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8.30.2016

Amazon's Blackened Soul


To date, there are half a billion reviews at Amazon sites that don’t meet Amazon’s own criteria for acceptability. This represents about 3 out of every 5 reviews. Is it any wonder when Amazon’s own management and executive staff are allowed to break the rules when it suits them to target an author whose book wasn’t as flattering as Amazon hoped it would be. Yes, I’m talking about Brad Stone and The Everything Store, a book lambasted by Bezos’s own wife, Amazon executives, management and other employees in contradiction to Amazon’s own guidelines.


It’s no surprise that corruption is rampant at and within Amazon. Take for example what happened to my book Windows 10: The Personal Trainer, which was the first full-length Windows 10 book to market. Several individuals plagiarized the contents of the book, word for word in numerous places, entire passages and paragraphs, and even daring to take screenshots of my screenshots and use them in their texts. Subsequently they deluged my books Windows 10: The Personal Trainer and Windows 10: Fast Start with poor reviews while purchasing five star reviews by the dozens for their own books from Fiverr and other sites.

You might imagine that an author who’s been in publishing for 30 years, with hundreds of successful titles and nearly 10 million readers might be listened to, especially when he meticulously documents the plagiarism. You’d be wrong.

Complaints to Amazon documenting the plagiarism instance by instance across the entire texts resulted in my books—all William Stanek books—being targeted by Amazon, along with the accounts of loyal readers. Readers who simply had read and reviewed a handful of my books across the hundreds of titles I have available.

What happened to the plagiarizers? Nothing initially, yet any complaint I dared to lodge with Amazon about the plagiarism was met with immediate retaliation at all levels. Why? I had no idea, but it was déjà vu because a similar thing had happened to my fiction works, which is why I began to investigate who the authors of the books were.

It wasn’t difficult to discover that as before one of the books was written by a family member/associate of an Amazon employee. While I may have been naïve before to not know how to try to resolve such a situation, I wasn’t any longer. I quickly enlisted the help of someone with the ability to go over the head of those I could reach at Amazon.

We also pointed out to Amazon that my book had been available previously. Windows 10: The Personal Trainer is in fact an updated version of my book Windows 7: The Personal Trainer, which was itself published previously by Microsoft. I’m guessing that quickly put an end to the counter-claims of the plagiarists whose books were eventually removed from sale.

You might think that when someone steals another’s work and bases nearly their entire text on what they stole that they wouldn’t be able to republish such a text. You’d be wrong again. The book by the family member/associate of an Amazon employee was returned almost instantly to sale, and the other book followed a few months later.

Meanwhile, the print edition of Windows 10: The Personal Trainer was pulled from sale for nearly 2 weeks during the height of its success. No explanation, other than Amazon later admitting it was a mistake. A new deluge of poor reviews for Windows 10: The Personal Trainer and Windows 10 Fast Start followed.
When it was restored to sale, Windows 10: The Personal Trainer also disappeared from Amazon search results for Windows 10 books and didn't show up in other searches either. As no one was able to find the book, sales disappeared.
Did I dare say anything to Amazon? No, I did not because when the heart of a company is corrupted there’s no point.

Thanks for reading,

William Robert Stanek

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1) Beyond issues of ethics and morality, the fundamental issue--among others--is that Amazon guidelines don’t allow anyone with a financial interest (either for or against) to review a product.
Persons associated with Amazon, and in particular employees, had a vested, financial interested in limiting the success of Stone’s book, reducing its potential impact on Amazon’s bottom line and controlling the message surrounding the book. None more so than executives, management staff and others holding stock or stock options in the company. Amazon guidelines do not allow any persons with a financial interest in a product (either for or against) to review a product, but that didn’t stop persons associated with the company from ensuring their messaging, damage control and spin was heard far and wide.
Stone’s book had the potential to cause both a significant hit to Amazon’s public image and an enormous impact on Amazon’s bottom line, especially in the days leading up to and following its publication. Without Amazon’s public spin and careful management of perception through reviews and other means, Stone’s book could have caused lasting, long-term damage to the company and its reputation, not to mention its CEO.
Whether the reviews are removed entirely or quietly continue to disappear, it’s important to remember this is a fight that’s already won. The damage control and message control have already been accomplished. 
Make no mistake that Amazon was in a precarious position in the timeframe surrounding the publication of The Everything Store. Amazon as a public company had never been consistently profitable in its nearly 20-year history (at the time), quite the contrary it had been a consistent money loser. A sway in public opinion could have derailed the Ponzi scheme of its unfettered access to capital markets.
The difference between Amazon then and Amazon now is hundreds of billions in market capitalization. If several hundred billion dollars aren’t motivation enough for what was done, I don’t know what is.

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