Author Topic: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?  (Read 4397 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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Offline horrordude1973

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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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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.

Offline Wired

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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.

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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.

Offline Bill Hiatt

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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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Offline Alan Petersen

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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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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #25 on: July 10, 2018, 06:25:35 PM »

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.

Getting rid of reviews is a great idea. Reviews have spoiled books for me, and they have discouraged me from buying things I probably would have enjoyed in the past. Plus the people who insist on posting spoilers are deliberately stealing the joy of discovery. There really aren't any plus sides to reviews.

Also I suspect it harmed my mental outlook to fall into the bad habit of reading reviews before I bought a $4.99 item. Great way to create a poverty mentality, suffering over buying something so small. When I stopped reading reviews and went back to my old practice of reading the first few paragraphs and thinking for myself, I was happier AND I buy more books. There's something sad about reading a review for a 99 cent book...
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Offline dgcasey

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #26 on: July 10, 2018, 06:29:40 PM »
I very seldom read the reviews and never use them to decide whether to buy a book or not. Most of my buying choices come through the BB or ENT newsletters and I make my decisions based mostly off the blurb and the Look Inside. If those don't grab me, I doubt there's any review in the world that will get me to change my mind.
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Offline OnlyTheGrotesqueKnow

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #27 on: July 10, 2018, 06:39:37 PM »
I love reviews, they've stopped me from buying all kinds of crap over the years. I've read prolifically my whole life and there are certain types of books and hooks I personally hate. I'd much rather get a book I'll enjoy than a book that half way through is going to make me want to throw it against a wall. I'd also like to point out that the click up and down has been abused to the ninth degree in the past on many internet sites to the point that it was disabled across many platforms.

Amazon is very different than Netflix as it has a culture of reviews. I was part of that culture for a long time and enjoyed it immensely. The insight I gained from the critical thinking exercises I learned to employ in my reviews helped me see weak spots in my own writing.

I don't think a reader should be forced to guess on if he will like a book. They should have access to the information they think they need to make a choice 'within reason' not have to be chained to a blurb and a look inside. I've given many a book a chance based on a fun cover and blurb only to find that the shiny bits did not turn a turd into a diamond. Reviews do that for books. Sure they can and are abused but by and large they're what readers want, at least this reader does. But the beauty of it is that if a reader doesn't want to read reviews ... wait for it ... they don't have to. The perfect solution is already out there.
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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #28 on: July 10, 2018, 06:41:32 PM »
I very seldom read the reviews and never use them to decide whether to buy a book or not. Most of my buying choices come through the BB or ENT newsletters and I make my decisions based mostly off the blurb and the Look Inside. If those don't grab me, I doubt there's any review in the world that will get me to change my mind.

I was much happier when I decided to go this route. Much. People who don't know me and don't know what I like and don't know my life experience should not be telling me what to think and what to read. I was letting myself be influenced by negativity and it was NOT helpful at all.
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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #29 on: July 10, 2018, 07:35:52 PM »
Honestly, I never use reviews to decide whether to read a book. I read the blurb and then a look inside to see if the opening catches my interest. I do glance at the stars and probably would steer away from anything with more than ten reviews that averaged out to 3 stars or less, but I don't read reviews because I don't want to be biased and spoiled. I do read reviews *after I've read a book to see how others liked it, so I like them for that reason.


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Offline Simon Haynes

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #30 on: July 10, 2018, 09:34:27 PM »
That's surprising. I never buy anything on Amazon without looking at the number/quality of reviews...


Same. I don't even have to read them. Whatever the product, if there are more than 1-15 reviews and the average is 3 stars or below, I'm probably not going look any closer.

On the other hand, a very high average rating for a novel with lots of reviews always looks a bit suss to me. I'll check a few, and also see if there's a high percentage without the verified purchases tag. I'll definitely read the 1- and 2- stars to see what they're complaining about. Sometimes it's profanity or sex, which is irrelevant, but sometimes they can give me a clue that the positive reviews aren't all legit.

After all that, which only takes a moment or two, I'll check the Look Inside. One or two paragraphs usually does it. (All those years I spent slush reading for a fiction mag finally proved their worth ...)

