At a shareholders' meeting held on April 1, 2004, Jeff Bezos, head of Amazon, revealed that the powerful retail website will soon have a companion.
"I'm proud to announce the formation of Amazon Author Self-Focus (www.amazon.com/egoboo/authors_shameless.html), the new centralized place on the web where readers can go to find out what authors think of themselves and their books."
The original Amazon site was recently in the news when a glitch revealed that certain of the customer-contributed book reviews had originated not from loyal fans or happy readers, but from the authors of the volumes themselves, or from their close friends and associates.
"People have been trying to game the system," Bezos went on to say, "and destroy the integrity of Amazon's reviews. If this self-serving, greedy, egocentric sabotage were to continue, we'd be no better than The New York Times Book Review, and we can't have that. On the other hand, authors are customers too at Amazon, and deserve to have their say, even if it amounts to uploading reams of narcissistic claptrap about how wonderful their own books or those of their lovers and relatives and fellow clique-members are. But I think we've reached a wonderful accommodation by segregating authors in their own little masturbatory fantasy world."
Amazon has implemented software filters which take the obvious first step of contacting the originating ISP of a review and getting the true name of the sender to compare with the author name on the entry being reviewed. Authors may still possibly spoof the system with fake email accounts, but since most literary types are basically technical ignoramuses, the percentage of such spoofers should be low.
More significantly, Amazon has also compiled a large, artificially intelligent database, constantly updated, which charts all the interconnections in the literary world. For instance, all dust jacket blurbs are now cross-referenced, providing a tree of who-boosts-who. Public records involving marriage, employment, college graduation and birth stats have been incorporated, providing further links among authors. And such industry journals as Publishers Weekly are regularly trolled for data.
In short, Amazon's new software should effectively keep the original site clean of self-promotion.
But that's just the stick. What about the carrot?
On Amazon Author Self-Focus, authors will receive up to ten gigabytes of disk space apiece to which they may upload whatever promotional material they wish, from bales of self-penned hyperbole to encomiums from their mothers to naked pinups of themselves. The fees charged each author will be directly proportional to their sales ranking on the original site, with Stephen King defining the top end at approximately ten million dollars per gigabyte. For low-end authors such as your correspondent, the maximum disk space should work out to be cheaper than a six-pack of bottled water.
Naturally, given the immense and distorted self-images of most authors, Bezos expects the new site to be firmly in the black right from launch.
First on board is Dave Eggers, who has already posted a fifty-thousand-word screed entitled "Why I Didn't Really Need to Boost My Buddies But Did Anyhow." Eagerly awaited are contributions from Heidi Julavits and John Rechy.
Paoli du Flippi is a frequent contributor to the website.