When reviews aren’t reviews

Hi, kids–

I posted this link to an article about book reviews on sites like Amazon on my Facebook page today, and it generated a bit of a discussion. I decided to offer it here, as well, because I think it raises some good points.

Read on for more!

The article, by Terri Giuliano, is called “The Ugly Truth about Consumer Book Reviews: Part One” and it discusses how people use the idea of a legitimate book review to basically carry out agendas against services, products, and people. In other words, a dishonest process:

While the majority of consumer reviews are genuine and well-intended, anyone who has visited a review site like Trip Advisor or Yelp knows that they can also be unreliable and– sometimes–downright dishonest. Some reviewers will lower a restaurant’s rating because their server happened to be in a bad mood. Others fake their own glowing reviews or post reviews intended to damage a competitor’s reputation. One popular up-and-coming restaurant received caustic reviews on Yelp–posted, it turned out, by a restaurant owner down the street, infuriated because he thought the new guy was “stealing” his business.
Source: Giuliano, “The Ugly Truth”

With regard to book reviews:

Readers have every right to express negative feelings about a book. Sincere reviews, positive and negative, ought to be encouraged–and honored. But disingenuous reviews hurt everyone. Host sites exacerbate the problem by allowing anonymous posts and encouraging the use of pen names, providing a safe haven for their reviewers. This blanket of anonymity engenders discussion, which is good. But anonymity combined with lenient rules rewards dishonesty. Essentially, an author can stack his reviews. Similarly, a disgruntled reader, an envious competitor, or a staunch protector of the old guard can post a scathing 1-star review, even if false–without being held accountable.
Source: Giuliano, “The Ugly Truth”

Giuliano says that the nature of social media actually encourages bad behavior in terms of book reviews. The anonymity of the interwebs, for example, allows a lot of hinky reviews. And many businesses have a business model that forces them to rely on traffic to the site, and they don’t necessarily police comments or reviews because that, too, could lead to lowered traffic if legitimate customers feel they’re being censored. Many do try to stick to a terms of service policy, but only super bad violations result in the removal of a review or post, and that probably won’t change, Giuliani says, unless more site users complain.

She also offers some hints for people wading through reviews — things to look for to help you avoid unhelpful and agenda-driven (if you will) posts.

So you might give that article a look.

Happy reading!

2 thoughts on “When reviews aren’t reviews

  1. If were queen of the universe, I would outlaw all anonymous reviews on places like amazon where — you know, people come to BUY books, ideally, not be totally turned off by a bunch of yahoos who have no idea what they’re talking about yammer on and you can’t respond to them (as the author of said books) because then you look whiny and defensive…

    It is a shocking (to me) and crappy scenario that allows/encourages strangers, some of whom have zero ability to write critically (in the true sense of that word) to spew whatever they “feel” (not think, somewhat different) in response to your book. My new book is a memoir and has prompted some utterly hateful rants that have very little to do with the content (retail work) and are instead total character assassinations of me. Like “She’s bitter, pretentious and lazy, lazy, lazy.”

    Seriously? That’s a…review? Not in my solar system, sister.

  2. I got one on Amazon from someone who claimed he/she (uncertain how he/she identifies) got a “bad” Kindle file, and the formatting was crappy so he/she “couldn’t read the book.” As a result, that person gave the book one star, I believe it was. So rather than take it up with the vendor (Amazon) or even the publisher (this one wasn’t self-published) or even ME, the person instead slammed me for something over which I had no control and no knowledge. My publisher posted a comment on that review to please contact them so they could clear up the problem, but to no avail. The “review” remains.

    I think that the interwebs can be a powerful, wonderful tool. But in the wrong hands, it can be an absolute bugger. Upside, downside. Sigh.

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