Author Topic: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?  (Read 4388 times)  

Offline MissingAlaska

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Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« on: July 10, 2018, 01:09:19 PM »
Recently, I noticed that Netflix no longer featured reviews. I thought this was occurring only on 'appliances' (e.g. networked televisions, Amazon Fire Stick, etc). As it turns out, they are eliminating them entirely from their website (going with an up or down thumb only). 

https://slate.com/culture/2018/07/netflix-is-eliminating-user-review-feature.html

At first, I thought this was a bad idea; however, after a few weeks, I realized that reviews had dissuaded me from watching movies that I actually liked.  I now get the joy of discovering hidden gems that I would have otherwise skipped.

Considering how much conflict there is surrounding book reviews, does anyone think that booksellers will/should do the same?  Should Amazon feature reviews only on Goodreads?

I personally see the benefits of doing so. Readers feel pressured to write detailed reviews while authors beg for every star.  Furthermore, how many readers ignore books that they would like because of a single bad review?  How many readers pick up horrible books because of 50 fake reviews? One persons trash is another's treasure, after all.




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Offline dianapersaud

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #1 on: July 10, 2018, 01:13:27 PM »
I think this is a horrible idea. I watched a series on netflix (for two seasons) and then the last episode of the second season just killed off everyone and left a bunch of loose ends.

I checked the reviews online after that and found other viewers were mad too. I wish I'd seen that on Netflix and saved myself the time and aggravation. If they have to trick people into watching...then eventually people are going to stop watching and cancel the service.

Now I have to vet my tv shows/movies elsewhere before watching on Netflix.

I fail to see how this helps customers.

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Offline Bards and Sages (Julie)

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #2 on: July 10, 2018, 01:23:38 PM »
I checked the reviews online after that and found other viewers were mad too. I wish I'd seen that on Netflix and saved myself the time and aggravation. If they have to trick people into watching...then eventually people are going to stop watching and cancel the service.

So you found those spoilers in the review helpful? I'm a little amused only because of another thread here about getting reviews removed due to spoilers.

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #3 on: July 10, 2018, 01:24:02 PM »
Terrible idea. I want to know if a book is a steaming heap of garbage where the "author" can't string words together in any sane, let alone interesting, way.

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #4 on: July 10, 2018, 01:43:14 PM »
So you found those spoilers in the review helpful? I'm a little amused only because of another thread here about getting reviews removed due to spoilers.
I'm not a fan of spoilers, but maybe in that case...


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Offline Bards and Sages (Julie)

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #5 on: July 10, 2018, 01:45:18 PM »
In all seriousness, if I have to chose between Amazon's current hot mess of a review system and no reviews, I'd rather have no reviews. Let books stand and fall on the strength of the blurb and the excerpt.

I'd PREFER that Amazon actually fix their review system and perhaps weight it a bit for quality over quantity. I'd rather see a system where perhaps there were fewer reviews, but the reviews listed actually we meaningful. Currently Amazon is just a review arms race with everyone desperate to gain hundreds of reviews in hopes of juicing the algorithms.

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #6 on: July 10, 2018, 01:55:21 PM »
maybe Amazon should to to a "thumbs up/thumbs down" model instead of reviews. I'm sure it could be manipulated in some way still but not as badly as reviews.

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #7 on: July 10, 2018, 02:01:37 PM »
Speaking personally here, if I was Mr Bezos, I would take off the reviews. Again, personally I never read anything above a 2* review because I'm not interested in a load of people saying 'this is a great book' or variations thereof. I'm not sure a thumbs up/down system would be any less of a magnet for scammers than the current system is and probably even harder to police.
My opinion is that a good blurb, a good cover and the Look Inside should be enough to decide if a book is for you. On the other hand I would say there are bigger things to fix than the review system, like proper categorisation of books and shifting out the scam books and probably a hundred other things.
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Offline Edward M. Grant

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #8 on: July 10, 2018, 02:03:12 PM »
maybe Amazon should to to a "thumbs up/thumbs down" model instead of reviews.

No, that's probably worse. I've bought books before purely based on the one-star reviews, because the reviews told me it was a book I'd want to read. I'd never have bought it if they'd been 'thumbs down' instead, because there'd have been no information about why the reader thought it was a bad book.

