Amazon eBook questions that are rarely asked

by on January 12, 2016 at 2:09 pm in Books, Data Source, Web/Tech | Permalink

Why are Amazon ebook reviews from US readers more important than reviews from international readers?

Have you noticed that reviews from are aggregated across all other international Amazon sites, but that the reverse is not true? If someone kindly posts a review of a book on, it is stuck there, and not aggregated to Why? Is a UK review less valuable than a US review? Are reviews from Canadians, Australians or India inferior to US reviews?

Source here, via Sofia Tania.

1 prior_test January 12, 2016 at 2:22 pm

American company follows American centric laws when doing business – especially when places like the EU have extremely strict data privacy laws and different copyright frameworks. Which means that using American reviews internationally is not a problem, but to use reviews from a country like Austria just might result in all kinds of unanticipated work. As happened with Facebook –

‘Facebook is poised for another legal battle over how it handles European users’ data, as the Austrian Supreme Court is set to decide whether more than 25,000 Facebook users can join together in a class action suit filed by Austrian privacy activist Max Schrems.

Mr. Schrems, a law student at the University of Vienna, originally filed the complaint against Facebook’s European headquarters in Ireland in July 2014, quickly gaining the support of tens of thousands of European users alarmed by how the social media site collects their data.

In July, a lower court in Austria threw the suit out, saying it had “no jurisdiction” over the claim, but Schrems appealed, with a Vienna appeals court saying that he could personally file a suit because he is covered by local consumer protection laws.

But he wants to expand beyond such a “model case” to examine whether Facebook’s practices in Europe violate local laws on data protection, which are often stricter than those in the US.

There are several concerns, including users’ inability to consent to how their data is used, the tracking of users on third-party websites and Facebook’s alleged participation in the US bulk surveillance program PRISM, which the company has long denied.’

2 dan1111 January 13, 2016 at 2:24 am

Interesting, but how do you think this is relevant to the Amazon reviews?

3 Oliver Sherouse January 12, 2016 at 2:23 pm

A possible explanation: I would not be surprised if Americans trust other Americans’ opinions, but mistrust the opinions of people from other countries (“it had all these 5-star reviews, but then I found out they were all, like, English people or something”). Since Amazon is selling itself as a place to find good reviews on products as well as selling the products themselves, it’s brand would be hurt by including international reviews on the American site.

International reviews, in this view, are pooled because either the resistance isn’t as strong, or because there are so many fewer reviewers in other countries that the brand hit from including them is smaller than the brand hit from having too few reviews.

Of course, it could just be path dependence and lazy coders.

4 The Other Jim January 12, 2016 at 3:47 pm

>”I would not be surprised if Americans trust other Americans’ opinions, but mistrust the opinions of people from other countries”

That’s not bigoted at all. You sound like a very enlightened person.

5 Nobody is Right January 12, 2016 at 3:54 pm

well he’s only making a comment on other people’s preferences, so yeah he doesn’t sound bigoted at all.

6 Cooper January 12, 2016 at 6:58 pm

The Other Jim,

Bollywood films are extremely popular in India. Personally, I don’t enjoy them at all. Would opening up my movie review list to millions of Indian reviewers improve the odds that I’ll enjoy the sorts of movies that they recommend? Probably not.

7 Oliver Sherouse January 12, 2016 at 7:30 pm

So what you’re saying is that I’m going out on a limb when I suggest that people prefer people to whom they have a connection to people with whom they do not? Or that being American is a thing that is Americans care about?

8 kimock January 13, 2016 at 1:40 am

America is clearly the world’s largest cultural exporter. Oliver’s proposal about Americans’ bias toward their own opinions (which may or may not be bigoted, but there is no reason to think that he is) is highly consistent with that.

9 Victoria Rivero January 12, 2016 at 4:46 pm

I live and read in Argentina. I have posted several reviews in and they have been published. I do not think Americans mistrust the opinions of people from other countries.
Besides, if you are writing online, what is the advantage of posting your review in instead of

10 Rohan January 12, 2016 at 2:23 pm

Amazon Project Manager: We just launched our UK site, but the books don’t have many reviews yet. The pages look very empty.

