s the basic criteria for a reliable review.
If the AVP Badge isn’t a good way of judging Amazon reviews, what is? I’ll look at that in a future post, but meanwhile, do you look at the AVP Badge? If not, what criteria do you use to judge the veracity of an Amazon book review?
By Iola Goulton. I am a freelance editor specialising in Christian fiction, and you can find out more about my services at my website (www.christianediting.co.nz), or follow me on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/christianediting), Twitter (@IolaGoulton) or Pinterest (http://pinterest.com/iolasreads).
I love reading, and read and review around 150 Christian books each year on my blog (www.christianreads.blogspot.com). I'm a Top 25 Reviewer at Christian Book, in the Top 1% of reviewers at Goodreads, and have an Amazon Reviewer Rank that floats around 2500.