25. Help, MediaLibrary does not fetch my Media descriptions!

In this article we take a closer look at why the fetching of Media descriptions from Amazon works consistently from the US site only, and inconsistently from other Amazon sites.

This is due with copyright restriction at Amazon, not with MediaLibrary programming.

Session variable in MediaLibrary Shop

The problem:

Media descriptions are returning consistently only from Amazon.com. DE, FR, UK, JP and CA will not return Media descriptions to queries many times. So these Amazon sites return Media descriptions from time to time, without consistency.

The answer:

We write in the MediaLibrary Shop features overview that the Media description fetching works reliably only from Amazon. So to summarize the rules, which descriptions are available for through Amazon Web Services:

  • Only Editorial Reviews that are listed on amazon.com as [Editorial Review] are available via AWS.
  • It's not unusual, especially in non-US locales that this data isn't available. This is due to legal or contractual limitations imposed upon Amazon by the data provider.
  • Amazon can display editorial reviews on their own HTML pages, because they have received permission from the appropriate copyright holders to publish these reviews. The permission to publish copyrighted material does not include permission to serve as a republisher of the same material (i.e. provide the data via AWS).

More explanation:
The Amazon Web Services developer blog is full of questions pertaining to why the Media description is not returned on Amazon DE, FR, UK etc. Just go to http://developer.amazonwebservices.com/ and search for editorial, review, editorial review, Media description, description, review.

Quotes from the horse’s blog:

  • The lowdown from Amazon.
  • The problem descriptions.
  • Copyright issues.
  • Technical specification Editorial Reviews.
  • SOAP vs. REST issues.
  • Possible Amazon server issues.

The lowdown from Amazon

  • Just to clarify: only Editorial Reviews which are listed on amazon.com as [Editorial Review] should be available via AWS. We researching issue why some reviews even written by Amazon.com are not available via AWS. When we fix the issue, reviews which are not written by Amazon.com will still NOT be available via AWS at present.
  • When the data is available it is in EditorialReview usually. It is not unusual, especially in non-US locales, since these data are not available. It is due to legal or contractual limitations imposed upon Amazon by the data provider. Legal restrictions prevent us from providing all editorial reviews. This is mentioned in section 3.2 of API and Integration Guide.
  • Amazon attempts to return as much data as possible for each query. In those cases where Amazon is not the primary owner of the data (such as third-party reviews), we may not be able to release that data legally. Our goal, however, is to return as much product information as we can.
  • Currently, any review written by Amazon.co.uk (or .com) should be available through AWS (please note, that this does not necessarily that you may see on the retail site). If you see a discrepancy between AWS responses and the retail website, this may be a bug. Posting specific examples will help in determining this.
  • Amazon can display editorial reviews on their HTML pages, because (presumably) Amazon has received permission from the appropriate copyright holders to publish these reviews. The permission to publish copyrighted material does not include permission to serve as a republisher of the same material (i.e. provide the data via the AWS feed to all comers). Please note that since Amazon.com holds the copyright for all of their HTML pages, (see the Copyright Section), the HTML pages do not serve as a republishing source.
  • Editorial Reviews are only available via AWS when written by Amazonians. Good way to check is to look at the website. If you see: Editorial Reviews Amazon.com - it is a good indication that review should be available via AWS.

Problem descriptions:

I'm suffering the same problem but the whole copyright issue seems a bit contradictory:
Take the Media "The Acne Cure" for example (ASIN: 0446692417):

  • Editorial Reviews show up in my UK astore ( http://astore.amazon.co.uk/megavista-21/)
  • Editorial Reviews show up on amazon.com (many)
  • Editorial Reviews shows up on amazon.co.uk (few)
  • Editorial Reviews are AVAILABLE in .com XML
  • Editorial Review are missing from .co.uk XML

That seems strange to me if this is supposed to be a copyright issue. How can US associates be allowed to display review data on external sites without breaching this copyright? (no reviews for this Media mention they are by Amazon). The .com XML contains only the Media description, not all the reviews on the .com site.

I'm using the UK version of AWS and no editorial reviews or features are being returned, despite using the "EditorialReview" and "ItemAttributes" response groups. OK, I'm getting the impression from this and other threads; UK coverage in this area is patchy at best, i.e. not to be relied on. Well, I'm sorry to say this has been the situation for years. I think we can assume it will be the situation for years more.

