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Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Just How Useful are Reviews?

I touched on this subject back in August when I spoke about receiving my first 4 star review and how happy I was to receive it. But since then I have continued to read numerous articles about the review system and how vulnerable it is to fraud. Certain articles go into great detail about people who are so desperate for a good review that they will go to extraordinary lengths to make sure they receive one.  And after reading so much of this information, I am starting to wonder whether reviews should just be banned altogether because it seems a large amount of people just want to game the system. I'm also rather skeptical just how many people believe the reviews in the first place - I don't think I've met another writer yet who isn't suspicious of at least one review they have read. And if they've read as many articles regarding fraudulent reviews as I have then who can blame their way of thinking.

Of course this problem doesn't just cover books alone. Fraudulent reviews can be about anything and they are posted everywhere, designed to trap their target audience. I read in Bloomsberg business week that British regulators are investigating alleged fake reviews on the TripAdvisor site (EXPE). And it has also been suggested that up to 30% of reviews for any given online product are potentially fake.

So with this in mind - Just how useful are reviews? Have you ever been approached by anyone who is looking for an unfair favourable review? So many people are cynical about the system in the first place - would we be better off if it ceased to exist?

If you would like to read the full article regarding this subject please click on this link:


  1. I don't know the answer to this - but I suspect there's a qualitative difference between a reader review on Amazon and an independent review from, say, Red Adept.

    I do know that I feel much more confidence asking for an arm's length review from Red Adept than I do relying on the odd arms length review that appears on Amazon. I might not like the result - but this isn't a business for the faint of heart. You have to be willing to take your lumps, and I'd much rather get a tepid review in the New York Times than a 5 star review from MontanaPickles

  2. Reviews are a necessary evil. The problem is the most trustworthy reviews are all to be found on independent sites like mine and even though I get a reasonable number of hits I’m still only touching on a tiny fraction of the books out there. No one who has ever read one of my reviews could ever accuse me of not reading the book I’m reviewing from cover to cover for example. The problem is that there are hundreds of sites like mine that no one knows about. You need to get your review up where people are looking for books and Amazon has it all. Where it falls down is that it is easily open to abuse. Friends of the author can all pile in and post 5-star reviews probably because they’re all writers too and hope the favour will be returned once they publish their book but that’s true of independent sites too. There is a lot of back-scratching going on. I am reading a book just now and I stumbled across a few reviews that are too gushy to believe. This is not a 5-star book. War and Peace is a 5-star book. 5-star books are books we carry around with us all our lives and feel a genuine attachment to, they are books we gift to our children, they are books we want to be buried with. Okay, now I’m exaggerating but the point is that 5-star reviews are handed out willy-nilly for all the wrong reasons.

    You can’t ban book reviews. People have just got to learn to use their common sense when faced with a book that has nothing but glowing reviews. A single line, “This is the greatest book I have ever read,” may well be accurate. It might also mean that this is the first book the reviewer has ever read or they’re just easily impressed and they’ll decide the next book they read is the greatest book they’ve ever read. It’s easy to say why a book is bad but not always so easy to say why a book is good. My advice is, is you see a book you think you might like then google it. See what other reviews are out there. But don’t take Amazon reviews at face value.

  3. As an writer, I find myself reading a lot, and usually in my genre. When I do that, I recognize that there's a finite amount of time available to read and thus I want to pick the best out there. How do I find something to read, then? Reviews. More specifically, Amazon reviews, since I don't have time to go out and cross-reference multiple independent reviewers.

    That said, I've gained as much insight from, and even bought books based on, a 1 or 2 star review as one with 4 or 5 stars checked. I'm looking for what the reviewers say about the book, and whether what they say is what I'm looking for.

  4. Thanks very much for sharing your thoughts - they are very interesting to read.

  5. You raise good points. Reviews are also subjective so it may not necessarily reflect the work. How often have you seen a movie or product review that one says it's terrible and the other says its great? It's hard to really assess what the masses are thinking. I think one great example is JK Rowling. How many publishers read her book and chose not to publish it. We all know how that ended. So how much weight do we put on people's reviews? Something to be wary about for sure.