Amazon Dev: Hmm, well, there lots of reviews on the US site. Want me to just grab the reviews from there?

Amazon Project Manager: Sure, sounds good. On to the next problem.

5 years later: Random rant about how Amazon values US reviewers more than other countries.

11 Urstoff January 12, 2016 at 2:30 pm

Yeah, I would bet that this is a matter of convenience and not something that has a lot of thought put behind it.

12 Pshrnk January 12, 2016 at 2:37 pm

Do you truly think anything about Amazon doesn’t have a lot of thought behind it?

13 XVO January 12, 2016 at 2:56 pm


14 Urstoff January 12, 2016 at 3:12 pm

Whatever happened to lists? Why did they take my lists?!

15 Urstoff January 12, 2016 at 3:12 pm

(Listmania lists, not wish lists)

16 Urstoff January 12, 2016 at 3:15 pm

Oh wait, I figured it out:

17 Adrian Ratnapala January 12, 2016 at 2:42 pm

In if there has been thought behind it, that thought is likely to be “The system work, don’t **ck with it “.

18 Nik January 12, 2016 at 4:51 pm

Indeed, in my experience after having worked at Amazon for a few years, not everything Amazon does is part of a deliberate plan. The software is a bit messy and chaotic, and when something sorta almost works, sometimes it is just left alone because there are more important things to do.

19 João January 12, 2016 at 2:31 pm

That is most probable.

20 Keith January 12, 2016 at 3:00 pm

Yes this is it. I am in the tech industry and this is how things happen.

21 David Wright January 12, 2016 at 3:36 pm

Another tech industry professional who sees this as the obvious and most likely explanation.

22 Harun January 12, 2016 at 7:52 pm

This is exactly how it happened.

Also, people forget, Amazon used to be just books, then products, then e-books.

So a system set up for books is country specific due to publishing.

Product sales make it even more so, as VAT and other regulations come along.

Finally you add ebooks, but this system is already set up and running like this.

23 odeboyz January 12, 2016 at 2:35 pm

I thought this was just American exceptionalism.

24 Pshrnk January 12, 2016 at 2:35 pm


25 Doug January 12, 2016 at 2:47 pm

To be blunt, on cultural matters Americans’ opinions count a lot more than non-Americans. Pretend you were in charge of marketing an expensive new movie franchise, ultimately wanting it to become a part of the cultural fabric like Harry Potter or the Avengers. Honestly, how would you weight the value of awareness among different parts of the world? Ball park, converting a single American is worth two Anglosphere denizens, four continentals, and ten Asians. That simply represents the usual direction that global culture flows in.

Among people living outside the US, the anxiety of being non-American is palpable. To a different degree depending on country, but its there nearly everywhere. I’d imagine its very similar to living in the first century Mediterranean outside Roman Italy.

26 Theo January 12, 2016 at 3:17 pm

No particular opinion on the first half of your comment, but having lived in Australia, the UK, Hong Kong, Switzerland, France, and the Netherlands I’m yet to note any anxiety- palpable or otherwise- over not being American.
(Notable exception being CS students everywhere, most of whom are counting down the days before they can move to Silicon Valley)

27 Sam Haysom January 12, 2016 at 4:48 pm

Having lived in Europe and not having my status tied to faux-cosmopolitanism I have to say this comment is 100 percent the opposite of truth. Europeans are obsessed with American culture. The screeching about American “racism” and “war-mongering” grows louder the greater the obsession. France isn’t obsessed with America in the same way that the chubby freshman girl isn’t obsessed with the starting QB in her class. The only check on obsession is the realization that they are out of their league.

28 Adrian Ratnapala January 12, 2016 at 10:55 pm

I agree there is a lot of tedious, ill thought out anti-americanism in the world. And that this is some sort of inferiority complex, where in this case “inferiory” means “smaller”.

