Amazon’s bundled ratings

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Badly translated versions of classic books and critically panned remakes of Hollywood films appear to have glowing endorsements on Amazon thanks to the website’s policy of bundling together reviews of different products.

Analysis by the Guardian shows products that have actually been given one-star ratings appear alongside rave reviews of better quality items, making it impossible for consumers to judge the true value of what they are about to buy.

Seriously? SERIOUSLY? Because I depend on those ratings when making buying decisions! I had no idea! Listen:

The same is true of a Kindle version of the Dickens classic, selling for 91p. Far from meeting the great expectations the 4.5-star review might imply, a glance inside suggests the rave reviews do not apply to this version….

A review from a reader, which appears to be about this edition, gives it just one star and describes it as terrible.

“Each page has a dozen errors. It reads as if it has been translated from a foreign language. ‘Dog’ in the original is ‘canine’ in this version; ‘file’ in the original has become ‘document’; ‘tremendous’ has become ‘maximum incredible’; ‘man’ has become ‘guy’.


Shakespeare’s plays suffer the same fate as Austen’s work, so anyone wondering whether to buy or not to buy a paperback copy of Hamlet will find it shares reviews with Kindle versions of Othello and Macbeth that turned out to be in German.

Most of the reviews do not mention which play or edition is being appraised, making them meaningless to consumers attempting to pick between different options.


Well, to be fair, I almost always or always do skim through some of the actual comments before buying anything at all pricey. With clothing, I search carefully for reviews by people who state their height and weight so I can estimate whether the item would actually work for me. For appliances, I want to know what kinds of things people like and dislike.

For books, I’m mostly not buying a specific edition of a classic. But if I wanted a beautiful edition of Lord of the Rings, I would be extremely miffed if I discovered I had accidentally ordered a much worse edition … or an edition rife with errors … or one that had been translated into German.

And if I see a basic 4.5 star rating for a specific edition, I would sure prefer that the rating apply to that edition!


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4 thoughts on “Amazon’s bundled ratings”

  1. I first encountered this when trying to get a specific edition of The Count of Monte Cristo. (Most of the early English editions expurgate some of the content.) I had to go to the publisher’s website and find an ISBN, to find the right edition among dozens of public domain repackagings. Surprisingly tricky.

  2. It took me years to realize my copy of The Count of Monte Cristo was abridged. I definitely agree it ought to be crystal clear which editions are abridged before you hit the buy button!

  3. There are two books on Amazon which share the title THE COMMON LAW, a classic work of legal theory by the great jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes, and an early 20th-century romance novel by Robert W. Chambers. The 34 customer reviews (average 3.9/5) mix the two together.

    When I happened to notice this I spent several minutes trying to find a way to tell Amazon, but eventually gave it up.

  4. Ha ha ha! I guess that is not actually funny … but it’s funny! Imagine mixing up nonfiction legal theory and a romance novel! Wow!

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