We are trying to sell Amazon products and develop systems to allow others to sell Amazon products but Amazon doesn't seem too bothered about giving us the tools to do so. AWS has a lot of potential but I believe Amazon need to commit a little bit more effort in order to make it really live up to that potential. I appreciate that the Amazon staff in here probably can't do anything until we show them something that doesn't work as 'expected'. The problem is that they (Amazon) and Us (associates) have different expectations. If it works according to spec to Amazon, it isn't broken. The associates for us is not the implementation that is broken, the spec itself is broken - it doesn't conform to our expectations. Too few products have usable Amazon.co.uk reviews. I reiterate my opinion that we could do with greater coverage of Amazon.co.uk reviews.

Is it possible to receive either the Publisher or Amazon.com Editorial reviews via AWS?
I get product description but not consistently. Most products are listed without product description.

Copyright issues:

  • Most "Media Descriptions" are supplied by the publisher of the Media, and therefore Amazon.com does not have permission to use it in our XML documents. The same is true for our third party editorial reviews.
  • The "Media Description" is from the publisher and is copyrighted. It is sometimes called "From the Inside Flap" or "Synopsis". You won't find it in AWS - only Reviews written and owned by Amazon are available in AWS.
  • You can get product descriptions written by Amazon.com via AWS. However, AWS will not return product descriptions or editorial reviews written by third parties, such as Publishers Weekly or Library Journal due to copyright issues. This means that the ProductDescription element will be returned only for items for which Amazon has provided an editorial review or description.
  • Is it not time and past time that those amorphous "issues" got resolved? The reviews appear on Amazon's own site, so _some_ permissions or some application of the "fair use" doctrine are already in place.
    Whatever forbids associates, who are effectively an extension of Amazon's site from using that material? Amazon's lawyers should look at this, and settle it that the material often quite important (for example, often the only way to find out what's in a story collection or an omnibus volume) *is* usable. (My strong suspicion is that no one has ever sat down and said, "Look, you can't do this" rather, that no one has ever sat down to actually decide, so everyone's just playing it safe). The failure to take the minimal time and effort needed clarify the ability of Amazon associates to display material that Amazon can and does display is just another sign of how high associate concerns do (or don't) rank within Amazon.

The fact that Amazon have obtained the right to publish something on their own web pages does not automatically mean that they have the right to distribute this information through XML.

  • Product descriptions and reviews are different things. In this thread, we are discussing product descriptions, which are general synopses or descriptions of products written either by Amazon or by third party content providers Amazon has formal partnerships with. Reviews are what Amazon customers write about products. Through AWS, you can retrieve the first three customer - written reviews for any product. At the present time, it is not possible to retrieve all the reviews written by a specific customer. It is only possible to retrieve reviews by product.
  • Amazon does not own all the editorial content that appears on the retail site and some of it is licensed from third parties who limit the ways in which their intellectual property is allowed to be reproduced. As a result, we need to filter out some editorial reviews from public responses.
  • I'm not sure if this is still the case, but Amazon had only the right to use descriptions like these themselves and not to let others (like associates as us) use them. I assume that on a per seller basis this is being administered and that items for which this isn't cleared yet, Amazon doesn't provide this information yet.

Technical specification for Editorial Reviews

It is in the EditorialReview response group when it exists. Example: the Source value will be your cue.



<Source>Product Description</Source>


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SOAP vs. REST issues

It seems to me that the problem has been and still is the ProductDescription DO NOT return via SOAP (for heavy searches), but IS return via REST/XML (for heavy searches. I hope its just me here & at least somebody out there is getting ProductDescriptions returned via SOAP.

The answer you provided to the previous post on this issue does not answer the question of why the ProductDescription would be returned for one service (REST) but not the other (SOAP). If the case were just that "AWS will not return product descriptions or editorial reviews written by third parties, such as Publishers Weekly or Library Journal due to copyright issues" - then obviously the ProductDescription would not be available via either SOAP or REST. It seems to be a tech/programming issue and not a copyright one.

Same happens to me. I just compared and found that it is only the product description which is missing using SOAP. Everything else is identical. Since the element ProductDescription is missing in the WSDL file, I also thing this is a technical issue. Any timeframe when this will be resolved?

