Reviews

Woman Who Reviewed 31,000 Books on Amazon Dies

Harriet Klausner claimed to read at least two books a day, but her controversial reviews cast doubt on how close her reading was (and who, exactly, paid for it).

John Wenz

John Wenz

Photo: Ramchand Bruce Phagoo/Wikimedia Commons

Harriet Klausner is not exactly a household name. But in the weird subculture of Amazon reviewers, she was either a legend or a legendarily bad shill. Klausner amassed more than 31,000 reviews of books under one username, seeming to sell just as many on Half.com after she finished them. Now Klausner, a former librarian and self-proclaimed speedreader, is reportedly dead at age 63.

Entire blogs were kept for her alleged reading, tabulating her "fake reviews." Few, if any, of the reviews were negative. Her bio claimed she read two books a day, and said, "I was an acquisitions librarian in Pennsylvania and wrote a monthy (sic) review column of recommended reads. I found I liked reviewing and went on to freelance after my son was born."

The three paragraph reviews often introduced a plot summary (often inaccurately) for the first two paragraphs before a brief summary of praise, and a four or five star review. Many of the reviews were of mass market romance books and other pulp genres. Many reviews cropped up on the day the book was released, with many of the books showing up on her son's Half.com account before the actual release date, according to a blog post of the cheekily named Harriet Klausner Appreciation Society (which was anything but.) This led to allegations that the reviews were planted and paid for.

For such a mundane task (posting reviews on Amazon), Klausner's unusually prolific nature and the surrounding controversy attracted press attention, with Time Magazine, The Dayton Daily News, and the Wall Street Journal. But after Amazon changed its review system, Klausner largely fell from view according to Telereads, though the reviews kept on coming (and the haters kept on hating.)

Klausner was writing reviews right up until the end. Her last published on October 12, 2015, giving John Benedict's Adrenaline a healthy four star review.