By the way, I've never left a negative review on a novel in my life, but I'll always click thumbs-down on Netflix shows or movies which I didn't enjoy. With the latter you feel they're big enough to take it, and, more importantly, it influences what other shows they offer you. I particularly like the 'percentage match' on netflix, and when I see something with a low percentage which is actually something I'd enjoy, I give it a thumbs up to correct their perception of me. With Amazon I don't get that feeling of reviews actually making any difference.


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Offline Rod Little

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #31 on: July 10, 2018, 09:40:50 PM »
I have to agree with Bards. If it's a choice between the current Amazon mess and no reviews at all, I'd rather have none.

After all, I can tell myself by the "look inside" whether or not I like the author's style and pace.  Too many good books get bad reviews, and too many bad books (or those not to my taste) have stellar reviews. Since it's all so subjective, I don't think reviews help.

A rating system might be better, like on Goodreads. You just get a general idea of how people felt without any spoilers. But instead of stars, thumbs up, down, or even.  I have always received pretty good reviews, but I'm sure a stack of bad dogs are waiting in the wings, haha.

And then there's the revenge reviews: Stephen King just got a scathing 1 star review for his political views. (And of course, it stays up, despite saying "I never have or will read your books.")

So... yeah. I'm in favor of the Netflix model.

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Offline Rod Little

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #32 on: July 10, 2018, 09:44:46 PM »
I was much happier when I decided to go this route. Much. People who don't know me and don't know what I like and don't know my life experience should not be telling me what to think and what to read. I was letting myself be influenced by negativity and it was NOT helpful at all.

I agree. How does someone else know if I'll like Ender's Game more than Starquest, or another book?  Generally I can see myself from the Look Inside, then I can take a chance. If it's not to my taste, why should I blast it and ruin someone else's shot at it? It might fit really well in their wheelhouse, just not mine.

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #33 on: July 10, 2018, 09:50:10 PM »
I have bought things (items) that have had less than 3 stars before. I'll take a chance, I don't mind. Price matters, of course. If it's $15 or lower and not electronic, I could care less.

Netflix's thumbs up/down review system I completely ignore. But I ignored the system before that. If I want an honest review, I'll google the show and read up on it. Otherwise, I'll watch the first episode or first thirty minutes and make my own informed decision. I probably should actually up/down vote things to get better suggestions.

As far as books. I'd like to see the review system go away. It's silly and it honestly ruins the creative process for writers and ruins the experience of a book for readers. I enjoyed browsing the bookstore or library, reading the back and picking up the book. If I didn't like it, I put it down and moved on. Don't get me wrong, I love reading 1 and 2 star reviews, but the way the system is now doesn't work.

Offline AuthorX

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #34 on: July 10, 2018, 10:01:06 PM »
Up or Down vote only is a great idea as it gives a better idea of how good a product is versus a 5-star range.

How many times have you read a one star book that starts out as "I loved this book, but...." or "The first 80% of the book was great, but then this happened..." Or how many times have you read a five star review that says "This wasn't as good as the last book, but I can't wait to see what happens next?"


Obviously someone who loved any part of a book shouldn't be giving one stars, which should be reserved for poorly written trash. And five stars should be reserved for master work. Problem is, most people aren't capable of really "gauging" on a scale, and an up or down vote gives a better representation over time of how good a product is.

The only caveat is that I do think people should be able to 'leave reviews', so to speak, and give some reasoning behind their Up or Down vote.

If you've ever used Steam, then you know what a great review system looks like. You can only thumbs up or thumbs down, and then you can write a review about the game. There are definitely the occasional thumbs down where people say "I loved this game, but...", but there are an equal amount of thumbs up where people say "It's hard for me to recommend this, but I really enjoyed it..."

The problem with Amazon weighted review system is that a single one star review has too great of an impact. If you get four 5-star reviews and then one salty 1-star review, you look like you've written a 4-star book. But if you had 4 upvotes and 1 downvote, you look like a book with am 80% recommendation rate...  And that one person who gives you a downvote has to really think critically if they want to downvote you into the same category as other crappier books that they've downvoted. Hell, 3-star reviewers tend to have enjoyed the book, but their 3-star review brings the average down. Nobody reads 3-star books. Those guys would be forced to recommend or or not... In the end, I think it would reflect much more accurately on the quality of a product.