I've been experiencing the same problem with the 'ProductDescription'. I was trying to find Medias in the category '1201358' via the 'BrowseNodeSearch'. However, of the 190 Medias returned, only 38 have a product description. The Medias were retrieved with locale=de (German). This is the same no matter how I retrieve them - with REST/XML or SOAP (schema3 used) - even when trying an 'ASINSearch' the description is still not shown.

My experience is the same as that reported by many others. I get full product descriptions in XML, but not SOAP.

I have found that getting the EditorialReview for toy items is non-existent. I have tried several things. When I run my code against a DVD product, I get the data. Can someone explain why? The toy products on the Amazon site (US) indeed have EditorialReviews. In my opinion, this is one of the most important pieces of data, as most people refer to this as the "description" of what they are buying.

It looks to me like the response from A2S is in line with the data available on the amazon.fr site. You'll find additional customer reviews by including the Reviews response group in your A2S request.

I've experienced, and read multiple complaints about, issues where there is simply no Editorial Reviews available in the SOAP Responses when they are clearly available on the website in the UK locale. Based on other complaints, this is obviously wide-spread across other locales and everyone has the same exact complaint: that the Editorial Reviews are available when using US locale, but not the others. And every single Amazon rep who has answered this has given some lame response that "they" are seeing it fine. Is that in any way a professional response. This is quite obviously a very REAL issue and every time it's brought up, an Amazon rep acts like there is nothing wrong. Are you kidding me? Use the service like anyone else has and you'll see... there are definitely issues with the Editorial Reviews for locales other than US. I know it's so hard to believe guys, but trust the numbers... WE ARE ALL HAVING THIS ISSUE!!! IT'S REAL!!! Please fix it, please. Pretty please. People have been complaining about this issue for years and I'm shocked there is nothing but open-ended questions on these boards.

Amazon: Yes, ProductDescription is returned for SOAP requests. Make sure you specify "heavy" for the type parameter in your request.. (Which we do for MediaLibrary) Possible Amazon server issues.

Amazon uses a huge number of servers behind one DNS name. Sometimes information that is available through SOAP or REST will be returned to the query, sometimes it will not be returned.

Database consistency not the same over all servers?

Server too busy does not return all results?

I have not seen a comment on this problem. Could I at least get a confirmation that there is something wrong on that end and I am not doing something incorrectly? Thanks. The problem of missing Editorial Reviews is still consistent. In some instances I get only one editorial review when on Amazon there are multiple editorial reviews. But for the most part, they are missing all together. Someone of AMZ technical ability and insight please comment on the issue.

Amazon, August 2006: fix for editorial reviews is out, and you should be able to see Amazon.com editorial reviews as well as product descriptions via AWS. Reminder: To check whether particular editorial review should appear in AWS, please look at the source of the review on the website. If source is either "Amazon.com" or "Product Description" / "Media Description", review most likely should appear in AWS (there are some exclusions from this rule - we'll need to check individually if you come across such review).

So there you have it. This is a general issue that everyone is experiencing with Amazon, through SOAP and REST requests, through MediaLibrary or another tool. It has too do with Amazon policies, not with MediaLibrary coding errors. Sure, we could parse html web pages and grab the results, but that would again be a copyright infringement.

  • Media descriptions can be pulled in from Amazon.com (US) consistently.
  • For ALL other Amazon sites, we cannot guarantee anything. If you get some descriptions, you're already lucky. This means you will have to manually copy & paste for those descriptions in other languages, but be aware of possible copyright infringements! We do not take responsibility for that, that responsibility is your own only!
  • Amazon decides which reviews and descriptions to make available through their Web Services, not MediaLibrary.
Pros and Cons

Let's not forget that Amazon is providing us with a FREE service, by allowing access to their databases. Of course they want to sell products through affiliates, but they still allow ANYONE with a developer's key access through SOAP or REST to their databases, and they have a wonderful, very advanced API for that.

Please try to remember that it is already fantastic to be able to pull in as much data as we do automatically, it really beats doing everything by hand! Also, Amazon is one of the VERY FEW Media sites which have an API out for this purpose at all. Most other Media stores force their affiliates to only create links in very cumbersome ways in the exact way they specify. So let's count our blessings, shall we?