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Power Reviews

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Some of the most influential critics in the world are people whose bylines mean zilch to most of us. They’re Amazon.com’s Top Reviewers — amateur critics who weigh in online. Often and well.

A favorable review at Amazon is considered so desirable that some authors are rumored to plug their wares under assumed names. ”We do monitor our reviews and maintain an email cue so customers can notify us of improper [conduct],” says JJ Jacobi, a product-development exec at the online retailer.

Amazon’s most prolific — and, according to user votes, most highly regarded — product reviewers are a diverse group. The top three (as of press time):

HARRIET KLAUSNER, MORROW, GA.
NUMBER OF REVIEWS: 953
FAVORITE BOOK OF THE YEAR: The Last Precinct by Patricia Daniels Cornwell (mystery)
QUOTE: ”I average 15-20 e-mails a day from people [mostly agreeing with me]. If you set yourself up to be in the public eye, you’ve got to take the hits … The nice ones more than make up for the nasty ones.”

FRANK BEHRENS, KEENE, N.H.
NUMBER OF REVIEWS: 363
FAVORITE BOOK OF THE YEAR: That American Rag: The Story of Ragtime in the United States by David A. Jasen and Gene Jones (music history)
QUOTE: ”[Amazon has just] elected me as their in-house reviewer for the Three Stooges [videos]. Men never grow up, you know.”

DONALD W. MITCHELL, WALTHAM, MASS.
NUMBER OF REVIEWS: 599
FAVORITE BOOK OF THE YEAR: Relationship Rescue: A Seven-Step Strategy for Reconnecting With Your Partner by Phillip C. McGraw, Ph.D. (self-help)
QUOTE: ”I get 50 to 100 responses a day — [like from] this fellow in Nairobi, who has a string of antiterrorist security businesses in Africa.”

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