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Book reviews are meaningless.

Discussion in 'Chit Chat' started by Xanados, Feb 23, 2012.

  1. Xanados

    Xanados Maester

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    Amateur Reviews Annoy Me Slightly

    They are. There is no doubt in my mind. I've been reading reviews for some of the well-known, critically acclaimed books out there and it's always the same deal with the low star ones.

    Reviews are pointless because some people are just utterly unintelligent. Most of the people on 1 star reviews claim that the book is too long and have unpronounceable names. How pathetically moronic do you have to be to complain about a book being slow? That's not a valid review of a book. People even say that the book is badly written. They give absolutely no reason as to why it is badly written, no evidence to back up their claims. People say Elantris is badly written. Right, yeah, an English professor writes poorly. Bah!

    I'm not going to read reviews any more. They are infuriating.

    /Rant.
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2012
  2. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    Reviews, although oftentimes helpful to me, can be quite annoying when people just post 1 star reviews without giving any legitimate reason. I was talking with a friend recently that this culture of "everyone has an opinion and has to share it" has been greatly enhanced by the internet. A lot of people who would never dream of writing a book review have now been given a platform to express their opinion. And we all know what they say about opinions...;)

    I personally prefer to either flip through a book, read reputable reviews from real book reviewers, or downnload samples to my Kindle. Which I think is an awesome way to decide if I want to pay for a book or not.

    So I think reviews can be helpful, but they can also just be spiteful with no substance, which in that case I just ignore them.

    There are going to be fans of all sorts of writers and haters of all sorts of writers. When I find fans of stuff that I like, I value their opinion way more than some random guy that writes: "This sux..."
     
  3. Xanados

    Xanados Maester

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    But the fact that everyone has a different opinion sort of strenghtens my point. I was reading a review for The Name of the Wind. Some say that it's badly written, others don't. It's all arbitrary. What good does that do? The only thing you can really do to discern whether or not a book is good is by weighing out how many people like the book and how many don't.
     
  4. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    It's really the same with anything you like. Music, sports, books, movies.

    For instance, I may like soccer, but other people think it sucks. Does that make me stop liking soccer? No, it just makes me think, "Oh well, it's not for everyone."

    It is hard to suss out a good review, that's true. That's why, in general, I go with the majority. If the majority of people say The Name of the Wind is awesome (which I'm pretty sure most have) then I'll assume they're correct and go with them. Amazon's system is very flawed of course, being that there is no real criteria to what the book review has to be.

    Almost always, on Amazon anyway, the first review you come across will generally be very good (especially with implementation of the Vine program.) It's not always true, but you'll usually see a pretty well written, favorable review that will give you an idea of the pros and cons of said book.

    To me a 5 Star review that says "OMG best book EVAR!!!!" isn't any better than "This book is crap." So I always look for reviews with substance.
     
  5. Xanados

    Xanados Maester

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    Indeed. You can't argue with that. I was just ranting about the very people who cannot validate their claims.
     
  6. JCFarnham

    JCFarnham Auror

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    Here's something interesting. I've heard tell of a phenomenon called "fake reviews". Read this and tell me what you think. Personally I've seen billions of this type of review on Amazon, with literally NOTHING specific said, and it does make you wonder... It wouldn't surprise me to hear that when some people get paid to review (often at the behest of a publishing house) they do it solely to drum up publicity for the book rather than be honest.

    On the other hand reviewing is, by definition, an opinion based art and those who do it well are many, even though they tend not to get noticed above wave after wave of bogus reviewage. The only thing we can do when read book reviews is treat them like the opinions they are and, like doing academic research, read around and make our own mind up.
     
  7. myrddin173

    myrddin173 Maester

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    The title of this thread really annoys me because I have started writing reviews for the books I read over on Goodreads. Granted they aren't very eloquent, they are things I right in like five minutes. BUT I try to say a book is "bad" just because I didn't like it. For example the ABC Murders by Agatha Christie, I didn't really enjoy it but it is still a good book. I like to think my reviews do have "meaning," which is entirely subjective. Something meaningful to you could be meaningless to me.

    Also saying a book is "slow" is a perfectly valid observation, that it is "too long" is not. There is a difference that you seemed to ignore in your first post.

    I would also like to point out "good" and "bad" are, again, entirely subjective. What one person thinks is well written, another could think was utter trash. *cough*Twilight*cough*

    Of course there are those who don't put any thought into their reviews, which I agree are annoying.

    P.S. It is possible for an English Professor to write poorly, not likely (and impossible in the case of Sanderson), put possible.

    P.P.S. I didn't mean to come across as hostile... It's just that I really don't agree with you :D
     
  8. Xanados

    Xanados Maester

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    Points taken. Jeeze, I seem to have attracted all the moderators ;)
    -I've read some reviews that complain that a book was too long as well. They should've checked the page numbers.
    -I'm not disagreeing that good and bad are subjective.

    I'm just annoyed at some idiotic reviewers on Amazon. Perhaps the anger influenced the title.
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2012
  9. JCFarnham

    JCFarnham Auror

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    If it was some how possible to check validity I'd bet you'll find that around half of those idiotic reviewers really haven't read the books.

