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Thursday, 10 March 2011

Amazon Reviews, do you read them?

In the last few days I have read a number of posts about Amazon Reviews and whether people refer to them when buying a book. I know that the person who selected the books for our book group chose only ones with four or five star reviews. But then another friend said they thought it suspicious if books had not got a spread of opinion - "looks like their relations have written them" she said.

Just yesterday I received an invitation to join Amazon Vine and get free books to review. Well who can turn down free books? But then again, I'm only too aware of the resposibility of reviewing someone's just-out novel, and thereby affecting (or not) its sales. A writer friend of mine had the most grim review ever for her excellent debut novel from an Amazon Vine member, and it ruined what should have been a celebratory moment of achievement. On the other hand an honest review from an informed reader who reads similar fiction cannot be a bad thing.

I myself pay less attention now to Amazon reviews than I did. Being an "insider" in the world of books changes your attitude towards everything to do with their sales - from discovering that publishers pay to have books on 2 for 1 tables, to the fact that the top ten in Tesco have not earned their place by outselling the books at 11 and below. From the whole business of fake reviews written by the authors themselves to whether your book is placed spine or front out in a shop - not to mention the extraordinary lengths some people will go to in order to sell you their book. I have to confess I am no longer that naive book buyer I was a couple of years ago who takes it all at face value.

Most of my books are bought because either someone has recommended the title, or I like the look and sound of it in the bookshop. I accept that readers even of the same type of fiction can have vastly different opinions and that the net is as good a place as any to air them, as it is a faceless place where class or racial barriers effectively cease to exist.

If you are in any doubt about the usefulness of Amazon reviews why not try as someone suggests, looking at the reviews for The Bible, of which there are quite a few- here's a quote from my favourite  :)

34 of 54 people found the following review helpful:

5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent work by a world renowned author, 17 April 2007

By EhFiist "joebeard" (Alabama, Texas) - See all my reviewsThis review is from: Holy Bible [NKJV] (Hardcover)

This book is a must read for anybody interested in How the World Was Made. It chronicles in excellent detail the creation of our World, our Universe and Everything. The characters depicted in the book truly come to life in ways one couldn't possibly imagine.........etc etc
If you would like to follow up the theme of online reviews, here are links from the recent Guardian posts The Guardian and Comment


  1. Very interesting post (and LOL about the Bible reviews!). I do read reviews, but personal recommendations tend to influence me more.

  2. I read Amazon reviews when I'm having doubts about a book. If I'm struggling, I check to see if others felt the same. Quite often, the reviews are helpful, and more than once I've abandoned a book because seemingly like-minded people have found it imposible to finish. Sometike,s it's reasuring to know you are not alone, especially when having porblems with a much-lauded best-seller.Of course, the reviews are - have to be - subjective, but I get an idea of what kind of reviewer someone is by reading other reviews by that person. If they seem intelligent, thoughtful and fair (and grammatically accurate!) I take notice of them.

    I have also just joined Amazon Vine. As you know, it's not just books you are asked to review; I've just sent for some baby wipes, which I shall try out on infant grandchildren!

  3. I'm not put off by other people's views on Films, music or books, I make my own judgement and then read the reviews afterward to see if my thoughts were the same as everyone else. As it is said in a court of law innocent until proven guilty.

    I do read the blurb on the back or synopsis online before I buy a book to see if the story interests me enough.

    I've just had a email from a friend who has asks me to write her a review on Amazon.

  4. Hello Samantha, yes I'm definitely influenced by personal recommendation. Frances, I haven't dared look beyond books yet - they're quite tempting enough! I ordered two and now will have to find the time to write the reviews. They both look good and are ones I would have chosen even without Vine. Interesting what you say about other people's opinions validating your own - yes I do that too. Good luck with writing your friend's review Jarmara. I always find writing an honest review quite daunting, but it definitely hones my writing skills!