In a recent blog, I reviewed Amazon’s policies on what standards it has for what can and cannot be sold, its rules for how supplements can describe themselves, and how these rules can help you avoid and fight BS. In this blog, we’ll look at Amazon’s content guidelines for books–standards that I believe are very reasonable, and should be upheld.
As with Amazon’s other policies, some of these are geared to improve the customer experience. Per their website:
We do not allow content that disappoints our customers or creates a poor shopping experience, including but not limited to:
- Content that is either marketed as a subscription or redirects readers to an external source to obtain the full content
- Content that is freely available on the web (unless you are the copyright owner of that content or the content is in the public domain).
- Content whose primary purpose is to solicit or advertise
I added emphasis to this last point in that many of the BS “health” and “medical” books sold by Amazon would be more accurately described as infomercials for their authors’ supplements or other products. However, another of Amazon’s policies is even more damning for BS books:
We do not allow descriptive content meant to mislead customers
or that doesn’t accurately represent the content of the book. We also do not allow content that’s typically disappointing to customers.
Amazon has captured the essence of what is wrong with many of the BS “health” and “medical” books they sell. First, these books attempt on many levels to mislead customers, including false claims that their authors are experts, conjectures and lies presented as facts, and anecdotes presented as proof of effectiveness. Second, these books cannot help but be disappointing to the typical customer because the misinformation they present and products they see are at best placebos, most often completely worthless, and at worst harmful. No one is having their cancers cured with supplements, losing weight without effort, or reversing aging with anything.
As a last piece of hope for engaging the world’s largest retailer in the war on BS, they also state:
We carefully consider the types of content we make available in our stores and review our approach regularly, listening to feedback and investigating concerns from our customers. We reserve the right to remove content from sale if we determine it creates a poor customer experience.
Let’s hold Amazon to their policies and help them help everyone avoid BS. To do so I would consider:
- If you buy a book that is obvious BS, ask for a refund and explain why using the language above.
- If you already own (or borrowed) a book that is obvious BS, you can still write a review and report incorrect product information.
Here is my review for Dale Bredesen’s The End of Alzheimer’s Program (my incorrect product information message was similar):
A Shameful Ploy for Its Author to Make Money off of Vulnerable People
Before buying this book, please consider the fact that Alzheimer’s disease is still one of the world’s leading causes of death, nursing home placements, and suffering. If Alzheimer’s had been cured, as claimed by Dr. Bredesen, it would be a major news event and the author would be truly lauded by his peers and likely receive a Noble prize.
This book is essentially an infomercial. The only study supporting Dr. Bredesen’s claims was small (10 people), had no control group, had numerous flaws, and was conducted by the author. If the author was honest, he would state that everything in the book is merely speculation (at best). The author is also not considered an expert by his peers. I am a dementia neurologist at a university and never heard of him until he wrote this book. In talking to other true experts, I think the more accurate consensus would be that he has lost the respect of his peers with this book and is now widely regarded as a quack.
There are numerous things that research has shown you can do to prevent or slow Alzheimer’s. These include physical activity, eating a heart-healthy diet, being socially active, and staying cognitively active. While I wish there was a magic bullet, these activities in combination can be quite effective. Anyone claiming they have a magic bullet at the current time, unfortunately, is most likely a charlatan after your money rather than a friend seeking to help you.