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