Offline Simon Haynes

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #35 on: July 10, 2018, 11:28:52 PM »
I'm a big Steam user, and I agree their review system is the best option. Thumb up or thumb down, and room to leave a comment. They also split the overall rating into 'recent' and 'all time', with a nice little bar chart.

Example here, with the chart halfway down the page:
https://store.steampowered.com/app/220200/Kerbal_Space_Program/

I see a lot of people on Steam calling for a 'neutral' option, where they want to have their say in a review, but don't want to recommend nor trash the game.



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Offline LSMay

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #36 on: July 10, 2018, 11:53:15 PM »
With Netflix, you don't pay any extra to start watching a bad movie and give up after twenty minutes. With buying books, unless you get a refund, you've lost money if you've bought a bad book.

That is to say, personally I don't care at all if there are reviews on Netflix - I don't even watch the trailers. I just start the show or the movie and see how it goes. But unless a book is by a trusted author, I won't buy unless I've thoroughly checked it out - blurb, reviews and look inside. If there weren't reviews on Amazon, I'd go elsewhere to find others' opinions on the book.

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Offline Colin

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #37 on: July 10, 2018, 11:58:32 PM »
... Furthermore, how many readers ignore books that they would like because of a single bad review? 
Far too many.


;--)

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #38 on: July 11, 2018, 12:34:51 AM »
I don't think a reader should be forced to guess on if he will like a book.

What part of the sample doesn't provide a definitive answer on if you will like a book or not?


When selecting a book, I look at cover, blurb, and sample. It's rating is largely irrelevant, as are the reviews, which cant be trusted anyway.

I recently bought 3 movies which had all been panned, incorrectly (imo) described, and widely circulated as to how bad they were, after I bought the 4th one for different reasons and totally loved it. I found all 4 movies to be really great, and realized I'd missed out on great movies for years, based on reviews at various levels, which all gave a totally wrong impression. (imo)

I look at lists of movies presented on Quora, and disagree with them so often, the lists themselves are a waste of space. I look at ratings on the various 'rotten tomato' type sites, and mostly disagree with them.

So many times I read a review on a book, and wonder if the reader read the same book I did. I know I've had several reviews on my books which were about someone else's book, and a lot more where people haven't even read the book. Not to mention all the reviews based on the sample and nothing more. Or series reviews on book 1 where it's perfectly obvious the reviewer hasn't read any more than the first book or 2 in a long series, and thinks they can judge the whole series. Or people calling a book crap because it doesn't use American spelling.

The entire system is abused by people with adjenda's, trying to sabotage some authors or individual books, and promote others. The system is abused by drunk people posting illegible rubbish, and people with no clue what the book was about trashing it just because they couldn't understand it. Not to mention people picking on single lines and bashing things because they like bashing that thing. And so on forever.


Yes, replace with a thumbs up or a thumbs down. And in the process, we'll do away with that wont-go-away myth that reviews count towards rank.

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #39 on: July 11, 2018, 12:58:33 AM »
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.

Yeah, but couldn't you already tell that much from the LookInside? Reviews are often helpful, but they aren't everything.

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #40 on: July 11, 2018, 01:00:15 AM »
What part of the sample doesn't provide a definitive answer on if you will like a book or not?

A sample can tell me if the writing at the beginning is decent, but it can't tell me if the book as a whole contains elements that I don't want to read.

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #41 on: July 11, 2018, 01:33:52 AM »
I find reviews helpful. For one, if a book has hundreds of reviews and a high average - with few 1-2 stars - I can be assured of a certain baseline of quality. I might not end up liking the book, but at least I can be fairly certain that it's done well enough that it appeals to most who read it.

Also, by reading the reviews I can usually tell something else about the quality of the book. If there are heaps of 5 star reviews that are articulate and well written that tells me something. If the 1-star reviews are barely intelligible or demonstrate rank bigotry that tells me something. If the 1-star reviews are articulate that tells me something. If the 3-star reviews are insightful and give reasoned pros and cons to the book that tells me something.