But I tend to agree that no reviews would be better overall than the heavily-gamed reviews on Amazon today.

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #9 on: July 10, 2018, 02:04:06 PM »
Terrible idea. I want to know if a book is a steaming heap of garbage where the "author" can't string words together in any sane, let alone interesting, way.
We'd all like to avoid that, but in such an extreme case, wouldn't the Look Inside tell the tale.

I have mixed feelings. Most of the reviews that have been really helpful to me have been on other kinds of merchandise. On creative products, there is so much subjectivity that, unless the review is very explicit about criteria, or unless the product is truly awful, it's hard to tell much from them.  Like the OP, I've initially turned away from some movies I would have enjoyed because of negative reviews. I did end up watching them later and discovered that the reviewers' taste and mine were quite different.

Let me give you a couple of examples. For a historical TV series in an Italian setting, a reviewer not only denounced the entire production because of the star's American accent. Nor did he stop there. He denounced (without a shred of evidence) all the five-star reviewers as associated with the production in some way. (I had just watched it and thought it was at least a solid four). In another case, a reviewer denounced a teenage romantic comedy as being just a rehash of other movies, one of which he cited. Actually, though, the movie isn't even remotely like the one it was compared to. Nor is it particularly typical. The male lead is a nerd--and no, this isn't one of those movies where the nerd is transformed into a hunk. He stays a nerd for the whole movie. The female lead does eventually find him attractive, but their relationship develops very slowly. The movie comes within an inch of slipping out of the romance genre completely. Love it or hate it, it was not as the reviewer described it, not even a little bit.

That brings me to another issue: factual inaccuracies in reviews. It's understandable that people would react differently to the same creative material. However, I wouldn't necessarily expect that some reviewers would be so far off the rails on factual issues. I wonder sometimes if they read (or watched) very carefully.

Nor are helpful votes worth much. I've noticed the review that gets displayed at the top tends to get more than comparable reviews just a little further down the page. It's also important to keep in mind that a customer can't really be sure the review was helpful without at least sampling the book or the movie. Otherwise, the customer knows what the review says, but not whether he or she would experience the product in the same way (or even if all the statements are accurate).

I'm not even in favor of dumping reviews because some people do like them. But on creative products, I find myself relying on the less and less.


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Offline Bill Hiatt

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #10 on: July 10, 2018, 02:08:59 PM »
In all seriousness, if I have to chose between Amazon's current hot mess of a review system and no reviews, I'd rather have no reviews. Let books stand and fall on the strength of the blurb and the excerpt.

I'd PREFER that Amazon actually fix their review system and perhaps weight it a bit for quality over quantity. I'd rather see a system where perhaps there were fewer reviews, but the reviews listed actually we meaningful. Currently Amazon is just a review arms race with everyone desperate to gain hundreds of reviews in hopes of juicing the algorithms.
In the days when brick and mortar was the only option, that's exactly what happened. I liked to browse, and I almost never make a mistake--the books I bought were books I enjoyed. I don't remember too many people--and I knew a lot of avid readers--complaining.

I can see reviews as a help to someone who doesn't like to browse, though most readers I know do, at least when they have the time.

I have to admit that as a writer, I'd be just as happy if reviews vanished. Most of mine are positive, but worrying about "the review arms race" is getting on my nerves. Nor am I happy with the way Amazon weighs reviews--things like the verified purchase tag are as gameable as any other part of the system.


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Offline Lorri Moulton

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #11 on: July 10, 2018, 02:19:44 PM »
I'm all for eliminating reviews, but would this cause ARCs to go way down?  I know a lot of readers enjoy doing those.  Maybe keep the ones on Goodreads (as suggested earlier) and eliminate them on Amazon.

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Offline Elizabeth S.

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #12 on: July 10, 2018, 02:24:10 PM »
I wouldn't buy nearly as many books without reviews. Or I'd go to Goodreads and check the reviews there first...but then who knows if I'd actually go back to Amazon to purchase? If I were busy, I might set it aside for later and then the author has potentially lost a sale.

