28 April 2013

Are reviews worth anything any more?

For a while now, people have been blogging about Amazon's purchase of Goodreads. The fear is that the much-valued independence of Goodreads might be consumed by the retail behemoth, and that GR reviews might be subject to the same censorship as they are on Amazon. I read a blog post, though I can't remember where, that pointed out that Amazon have also bought LibraryThing and IMDB, both of which have retained their own identities and continued on in their own way, albeit with an injection of cash from Amazon to make them thrive. Reading statements from the heads of both Amazon and Goodreads would imply that no one wants to change the current working practices of either organisation - so as yet, no one has any reason to panic.

I think the biggest thing people are worried about is how the purchase might affect the quality of the reviews on Goodreads but what we need to consider is the nature of reviews to begin with. I must admit, I tend to ignore reviews for fiction, but I pay close attention to them for non-fiction. I think it's pretty much because I know how much reviews can be governed by personal preference, and what doesn't work for one reader might work for me. Plus, I always download samples if they're available (or I read the first chapter while standing in a bookstore) so I've got a good idea if the book is the right one for me before I buy. Non-fiction is a different case as it relies on research and knowledge, so if it's been reviewed by others in the same field who say it's full of holes, then I don't want to know.

But are reviews even trustworthy? For one thing, there's no way of knowing if the writer of the review knows the author - for good or bad. Non-fiction authors might slate others in their field to boost their own books, and fiction authors might do the same within their genre. Likewise, reviewers might be positive about books solely because they're friends with the author. I do think there are ways to tell - read the review, and see what the reviewers issues are. Are they leaving a one star review because they felt $1.99 was too much to pay for an e-book? See what other books they've reviewed - if they've only reviewed one, it sounds like they have an axe to grind.

My own review policy is fairly straightforward. I'll leave both good and bad reviews for non-fiction, because I want people to know if the content is worth spending money on (and let's be honest, if I've bought a book of knitting patterns and all of them have mistakes in them, then I'm going to want to warn buyers). For fiction, I'll only leave a bad review if it's poorly formatted and full of mistakes. For good reviews, I'll only leave one if it's worth four stars or more. On my blog, I only review books for four stars or more because I want to share books I've loved - I don't want to make space for books I don't feel I can recommend.

What about you? Do reviews influence your purchasing habits, and if so, how?


  1. Awesome things here. I'm very satisfied to look your article. Thank you so much and I'm looking forward to contact you.
    Will you please drop me a mail?

    Here is my blog pozycjonowanie

  2. Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wished to say that I have really enjoyed browsing your
    blog posts. In any case I will be subscribing to your

    rss feed and I hope you write again very soon!

    my blog - spain goalie kit

  3. I uѕeԁ to be able to find good aԁvice
    fгom your blοg artіclеs.

    mу ωeb-site :: legal ecstasy pills review