Still I don’t get the impression that anyone wants to be American, or that many people want to be anything other than what they already are.

29 kimock January 13, 2016 at 1:45 am

Living for several years in the Netherlands now, I have to say that my experience is between those of Sam and Theo. The Dutch love American popular culture, technologies, cultural symbols (cowboys and freedom and hamburgers etc), academic output, language, etc. There is some anxiety about the disappearance of Dutch culture. But the Dutch make little pretense to be a world power, culturally or otherwise. I don’t think that I have met a single Dutchie who actually wants to move to America.

30 Nathan W January 15, 2016 at 12:41 am

I bet the Europeans you met while living there didn’t like you very much.

31 carlolspln January 12, 2016 at 3:32 pm

“Among people living outside the US, the anxiety of being non-American is palpable”

No, thanks.

32 Thomas January 13, 2016 at 7:00 pm

You’re an example. PA already checked in, where’s Thiago?

33 Bazza January 12, 2016 at 4:03 pm

I now have a new game to play; ask my non-American colleagues about their anxieties of being non-American. Much laughter typically ensues, though there is also an expression of gratitude that we don’t have American police, primary education, or opiate overconsumption.

(I’m American but have lived abroad for the past nine years. I miss the cheap petrol, and many lovely people, but not the vacuous and unjustified cultural chauvinism.)

34 cp January 12, 2016 at 4:37 pm

If your colleagues never think or talk about America (or only rarely) I believe you. But a malevolent obsession is still an obsession.

35 Art Deco January 12, 2016 at 6:38 pm

gratitude that we don’t have American police

And their experience with ‘American police’ is precisely what? Would they prefer Perugia’s Keystone Kops?

36 Unanimous January 12, 2016 at 4:25 pm

The anxiety is about gradually becoming more American.

37 Rafael G. January 12, 2016 at 6:26 pm

Well, in per capita terms I would think that UK, Australia and Canada have similar per capita levels of cultural influence compared to the US, maybe greater. UK has more very influential pop music artists: Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Motorhead, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Beatles, Rolling Stones, Venon, David Bowie, Pink Floyd among others, in per capita terms, UK has bigger international cultural influence than the US, in terms of music, even in absolute terms. Australia has AC/DC, Canada has Rush. Overall, in per capita terms other English speaking countries appear to be in equal footing in terms of cultural influence.

Its also true that the average Anglophone person has bigger international cultural influence than people from continental Europe and people from Asia. Japanese people only influence Japanese people and western otakus (example, X-Japan, perhaps Japan’s most influential rock band doesn’t have a remotely comparable international influence compared to Led Zeppelin or The Beatles). Although, it’s also true that China’s population is about equal to the population of Europe + North America + South America, so maybe individual Chinese artists might influence other Chinese to a greater number han Led Zeppelin influenced westerners.

38 kimock January 13, 2016 at 1:52 am

You might have an argument with the UK in the case of books and music. But not for movies and TV, perhaps because the accent is more noticeable. The assertion that Canada and Australia have the same per capita levels of cultural influence is laughable. I probably follow popular culture as much as the average American yet I cannot name a single Australian or genuinely Canadian movie.

39 Pshrnk January 13, 2016 at 3:23 pm

Crocodile Dundee, Breaker Morant, The Road Warrior, Etcetera were not small movies.

40 Urstoff January 13, 2016 at 9:34 am

Per capita, Iceland is the most culturally influential country in the world, but that doesn’t mean everyone loves Icelandic culture. Per capita measurements don’t matter at the global scale. The US is clearly the most culturally influential country in the world, which is probably a lot to do with it’s size. If Europe were a country, then it would be in the running. That doesn’t mean everyone wants to be American, though, which is just a silly statement. It just means that people in other countries are much more aware of America and its cultural products than Americans are aware of those from other countries.

41 Jan January 12, 2016 at 2:54 pm

The English-language Amazon Japan book reviews suck. They are all from the same guy.