Netflix doing away with reviews makes some sense. Everything that ends up on Netflix does have a certain baseline of quality. It may not be brilliant, but it's probably not garbage. And if you really want to investigate whether you should invest the time in Jessica Jones or something there are tons of impartial reviews out there that are just a Google search away. Books for sale on a platform that does not vet for quality at all are a lot more risky.

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Offline C Winters

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #42 on: July 11, 2018, 03:43:35 AM »
I bet if Amazon didn't have a review system there'd be a bunch of people wishing they'd implement one. The grass is always greener.

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #43 on: July 11, 2018, 05:21:29 AM »
I have read reviews that were very enlightening, and some of them may have guided me towards buying a book. Of course it depends on the review and the book.

I've also read some reviews that seemed to be little more than fluff pieces, but hey -- it gives the readers a chance to actively participate in expressing their like or dislike of a book they read or purchased. And I trust my own reading comprehension enough to discern the helpful from the unhelpful.

I know in dealing with non-book products, reviews have been helpful in determining purchases.

A book can also have a great review, have an awesome LookInside, and you think both accurately describe the book -- and you still may not like it by the time you reach the end of it. There are no guarantees, either way.

Offline SevenDays

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #44 on: July 11, 2018, 06:03:26 AM »
It's silly and it honestly ruins the creative process for writers

What's silly is that it ruins the creative process for writers. Reviews aren't for us. I don't know why we keep obsessing over them and acting like they are.

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #45 on: July 11, 2018, 06:16:32 AM »
What's silly is that it ruins the creative process for writers. Reviews aren't for us. I don't know why we keep obsessing over them and acting like they are.

When something as simple as a star rating can hurt your money source...

And we obsess over them because you need reviews for advertising on most sites. And not just reviews, high ones. So then you have the arcs to get the high reviews so you can get the advertising to get more eyes on your work and so forth.

Feedback is important for creative people, but the current climate of reviews is stressful.


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Offline dianapersaud

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #46 on: July 11, 2018, 06:25:48 AM »
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.

Generally speaking, I hate spoilers. I don't want someone to tell me what's going to happen, because then it ruins the book/show/movie. I know a guy who will tell you the entire plot of new movies/series etc. He doesn't do it to be a jerk. He just enjoys the experience again by retelling it to us. My husband says nothing to him, but I always interrupt and say "I haven't seen it yet, don't tell me!"

In the case I mentioned above, it would have been appreciated because it was more along the lines of warning others about an INCOMPLETE product, not a spoiler (a rundown of the basic plot that gives away surprises). I saw the other thread about the review that was a spoiler, and I think spoilers should be noted as such, in all caps so that people who want to know can read it and those who don't can skip it.

Just like Love Story is NOT a Romance and people need to be warned ahead of time so they aren't disappointed, I like to know if there's something that's going to ruin the experience. I don't watch much tv, so I don't want my time wasted.

The funny thing is--even though the series had a famous actor (or two) in it, the acting was awful and the plots were thin. But I was invested in the broken characters and wanted to follow them to the very end. The last minute 'everyone dies the end' was a horrible resolution. I learned what NOT to do when writing a series or book :)

When it comes to thumbs up/thumbs down--that's useless. Why did someone give it a thumbs down? Because of personal preference or was there something inherently wrong with the product?

I was perusing video games on Amazon and I read the one stars to find out WHY they gave it a low rating. In one case, the "game" advertised was akin to "bonus content" that didn't work unless you already owned the full version game. Like the customer who one starred the game, I thought the product advertised was for the full game.

I don't like to be deceived. If sellers can't be bothered to be clear about what they are selling, then customers (and their reviews) help to keep them honest.

Is Amazon's system broken? Yes. But changing it to yes/no, thumbs up/down is useless without a written explanation/reasoning from the customer.

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Offline C Winters

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #47 on: July 11, 2018, 06:38:19 AM »
What's silly is that it ruins the creative process for writers. Reviews aren't for us. I don't know why we keep obsessing over them and acting like they are.

Well, sure you do. As mentioned above some of the most prominent advertising services won't look at you without extremely positive reviews. Some authors will blame poor sales on their negative reviews. There are countless threads complaining about false negative reviews, reviews where the reviewer actually liked the book, or didn't read the book, or didn't understand the book.