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #13 on: July 10, 2018, 02:32:06 PM »
...if I have to chose between Amazon's current hot mess of a review system and no reviews, I'd rather have no reviews. Let books stand and fall on the strength of the blurb and the excerpt.

This.

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #14 on: July 10, 2018, 02:44:55 PM »
I pretty much always choose films and shows based on recommendations from friends or mainstream press reviews, so the Netflix decision won't have any effect on me. But Amazon's product reviews have come to play a huge role in my shopping habits. Also that feature where you can ask questions of past purchasers and read the accumulated answers to everyone else's questions? Love that. It really can't be overstated how much I rely on these tools. They matter less to me when making book-purchase decisions -- the Look Inside is more important to me with books -- but on other products, they're essential.

Offline Jack Krenneck

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #15 on: July 10, 2018, 02:47:27 PM »
Reviews are only used by about 30% of customers. That's a general marketing statistic, and it's probably lower for highly personal things like books. In addition, they're a hotbed for black hat activity.

I'd be happy to see them go.

Offline John Etzil

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #16 on: July 10, 2018, 03:36:06 PM »
That's surprising. I never buy anything on Amazon without looking at the number/quality of reviews...

Reviews are only used by about 30% of customers. That's a general marketing statistic, and it's probably lower for highly personal things like books. In addition, they're a hotbed for black hat activity.

I'd be happy to see them go.

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Offline Day Leitao

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #17 on: July 10, 2018, 03:43:19 PM »
I always read reviews. The idea is: "is this something I would enjoy?". I want to see who enjoyed it and why, and who disliked it and why. I also sometimes want to get a sense of tone, style, etc. I don't look at the star rating as much as I look at the content of the reviews. And yes, they're a must for me. I guess I'm in the 30%. 30% is a huge number. I would want to please them if I were a company...

I don't think Amazon would get rid of reviews. Lots of sites have reviews. Sites with vacation packages have reviews, sites that sell products have reviews, etc. And it's content. If Amazon is the bookseller with the most reviews, where are readers who like reviews going to buy?

I don't know what the deal was with Netflix, though, but I'm going to be honest, I have Netflix, and I never once looked at its reviews. I'll go to IMDB, for example. Maybe that was the reason they got rid of the reviews, that maybe there were too few people reviewing and it wasn't worth it.

Offline Lefevre

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #18 on: July 10, 2018, 04:09:43 PM »
In all seriousness, if I have to chose between Amazon's current hot mess of a review system and no reviews, I'd rather have no reviews. Let books stand and fall on the strength of the blurb and the excerpt.

I'd PREFER that Amazon actually fix their review system and perhaps weight it a bit for quality over quantity. I'd rather see a system where perhaps there were fewer reviews, but the reviews listed actually we meaningful. Currently Amazon is just a review arms race with everyone desperate to gain hundreds of reviews in hopes of juicing the algorithms.

This!
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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #19 on: July 10, 2018, 04:17:54 PM »
Interesting.  I thought there was some sense to Netflix changing the way they rated and rec'd shows.  You're now up or down voting on YOUR interest in the show I think, instead of the overall value of it.  The overall value of a show being based on votes from people who don't even like that genre was stupid, and meant the sort of WWI documentaries my dad liked ended up with two-star ratings no matter how good they were to the intended audience. 

The intended audience wasn't rating them, it was just random people trying not to get recommended any (or else they got a buzz from crapping on other people's favorite genres--which would not surprise me).

This explains why, if female, you shouldn't necessarily trust Rotten Tomatoes when looking at a movie aimed at women: https://www.mamamia.com.au/rotten-tomatoes-sexist/

Quote
You see, good ole’ Rotten Tomatoes is a wee bit sexist as 75 per cent of the approved critics are actually male.

And this would be fine if they wouldn't crap all over movies that aren't aimed at them, unfairly jacking the percentage--NOT a fair judge of what an intended audience might like, but a largely male perspective not acknowledged up front.  I read another long thing about RT which unfortunately I can't find now, which proved that at the time, women on Rotten Tomatoes mostly rated things they actually watched (rather than hating on Saving Private Ryan because they didn't like war movies, for instance) while a lot of the men who rated there felt compelled to give their opinion on whatever female-aimed movie of the moment, even if they didn't like rom coms and weren't the intended audience in any way.