    We're people interested in this subject... who just happen to be moderators at the same time! ;)
     
  10. Reaver

    Reaver Kwisatz Haderach Moderator

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    Let us not forget that there are also some books that are just awful and yet they get rave reviews because the author is a big name in his or her particular genre. For example: My favorite author(still) Stephen King. I'm a great fan of his because the majority of his work (in my opinion) is phenomenal. However, some of his latest books are tripe. It's like he's not even trying anymore. In spite of this, the books are getting these stellar comments by so-called literary critics & are making the New York Times Best Seller List. Go figure.

    However, I must state that there are a lot of critics out there who give reviews that are fair and unbiased, and I for one value them.
     
  11. The thread title should really be "Amateur book reviews on Amazon are meaningless." ;-) Book reviews by professional critics are usually just as valuable as any other kind of professional criticism. (Which isn't to say that they're always valuable.)

    This is part of the reason why I like A. O. Scott's reviews in the New York Times; he actually analyzes the films as thoroughly as the limited length allows, rather than just giving summaries of what's good or bad.
     
    Graham Irwin and Sparkie like this.
  12. Kelise

    Kelise Maester

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    I happen to like book reviews - but I only take note of those written by people I know have the same general book interests that I do. My friend Kat on goodreads and I generally like/dislike/indifferent the same books every single time. Or if say nine people on my goodreads feed have ALL disliked a book, then I will probably not bother to try it (or if I do, it won't be for a while) and so on.

    I don't read book reviews on amazon or elsewhere. Too many are fake (made by those who dislike the author, or are being paid by the author, or are the author themselves) and if I can't check how they've rated other books (my favourites and least favourites) then what's the point?
     
  13. Ghost

    Ghost Inkling

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    I find the Amazon reviews very good for household products and the like, but it's hit or miss for books. For me, one star means it didn't do what it was intended to do. I always check the lowest ratings first because if they're all about shipping from a certain seller or the reviewer's own stupidity rather than faults with the product, it seems like a better gamble than negative reviews about a product breaking or not working correctly. I once read a one star review for a chef knife that was "too sharp" and reviewer accidentally cut herself. Sigh.

    When it comes to books, I don't trust the reviews anymore. If they're all five stars and full of praise, I suspect shill reviews. I had a Kindle Fire for about a month, and I got three ebooks. It honestly put me off of ebooks for a while because all three had good reviews, but only one of them was tolerable. The other two are among some of the worst books I've ever read. It's the first time I made a review to warn other people off of a product.

    For the most part, I like Amazon reviews, but it's useless for music and it's becoming useless for books. I suspect those two authors used multiple accounts to write positive reviews or had friends help them because I can't believe most of the people who read those two books enjoyed them. It's a terrible thought.
     
  14. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    I agree that Goodreads is a better place for consistency in reviews. Usually if you personally know the person giving the reviews, you are more likely to believe them than some anonymous poster on Amazon. I don't much trust Amazon reviews either, because 5 stars are given too freely. For me, if a book is 5 stars, it better well be amazing. There are tons of small press books or self-published books that get 5 stars because their friends or fellow authors in their circle vote them up. So yeah, I don't find them very reliable either.

    However, the Amazon Vine reviewers I tend to trust more, as they are actually selected for their good reviews.
     
  15. Neurosis

    Neurosis Minstrel

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    Many books I love are very poorly rated on Good Reads, and worse on Amazon, but widely acclaimed by professional critics. This pretty much sums up reviews for me.
     
  16. Codey Amprim

    Codey Amprim Staff Article Team

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    People are entitled to their own opinions, regardless of how moronic or immature they may be. While they should actually think about what they are saying, or not talk at all, a negative review is just as good as a positive review - to the writer, that is.

    It is likely that these amateur critics werent near the target audience or maturity/intelligence levels that the book is oriented to. Maybe the author can take from these bad reviews (especially if there is a lot of them), and what little they have to offer, into some consideration. These people were obviously drawn to read it in the first place, so maybe the author could make his work a little more friendly to different types of readers.

    But yes, I agree that you should have to explain yourself in your reviews. Even better yet would be a division of reviews: one set of reviews from trustworthy, notable, and known critics, and another with the common population. This would allow potential buyers to compare real reviews and brisk, little opinions from the public to decide whether or not they want to buy. I believe this division would be a nice addition to the book market, but I suspect something to this nature has been done before.
     
  17. aderyn

    aderyn Scribe

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    I've said this around a few places and I guess it's a good time to say it here. I think we're entering the age of the 'super reviewer'. Whereby genuine, unbiased reviewers who build trust and respect, will dictate future bestsellers. While the dodgy or fake reviewers will become increasingly ignored as readers smarten up and become more skilled in the review-reading game. Why do I foresee this? Well, the indy and self-publishing trend continues to increase while traditional publishing is on the downward trend. Similarly, readers are looking less to traditional PR methods, like the local book shop, and more to the new - e.g. Amazon, goodreads, etc. Word of mouth is still as strong as ever, but the online component of this has further enhanced its reach.
     
  18. Panther

    Panther Acolyte

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    An old friend of mine - a former pro editor - once told me that if someone says its rubbish, you will probably enjoy it!
     
  19. JCFarnham

    JCFarnham Auror

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    This is no truer for me than in terms of films. Name a film that was SLATED by critics and it will probably be amongst all time top 10.
     
  20. Sparkie

    Sparkie Auror

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    In terms of literature, look no further than Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian.
     
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