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Amazon Vine

I promised a few days ago that I’d talk a little bit about the Amazon Vine program, which I was invited to join back in August and which since then has been my best friend and worst enemy.

Amazon Vine Voices, as they’re called, are invited to join the program because of the reviews they’ve written in the past for Amazon. I suspect that it’s not necessarily based on the number of reviews you’ve written, or your rank in the system, but the quality of those reviews. Having reviewed about 330 items over a period of nearly three years at the time I was invited, I was obviously honored to be considered.

At first reviewers were allowed to request three items. Because the selection of items was so limited (I think there were only five or six items available to be ordered), things went really, really fast, so that many reviewers were shut out that first month. Plus, as soon as one item was reviewed, another could be ordered, which led to a case of “bogus” reviews for products that reviewers weren’t experiencing firsthand. Things got a little bit better in September when the selection became larger, but the three-item limit still stood. Viners discussed the problem at length on the forums, and Vine finally listened to us. The limit was dropped to one item per month, then raised to two.

I must say that I’ve been impressed so far, for the most part, with Vine customer service. I’ve always gotten everything I’ve wanted, within a few days. Then again, all I’ve been getting are books, the less popular items (also up for review have been a GPS unit, massage chairs, deodorant, and detergent, in addition to books, CDs and DVDs).

That being said, there have been times when I absolutely hated the book I ordered—so much that I nearly couldn’t finish the book (but being a member of the program, I feel obligated to write a review). Take, for example, a book I ordered this past month. The premise is interesting enough, and the first chapter begins the book with a bang, but there’s not much substance to the novel beyond that first chapter. The book is supposed to be about these two people involved in a murder-suicide, but ends up being about the narrator and his bizarre relationships with the mother and sister of the suicide victim, as well as the narrator’s own wife. It’s one of the strangest novels I’ve ever read. I’ve tried writing a review about this book, but I don’t really know what to say about it—there’s nothing positive I can say. I guess I’ll just have to go with the truth.

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