This gives a startlingly unequal result: movies made for and aimed at a female audience got a worse overall rating because too many men felt the need to weigh in and outweigh the actual target audience.  More men weighing in on a site that was already more heavily weighed towards men, while not acknowledging the inherent bias, meant for some reason lots of average movies aimed at women got really [poopy] ratings!  While average movies aimed at men got better ratings!  I don't know if this has  been addressed since; I still won't use the site.

Anyway, I don't think that book reviews have this sort of issue with them.  People aren't reviewing every book out there and thumbing down (?) the ones in genres they don't like "just because they exist and aren't for me."  There's too many books and not enough reviewers, for one thing.

I don't know if reviews were useful on Netflix; I never read them and wasn't interested.  (If I want to know what someone else thought of something on Netflix, I'll google it and usually find a couple of articles or blog posts that at least try to be thoughtful instead of just trashing or praising in a knee-jerk way.)

As for book reviews, many readers DO use them.  They can certainly be gamed, but overall they have a lot of use to readers.  You better believe I want to know if everyone dies in the end.  As an author, Goodreads is not my favorite place in the world; I try not to read my own reviews too often.  As a reader, I love it because that is the place I'm pretty much guaranteed to find a one or two star review hashing out all the consent issues in a book I'm going to hate (and would rather not find out the hard way I'm going to hate).  It would be different if books had warnings for the sort of content you would get, but there's nothing like that for most books, so reviews are important to find out about content that you will or will not enjoy.  There are rating systems on movies, and sites that will mention specific reasons for those ratings, what scenes might be too much for young eyes, or troublesome to some viewers.  Nothing for books--just reviews.

So, yes, leave me nasty ol' Goodreads and sometimes-gamed Amazon reviews as a reader.  It's better than nothing, and there's no need for complete review removal that I can see.  But I don't see the need for Netflix reviews and I think any movie review site should have some safeguards in place so that the intended audience has a bigger say than random people who hate a certain type of show or movie that isn't aimed at them and that they probably didn't even watch.
« Last Edit: July 10, 2018, 04:40:21 PM by HSh »

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Offline Crystal_

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #20 on: July 10, 2018, 05:39:55 PM »
We'd all like to avoid that, but in such an extreme case, wouldn't the Look Inside tell the tale.

I have mixed feelings. Most of the reviews that have been really helpful to me have been on other kinds of merchandise. On creative products, there is so much subjectivity that, unless the review is very explicit about criteria, or unless the product is truly awful, it's hard to tell much from them.  Like the OP, I've initially turned away from some movies I would have enjoyed because of negative reviews. I did end up watching them later and discovered that the reviewers' taste and mine were quite different.

Let me give you a couple of examples. For a historical TV series in an Italian setting, a reviewer not only denounced the entire production because of the star's American accent. Nor did he stop there. He denounced (without a shred of evidence) all the five-star reviewers as associated with the production in some way. (I had just watched it and thought it was at least a solid four). In another case, a reviewer denounced a teenage romantic comedy as being just a rehash of other movies, one of which he cited. Actually, though, the movie isn't even remotely like the one it was compared to. Nor is it particularly typical. The male lead is a nerd--and no, this isn't one of those movies where the nerd is transformed into a hunk. He stays a nerd for the whole movie. The female lead does eventually find him attractive, but their relationship develops very slowly. The movie comes within an inch of slipping out of the romance genre completely. Love it or hate it, it was not as the reviewer described it, not even a little bit.

That brings me to another issue: factual inaccuracies in reviews. It's understandable that people would react differently to the same creative material. However, I wouldn't necessarily expect that some reviewers would be so far off the rails on factual issues. I wonder sometimes if they read (or watched) very carefully.

Nor are helpful votes worth much. I've noticed the review that gets displayed at the top tends to get more than comparable reviews just a little further down the page. It's also important to keep in mind that a customer can't really be sure the review was helpful without at least sampling the book or the movie. Otherwise, the customer knows what the review says, but not whether he or she would experience the product in the same way (or even if all the statements are accurate).

