Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Harriet Klausner: Is she a fraud?


It was only a few days ago that I learned of the "legend" of Harriet Klausner. A New York Times article about Amazon book reviews introduced me to this woman. That's her in the picture above. She's surrounded by the hundreds of books she allegedly reads and reviews on multiple retail sites. I say "allegedly" because I have a hard time believing ANYONE can read at the pace she does.

For the past 10+ years, Ms. Klausner, who is a 60-year-old retired librarian, has posted an average of seven book reviews per day to multiple online retail sites. According to the The Harriet Klausner Appreciation Society, a website dedicated to investigating her fraudulent behavior, Ms. Klausner has reviewed 28,256 books in that timespan.

28,256 books? Digest that for a moment.....


28,256 books!! Sure it sounds good that someone is so dedicated to reading, but is she doing it honestly? And, is it even physically possible? As much as I hate math, let's do a little math. She's been "reviewing" books for the past 10-11 years. Let's say 11 years.

365 x 11= 4,015
28,256/4,015= 7.037

Ok, so she would have to be reading an average of 7 books per day. That is INSANE and highly UNBELIEVABLE. I can totally believe a person can read 1-2 books per day but not 7. At that pace a person would have to have NO SOCIAL LIFE whatsoever. I know some of those Harlequin books are rather short, but I just can't believe a person can read that fast. Is she even absorbing enough of the material to form an opinion? From what I read about her Ms. Klausner has a husband and a son. It's possible she has more children, but I don't know. When does she eat? Who does the cooking? Does her husband do all the cleaning and laundry? When does she drink? When does she go to the bathroom? Reading at that pace doesn't appear to allow for bathroom breaks. When does she pay her bills? Does she have friends? Watch TV? Because of all of those questions, I have serious doubts about Ms. Klausner's credibility.

I had to look at her Amazon reviews for myself. She posted 10 on Christmas day. Most of the reviews I saw were rehashes of the flap copy or summaries on the back of the books. Only one or two sentences in those reviews contain her actual thoughts. Even worse her "reviews" lean heavily towards plagiarism. She tweaks a few lines of the flap copy and passes it off as her own. If she were making it clear the words aren't her own, more people would be on her side. And........her opinions don't run very deep. I flipped through 20 pages of her reviews, and didn't come across one bad review. Every single one was a four- or five-star review. It's really nice to believe you'll like everything. But it just isn't possible. It's not reality. Her lack of negative or indifferent reviews is what makes me doubt Ms. Klausner. A lot of people, myself included, look to Amazon for book reviews (I also go on Goodreads and Google for reviews). Consumers want to know if a book is good or bad. I personally look at the negative reviews first. I trust those more than the five-star reviews. The negative reviews actually discuss the pacing of the plot, grammar, spelling, believability, and so much more. Is Ms. Klausner really reading these books? Or is she reading just enough to make the publishers happy?

Which brings me to another gripe I have with Madame Klausner.

28,256 books?!?!? Where do all those books go? Unless she lives in a giant mansion, how does she find the space for all of those books? I own several hundred books and I hardly have room for those. According to The Harriet Klausner Appreciation Society and various blogs Ms. Klausner receives A LOT of ARCs (advanced review copy) from publishers. She also sells these ARCs online under her son's name. Ok, fellow bloggers we all know that is a BIG NO-NO!! Donating the books to your library or a charity is perfectly acceptable. Giving them to a friend or family member is perfectly acceptable. If she is selling the books and donating the money to charity, I wouldn't have a problem with that. But I have a strong feeling that money is making its way into her wallet. If she was doing something charitable or honorable with the money, there would be no need to sell the books under her son's name. Publishers have to be aware of the questions regarding her credibility, but she continues to receive ARCs. Does she have that much power and influence on online retail sites, like Amazon, that they choose to ignore the facts? Is she that valuable as a marketing tool? The answer is clearly yes. She has value as a "reviewer," and she will continue to receive ARCs.

Overall, Ms. Klausner is doing a great disservice to consumers and readers by not reviewing books with honesty and integrity. What does everyone else think?

5 comments:

  1. Bookangel,

    She resells her advance review copies and free copies of books through her son on Half.com. Here's the piece that tells how she does it:

    http://harriet-rules.blogspot.com/2012/10/she-works-hard-for-money.html

    And, oh, I agree with your take 100%. I, too, depend on reviews when purchasing items and I expect them to be honest by people who really bought and used the product.

    In this day and age when $7-$20 can mean the difference in the cost of a meal, duping people into buying books that aren't any good is unforgivable. This woman dupes untold numbers of consumers every day.

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  2. Even worse Amazon is letting her get away with it. Every review of hers if full of comments, which point out the flaws ore holes in her reviews. But I guess she's too important as a marketing tool for Amazon or publishers to do anything about it.

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  3. I love reading book reviews, and I sometimes change my mind about a book if enough reviewers offer interesting takes about the story. I have had my Kindle for about a year and immediately became aware of the ubiquitous and tedious Harriet Klausner. We seemed to read a lot of the same titles and, no matter how hideous the book , she was always ready with a 4 or 5 star review. Has this women ever opened a book that she did not love? I looked at some of her reviews that I had little, if any, interest to waste. Downloaded samples of a few and realized that HK has quite the scam going. After a prolonged illness I started reading my huge list of books to be read. In no time I found myself in the middle of a HK discussion board. Amazon allows her to ignore any and all rules and regs that they seem so proud of. Who is this woman? I am going to continue research and then try to find a professional who will try to get this hoax exposed more than the deticated readers on Amazon have been able to do. If I am being naive please someone tell me. This woman needs professional help, and being enabled by such a huge corporate entity is cruel and unfair. This may not seem important to many but stop to realize the number of customers that Amazon and HK have duped . The whole thing is disgusting.

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