42 Axa January 12, 2016 at 3:16 pm

Just a quick check using one of the most quoted books…..Capital in the 21st century. 205 reviews in and 1644 reviews in

The most “helpful” review in the UK is By A. D. Thibeault on 26 Mar. 2014 while is the US is by Aguadito on April 24, 2014

Did Amazon made an upgrade since Oct. 9 2015 when the rant was written? Or… the rant justified?

43 Axa January 12, 2016 at 3:20 pm

Also made a quick check in .de, .es, .mx, .jp and the first reviews seem to be different for Piketty’s book. What’s going on here?

44 kimock January 13, 2016 at 1:47 am

Reviews may be shared from America to other countries, but votes as to whether a given review is helpful could be country-specific.

45 Raffi January 12, 2016 at 3:24 pm

Anecdotal guess: American reviews are likely to be more positive. Thus, American reviews raise average ratings in Europe, but European reviews would lower average ratings in the US. Amazon wants reviews to be high.

Not sure about any of it, but that’s my guess.

46 The Other Jim January 12, 2016 at 3:52 pm

Could non-American insecurities get any more pathetic?

“My Amazon reviews insufficiently highly-regarded — it must be because I’m not American!”

Really? Has it gotten this bad?

47 Sam Haysom January 12, 2016 at 4:43 pm

Even funnier is the comments pouring into an American site like MR angry at the suggestion that non-Americans are obsessed with Americans. To quote a non-American they doth protest too much.

48 Donald Pretari January 12, 2016 at 5:02 pm

I’m still trying to find out why you can buy a hundred Kindle books about Wittgenstein but only a couple by him. Or why so few Criterion films are available as Amazon videos.

49 Rob January 12, 2016 at 5:26 pm

This isn’t entirely accurate. reviews on are clearly segregated from the ‘main’ reviews, and are basically listed as supplementary information. So, if the thing has a UK review, you’re going to see that first. Only if there’s no UK reviews at all will you see the US review.

On, no segregation exists. All reviews are shown, it’s just that they’re mostly – but not exclusively – from people in the US. Also included are reviews from international customers where the selection of available books on is better/cheaper than the selection in their home region. As a UK customer I’ve bought books from before, and could write reviews there if I chose. So, probably features reviews from non-Americans that aren’t clearly segregated from the rest of the American-authored reviews, whereas in the UK almost all reviews are from people in the UK and the American reviews are clearly labeled. I don’t find this such a problem, though the asymmetry is odd.

I think this is a general pattern, that while many large tech companies will have country-specific sites for reasonably large Asian and European countries, they generally have the .com as the catch-all for Americans (who don’t seem to care) and whoever else doesn’t get their own country-specific site (who don’t have a choice).

50 Roberto January 12, 2016 at 10:14 pm

1. I’ve lived in Japan for 25 years and I’ve never heard of a group named X-Japan. That’s how famous they are in Japan. I know Kyu Sakamoto, Bump of Chicken, Shonen Knife, and Pink Lady however.

2. Wittgenstein’s books are now in public domain, are they not, and are available online in pdf, am I wrong? The demand is probably not overwhelming (every university library will have them). Perhaps the reason is simply that publishers have few incentive to publish them. Incentives, like Black Lives, Matter!

51 Donald Pretari January 13, 2016 at 3:00 am

The translations aren’t.

52 Urstoff January 13, 2016 at 9:35 am

What about Melt Banana? I just assume they’re like The Beatles of Japan.

53 Jazi Zilber January 13, 2016 at 9:40 am

UK book market is distinct. Many books are published there with different titles, dates and prices. So it might be harder to aggragate.

Also, Amazon will not even offer me an book from its uk site. Even when context proves ths might generate a sale…..

54 Mahinder January 26, 2016 at 7:36 am

I really love reading E-Books; it is something we should all be interested in. I am a Forex trader, so I love reading E-Books about these, but of course, I don’t like to pay too much. I get free guides from my broker OctaFX, as they are number one broker in the world and always provide ideal facilities for new comers to feed on and that’s exactly what I do with them and it has helped me become really good trader.

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