Authors get upset about reviews all the time. Best selling authors with an influx of overwhelming positive reviews won't pay attention to bad reviews or at least probably won't be affected by them.

Saying reviews aren't for us is a little bit short-sighted. I mean, it's not like every time you go out to a restaurant there are a bunch of reviews plastered on all the windows of your storefront. Mixed reviews will obviously upset some authors and their potential readers.

Not giving a damn about it either way of course, is the most rational and sensible approach. But once you rise above it, don't pretend everyone is as enlightened as you are.

Offline David Chill

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #48 on: July 11, 2018, 07:09:46 AM »
I think Netflix has been implementing the rating and review system properly. The star ratings are front and center -- you can't miss them. I've found ratings to be valuable in that a 4-star movie is generally pretty good and a 2-star is generally pretty bad. There aren't a lot of fraudulent ratings because you have to be a paying member of Netflix to even access them. And there are a lot fewer friends of filmmakers out there than friends of authors, so it reduces (albeit not eliminates) the level of fraud.

The Netflix reviews however, are something you have to seek out, you have to click to another page. It's fine for those who want them. And it's different from Amazon, because the Netflix reviews are not sitting in the middle of your product page, with spoilers practically jumping out at you.

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Offline Edward M. Grant

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #49 on: July 11, 2018, 09:24:08 AM »
A sample can tell me if the writing at the beginning is decent, but it can't tell me if the book as a whole contains elements that I don't want to read.

Bingo. Most of the books I regret buying started off well but turned to crap in the middle.

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #50 on: July 11, 2018, 10:15:33 AM »
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.
That was the part of going to a bookstore. Perusing the shelves, pick up a book with a cover that screamed: check me out. Reading the front and back blurbs. Flipping through a few pages. Making the decision to buy or not.

The spoiler thing is really out of hand with professional critics that use click-bait headlines full of spoilers. When a movie comes out that I want to see, I avoid even glancing at its review since I know it will spoil it.


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Offline Anarchist

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #51 on: July 11, 2018, 10:16:08 AM »
Reviews in the aggregate are useful as filters, but little more.

For example, I'll only consider reading a book if it has 20+ reviews and a 4.0+ average. That's just to separate the wheat from the chaff. I then rely on prolific reviewers in my favorite genres to signal whether I'm likely to enjoy reading a book.

I do the same with films. I'll only consider movies that have 30+ reviews on RottenTomatoes and a 70%+ rating. Those are the filters. I'll then check out the scores given by A.A. Dowd, Todd McCarthy, and Joe Morgenstern (or Ebert prior to 2013). If they liked a movie, I'm bound to like it.

Netflix getting rid of reviews is a good move because we're unable to follow select users. But we can still follow select book reviewers. And personally, once I've zeroed in on a few whose tastes dovetail with my own, their reviews become the deciding factor for me.



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Offline MissingAlaska

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #52 on: July 11, 2018, 12:48:00 PM »
For example, I'll only consider reading a book if it has 20+ reviews and a 4.0+ average. That's just to separate the wheat from the chaff. I then rely on prolific reviewers in my favorite genres to signal whether I'm likely to enjoy reading a book.

This is emblematic of the problem. Readers looking for only books with xx number of reviews with xx rating is a strong enticement for authors to use less-than-scrupulous practices at the expense of honest authors. How many of those 20+ reviews do you know are real? I suspect a lot of wheat gets immediately thrown out with the chaff while a lot of rocks are carried to the flour mill.

I do agree that relying upon reviews from readers you know makes sense -- which is why the social networking aspect of Goodreads seems like a better alternative to me.

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Offline Usedtoposthere

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #53 on: July 11, 2018, 01:21:38 PM »
Stores will never ditch reviews as long as readers want them, and people rely on reviews for purchases between 57-90% of the time. (Or 57-90% of people). Depending on the study.

But all the moaning recently about Amazon removing reviews--this is why. They've gone after reviewers, from what I can tell, who are on a lot of ARC teams and so forth. People they think are incentivized to review, or who review on release day all the time, whatever. Then they don't just remove those reviews, they remove ALL the person's reviews.

