As an article I was quoted in posted to The Huffington Post today, I wanted to get your input and flesh the conversation out a bit. I don’t say anything earth shattering or all that interesting (which is why I didn’t post the link to IndieReader last week), but the author Terri Giuliano Long really does. In “The Ugly Truth About Consumer Book Reviews: Part One,” she discusses GoodReads and Amazon reviews.
I have never found either particularly helpful and note that. In fact, in our conversation, I told her I get easily over 90% of my book recommendations from bloggers or through mentions on Twitter. The rest of my books either come from review offers, library trips, or random shopping on my Nook Color. These purchases/rentals are random, but I often find great material this way.
The few times I do bother to check reviews on Shelfari*, GoodReads, or Amazon, I tend to get frustrated. Very often, these “reviews” are simply someone’s thoughts: “I loved this book!” or “Best book I’ve ever read.” These do not tell me anything about the book, and I don’t really trust people when they cannot articulate what they loved about a book or why it’s the best book they’ve ever read.
I compare these “reviews” to the comments section of many news outlets. They can be skewed in all manners, and the moderation seems to be either slow or ineffective. Comments range from wildly extremist to people sincerely trying to converse about the topic at hand. Unfortunately, there is no real way to weed through and eliminate the chaff from the wheat, so to speak.
That said, I know some people do take a good amount of time on their reviews or they simply post a review from their blog into the Amazon review. The problem is, this practice seems to be rare.
Terri brings up the skewing of numbers/stars in reviews on sites such as Amazon or GoodReads, and commenters on the HuffPo piece mention that authors often request readers to post a positive review. I think, personally, this is because many authors have taken such an active role in marketing. I am a firm believer that each person has (usually) very specific talents. An author/artist/creative person may not be the ideal marketing specialist. That’s ok. That is not necessarily his or her forté. However, when publishing companies rely more on the author, this sort of blatant self promotion is bound to occur.
I do not have a distinct problem with authors on Twitter or authors who have blogs. I understand that in this economy and in the current publishing climate, everyone has to pitch in. However, I think we need to have more discussions on ethics. Ethics in the era of social media/blogs/hobbyist reviewers are extremely messy. I, for one, think much too much about them. It is a conversation that needs to happen, and I urge you to check out the full article if you have a few minutes.
What do you think? Do you like Amazon/GoodReads/Shelfari reviews? If not, where do your reading choices come from?
* I use Shelfari mainly to document books I’ve read – past and present.