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Amazon reviews and the state of book criticism.

Discussion in 'Marketing' started by Steerpike, Aug 29, 2012.

  1. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Interesting article, here: Are Amazon reader reviews killing off the critic? | Books | guardian.co.uk

    One thing I've noticed with people, and I've read some things to support it, is that a single bad review can have more of an impact that a lot of good reviews when it comes to self- or indie-published titles where all you have are reader reviews. I think the reason for that is that because of self-reviews and friend and family reviews, people tend to be more leery of the glowing reviews and perhaps subconsciously think the negative review is the more objective one.

    How much do you guys look at Amazon reviews, for example, before buying?

    I like to have them, because I know a lot of people use them, but they do not play a great role in my own purchasing decisions.
     
  2. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    I tend to pay a lot of attention to the reviews if it's not an author that I'm familiar with.

    I pay no attention whatsoever to star ratings. Also, posts saying that "I loved this book" or "I hated this book" are worthless. I'm looking for reviews that give a breakdown of the book's positives and negatives so that I can make my own decision whether I think the bad parts will outweigh the good ones.
     
  3. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    You know, I bet I would find those reviews helpful as well, if I read them. I tend to avoid the highly-detailed reviews on Amazon for the same reason I don't read book blurbs - I've seen one too many with spoilers in it, and I hate that. I'm in a small minority here, though.
     
  4. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    I try to actively avoid giving spoilers in my reviews. I can't recall reading a lot of them either, though I'm not all that sensitive to them so maybe I don't remember. To me, I don't care if I know the ending. It's the journey that's fun.
     
  5. ALB2012

    ALB2012 Maester

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    I might look- if something has only say one or 2 star reviews I might consider not buying it. At the end of the day the review is usually just someone's opinion- example my partner saw a review on a laptop the reviewer said the items looked good, had all the software as supplied, blah blah but he was only giving it 2 stars as he didn't know how to use it. So because he was lazy/stupid he downmarked it. Personally I will buy a book if I like the preview, it seems interesting or intriguing then I draw my own conclusions.

    I tend to be sceptical of reviews.
     
  6. Lorna

    Lorna Inkling

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    When reading reviews I attempt to keep two trains of my thought in my mind 1) The overview of the book and 2) The opinion of the reviewer. I've read reviews where a book has been slated and that's made me want to pick it up.

    The prime example is this British Fantasy Society review of one of my current favourite novels The Shadow Cycles by Philip Emery.

    ''The Shadow Cycles tells the story of five characters from different realms brought together to partake in a final apocalyptic battle against a 'dragon' of sorts, fought through a series of stages and it is sooo boring... really, truly, genuinely boring... The entire book feels like a first draft and in desperate need of some tighter editing in so many places. I would consider myself relatively well-read, but never in my life have I had to reach for a dictionary so many times during a single book. Words like quinquereme, tatterdemalion, porphyry, chalcedony, lazuli, sardonyx, dolerite, agate and the slightly less obscure 'tegular' are liberally sprinkled throughout, like some kind of stone/quartz lexicon gone mad. Every one jars considerably leading to an ultimately uncomfortable and irritating read from start to finish. Very very annoying, and impossible to recommend. Sorry.'

    I thought it sounded interesting so I bought it. It's not just interesting. The scope of imagination, apocalyptic drive, poetic language and vivid detail make it really awesome.

    I read reviews to hear other people's opinions but suspend judgement until I've read a book myself.
     
  7. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Lorna - that sounds exactly like a book I'd like. I'm going to check it out.
     
  8. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    Ditto. I'm looking for info that will help me decide if I want to give the book a shot. I mean, I have some guilty pleasures, books that are kinda sucky, but I just can't help but enjoy. And the opposite is true. There are some highly regarded books that just don't work for me. I can tell the writing is good but I just can't engage for what ever reason.
     
  9. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    Just goes to show that you can't please everyone. This sounds like my ultimate nightmare read!
     
  10. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Yeah. And that's another reason I guess reviews don't mean as much to me on sites like Amazon. I don't know the reviewer. I don't know whether he is competent, shares my tastes, or likes books that I hate. A more detailed review, like you suggest, could help with that, though.
     
  11. ALB2012

    ALB2012 Maester

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    Well if I don't understand a word and can't work it out from context I go look it up- then I have a fun new word to use:)

    I agree make your own opinion.
    I read a historical romance a couple of months back- the editing was... well poo. The author was trying to be sneaky with one of the characters taking the same name as her servant to deceive another character but it just got really confusing as the author referred to the character out of dialogue with the pretend name so as you can imagine I couldnt work it out at first. There were typos- odd ones like "night" instead of "knight" even though the correct spelling had been used previously. However I was enthralled by the plot and I managed to overlook the glaring errors.
     
  12. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    Wow. You're much more forgiving than me.
     
  13. Here's how I decide whether to read a book.

    1. If someone I know personally says they think I'll really like it (and this person's taste is not otherwise horribly suspect), I'll read it.

    2. If it's been getting a lot of good notices in mainstream press, and is of a genre I like, I'll read it.

    That's it. I don't read books at random from Amazon just because they sound vaguely interesting.

    The only time I look at customer reviews of books is if I already read the book and I'm interested in seeing other opinions/perspectives about it.

    Professional critics are fine but I still wouldn't let a single critic's opinion influence whether I read a book; there is only a weak correlation between books critics like and books I enjoy.

    When it comes to us self-published folk, I think the path to wider success is to find out who the audience for what you've written is, and then try to get them to read it. If they like it, they'll pass along word to friends. And it's not a fast process even in the best of cases.
     
  14. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    I love trying random books and music :)
     
  15. johnsonjoshuak

    johnsonjoshuak Troubadour

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    I usually look at the 1 star and 2 star reviews first. If the reviews complain about things that aren't grammar or spelling related, I'll look at the higher ratings and see what people liked about it.
     
  16. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    I make a lot of use of online reviews and usually when I use them, I feel like I end up making a good call with the one I eventually buy. But I don't make a decision until I've seen somebody say something negative about the book. Nothing's perfect, but once I see what the negatives are, I can decide if they're something I can tolerate or not.
     
  17. squishybug87

    squishybug87 Minstrel

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    I read online reviews for books, baby products, etc. Pretty much anything I buy. If there are a lot of good reviews, I skim and see what the general consensus is. I like detailed reviews; if a reviewer actually goes into detail about what they liked, I'll take that into consideration. I read bad reviews to see what they didn't like and again the general consensus. It depends on if the book or product has more good reviews or bad. If the bad reviews complain about something that I can overlook, for example, a character was too grey or an unhappy ending, I'll still buy it. However, if it has more bad reviews than good, or if there are slightly more good than bad, I'm likely to pass it up.
     
  18. ALB2012

    ALB2012 Maester

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    I have such a bad memory anyway that I have usually forgotten the reviews by the time I read it. I prefer reviews on Goodreads- less forum idiots by far.
     
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