October 23rd, 2012


Klausner and DeWitt

Harriet Klausner claims to be a speed-reader. In the last decade, this former librarian has reviewed over 28,000 books on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other sites. She's a notorious figure in the book-reviewing world. For many authors, getting "Klausnered" is a rite of passage, and as her "reviews" are nearly always very positive they are in a small way helpful, as she raises the average rank of your book.

Despite the impossibility of reading so many books and liking them all, few authors or publishers have condemned her as an obvious fake. But last week, a blogger who has spent years obsessively documenting Klausner's reviewing habits finally found a smoking gun. Using information given by Klausner herself in interviews, the blogger showed that many of the free books she receives from publishers and then reviews are promptly sold online from an account under her son's name. Suddenly, it all makes sense. Some have estimated that Klausner has made around $20,000 a year from her review mill.

But it has made no difference. On Tuesday, Klausner posted 30 new reviews to Amazon, all of them positive. The fact that Amazon and others have tolerated such an obvious fake for so long, and will apparently continue to do so despite overwhelming evidence she is profiting from it, shows how little they care about the integrity of their review systems.

As the post says, Klausner has been around for years, but I found the income she was making from it fairly amusing. That's more than some writers make!

In news that's perhaps vaguely connected to this, I read an interview with Helen DeWitt, which talked about publishing and other things and her lastest novel, Lightning Rods. At one point during it, she said, "I was very traumatized when I wrote it. Lightning Rods was a response to the very bad experience of having Samurai sent out and having all these unsolicited opinions from people whom I knew nothing about, so I couldn't place the context. Which certainly to me, as an academic--it was offensive. I don't think books come programmatically, they come from the subconscious. So my experience of that was like being fucked from behind through a hole in the wall. See, sexual abuse is taken very seriously, but intellectual abuse is not seen as a problem. That's just our society."

In Lightning Rods, a man creates a device that allows high powered corporate men to fuck women from behind in the toilet anonymously. I reckon I'll check it out.