I'm not even in favor of dumping reviews because some people do like them. But on creative products, I find myself relying on the less and less.

You can't compare Netflix and Amazon's use of reviews. Most people are browsing Netflix via some sort of streaming device, using an interface that doesn't list reviews. I don't know anyone who reads reviews on Netflix (I think you can find them on their website somewhere?). We trust Netflix to recommend stuff that looks interesting. That works because there are a lot of curated categories and a detailed recommendation engine, though I often wonder what it's smoking with some of it's "Based on X, You Would Like..." and I've noticed that Netflix Originals always have a higher percentage match than I'd expect.

Netflix has done a lot to streamline the rating process for the main purpose of their recommendation engine (as evidenced by the fact you can no longer see a TV show or movie's rating), wheras Amazon reviews are meant for other customers. It's apples and oranges.

Offline Carol (was Dara)

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #21 on: July 10, 2018, 05:43:34 PM »
The thing about reviews is that they encourage the reviewer (or the browser of reviews) to linger on the page, to engage with the content, and to feel some sort of connection or investment in the product. People like to share their thoughts (like we do here every day) so it's to the store's advantage to offer a public or social space for that sharing and interaction through reviews, comments and questions, upvotes, etc. I like to think, personally, that the longer a reader/reviewer lingers on the book's Amazon page, reading reviews, voting them helpful, etc, the more likely the book is making an impression on them and the author's name is one they're going to remember and talk about. I certainly remember the products I review better than the ones I don't and I'm more likely to return and buy more of them. Sometimes it's hard for me to be sure which came first, my enjoyment of the product or my feeling of loyalty toward it because I invested time in reviewing it, thus making it officially my go-to brand of notebook or whatever.

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #22 on: July 10, 2018, 05:47:28 PM »
You can't compare Netflix and Amazon's use of reviews. Most people are browsing Netflix via some sort of streaming device, using an interface that doesn't list reviews. I don't know anyone who reads reviews on Netflix (I think you can find them on their website somewhere?). We trust Netflix to recommend stuff that looks interesting. That works because there are a lot of curated categories and a detailed recommendation engine, though I often wonder what it's smoking with some of it's "Based on X, You Would Like..." and I've noticed that Netflix Originals always have a higher percentage match than I'd expect.

Netflix has done a lot to streamline the rating process for the main purpose of their recommendation engine (as evidenced by the fact you can no longer see a TV show or movie's rating), wheras Amazon reviews are meant for other customers. It's apples and oranges.
I didn't compare Netflix and Amazon reviews. I did raise the question of whether or not reviews of creative products are likely to be useful most of the time.

It's probably a moot point, though. Amazon is not likely to make this kind of change. They'll just keep fiddling with algorithms until the end of time...


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Offline Bill Hiatt

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #23 on: July 10, 2018, 05:52:30 PM »
I'm all for eliminating reviews, but would this cause ARCs to go way down?  I know a lot of readers enjoy doing those.  Maybe keep the ones on Goodreads (as suggested earlier) and eliminate them on Amazon.
Making reviews more worthwhile partly involves figuring out how to stop the gaming (hopefully without throwing out a huge number of honest reviews in the process). The immediate effect of Amazon doing away with Amazon reviews would be that the black hat folks would descend on Goodreads and wreak havoc on it.

Five years ago, some review sellers had already figured out that Goodreads might be a good place to get a foothold. Far more people were trying to sell reviews on Amazon, but there were some who offered posting to Goodreads as well.

Although if I had my choice, I'd like to see the end of reviews for creative products, I understand that isn't going to happen. The variety of opinions on this thread illustrates why it won't. The trick would be to cure the worst ills of the review system.


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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #24 on: July 10, 2018, 05:58:44 PM »
Terrible idea. I want to know if a book is a steaming heap of garbage where the "author" can't string words together in any sane, let alone interesting, way.
You can "look inside" that's just as fast and efficient at looking through reviews and wonder which are legit. And Amazon offers a sample for download. So there are ways to determine if an author "can't string words together" because that will probably be evident in the look inside preview. I'm on the fence about this but I kind of like the idea of not having customer reviews. I don't know. Probably won't happen with Amazon anyway.


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