LIFE IN REVIEW

The mystery of the woman who reviewed 30,000 books on Amazon

Obsession
How We Buy
Obsession
How We Buy

“Pleasant” was the worst a book could be in Harriet Klausner’s eyes. The former librarian and book reviewer, who more often judged books as “exciting,” “fabulous,” or “superb,” died on Oct. 15, leaving behind 31,014 effusive reviews on Amazon.

Klausner reviewed two or three books a day, usually mysteries, romances, and police procedurals. Her reviews, like many of the books she read, were cookie cutter: She summarized the plot in two paragraphs, then gave her opinion in two lines to close. She rarely gave a book fewer than 4 stars.

In her customer reviewer profile on Amazon, Klausner wrote, “I am a speed reader (a gift I was born with) and read two books a day,” but many were skeptical of the veracity of her reviews.

Klausner was also vilified by other reviewers, who believed she was paid by publishers to give glowing fake feedback, without ever reading the books. (In 2006 she told Time magazine that she wasn’t paid for her work, but this did not deter her critics, who sometimes reviewed her reviews.)

It’s not surprising that Klausner’s output should raise eyebrows—in the top 1000 reviewers on Amazon, the next most prolific customer left less than half the reviews she did.

Amazon has made efforts to crack down on fake reviews in the past—since 2008 the company has made changes to the algorithm for what’s considered a “top reviewer,” and Klausner, who once held the #1 spot, has since dropped to 2,423, as of this writing. Earlier this month Amazon sued more than 1000 people for allegedly leaving fake reviews in exchange for $5.

Klausner’s legacy lives on in thousands of pages on the e-commerce site. Her last review was posted just three days before her death, for a “superb medical thriller” by John Benedict, called Adrenaline.

Image by Rosmarie Voegtli on Flickr, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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