Harriet Klausner is a speed reader. It's a gift she was born with, according to her Amazon.com profile, where she also claims to go through two books a day. Even at that speed it would take more than 31 years to read the 22,824 novels Klausner had reviewed as of this writing. But why does she do it?
After earning her master's degree in library science, Klausner moved around the United States with her husband, a palm reader. This, according to a personal website she maintains with a complete archive of her reviews. (Klausner didn't respond to an interview request.) "I also watched my book reviewing career begin to take shape," she writes, noting that, with each city she moved to, she always found work with a library or bookstore. "I take immense pleasure informing other readers about newcomers or unknown authors who have written superb novels."
Beth Cholette, a psychologist who works at a college counseling center, also sees her Amazon profile as a way to inform others. A self-described "fitness enthusiast," Cholette reviews exercise DVDs, the occasional "chick lit novel" and some other products -- "like a protein bar." She does it "to help others," she told me. "That's it."
And help she has. With about 1,500 reviews to her name, Cholette will probably never unseat Klausner as the most prolific Amazon reviewer, but she ranks higher on the website's list of top customer reviewers. Under the new ranking system, Cholette places fourth because 93 percent of her comments have been chosen as helpful by readers. She also has more than 240 fan voters, or customers who frequently return to see what she has to say.