I'm good with them cracking down, even though I know I've lost dozens of reviews on my books. (I've never incentivized them, but I write in contemporary romance, where there are a lot of shenanigans, from hats all the way from pale gray to black.)

Amazon's cracked down because customers have said they don't trust reviews as much (with reason). What I personally really, really hope is that they'll get rid of all the counterfeit and shady goods coming in from China. I only buy brand names now in housewares, and buy personal care products from departments stores like Macy's, and I suspect they're losing a lot of business from that. You cannot trust those reviews at ALL.

Anything like replacing written reviews with up or downvotes would be even EASIER to game than the current system. Nowadays, you can look at a review and judge its merits. It's pretty easy to tell when somebody has actually read the book. There would be no such judgment possible with thumbs up/down.

The other difference is that Netflix isn't going to have gamed reviews. There is no single person responsible for each movie--no equivalent to a book's author--who's going to go in and incentivize reviews. It's not a small-time-enough operation.
« Last Edit: July 11, 2018, 01:23:17 PM by Usedtoposthere »

Offline Christopher Bunn

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #54 on: July 11, 2018, 01:44:04 PM »
There were probably multiple reasons why Netflix decided to dispense with their review system, but one the more public reasons was customer reaction to a big Netflix comedy special starring Amy Schumer. Apparently there's a sizable demographic that despises her for whatever reason. When her show came out, enough of these people started piling on with negative reviews that it generated considerable angst in the Netflix upper echelon. Shortly thereafter, they switched to the down-vote/up-vote system.

If Amazon did decide to dispense with reviews, I suppose it would merely create a need for someone to start a site devoted to Amazon reviews. I realize there are a myriad sites like that in existence, most of them focused on a niche, but a move like that on Amazon's part would create even more pressure for a single, gargantuan review site to emerge. Despite review gaming and stuffing, there's a great deal to learn from other people exercising their opinions. I would find it difficult to trust in a seller's marketing language alone in determining whether or not to purchase; a seller's chief and only allegiance is to selling his product, whereas a buyer/reviewer is slightly more dispassionate.

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Offline EllieDee

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #55 on: July 11, 2018, 01:57:46 PM »
Like several people upthread said, I actually prefer reviews that have certain spoilers so I can brace myself or walk away from the book as needed.  Like if a main character is going to die, or if there's animal cruelty or sexual abuse.  Maybe a compromise is having spoiler reviews on a separate tab, so people can decide if they want to click or not?

I also don't find star ratings all that helpful.  They're gamed by ARC groups or hater hit squads or both.  Largely useless.

I guess if Amazon had to get rid of something, booting the stars and keeping the text reviews might be an interesting approach... but I'm sure this isn't a popular opinion.

Offline AnnaB

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #56 on: July 11, 2018, 03:35:34 PM »
I like having the reviews.

For the most part I don't read the genres/authors where street teams heaping mountains of vapid, meaningless praise on Week One are a common practice, so it's as good an indicator as any that the book probably isn't for me.

And for some genres I may need a bit of spoiling to know whether the book is likely to be for me or not. As an example I love some forms of horror but not others.

Offline danpadavona

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #57 on: July 11, 2018, 04:48:35 PM »
I prefer the Netflix model to Amazon's. The more I read Internet reviews, whether it be Yelp, Google, Amazon, or wherever, I realize most of the reviews are either misleading or completely wrong. Too many reviewers take the "best book of all-time" or "worst book ever written" path. If it's not a 5-star, it's a 1-star. Or the best restaurant in the state, or the worst eatery known to man, unfit for animals. Very little middle ground.

For God's sake, JK Rowling and Stephen King have hundreds of 1-star reviews between them.

Thumbs up versus Thumbs down is better, in my opinion, but I wouldn't stop there. I'd like to see fuzzy logic of some sort to determine whether a book is a good match for the reader, going beyond what Amazon already does with their own system. It should include more than just thumbs up and thumbs down, which isn't robust enough to steer would-be readers.


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Offline Dpock

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #58 on: July 11, 2018, 06:05:58 PM »
At the expense of losing nice reviews, I wish Zon would abolish them entirely for books.

What I wonder about most are negative reviews. If a reader didn't like a book, why did they wait until the end to decide? Why didn't they put it down after ten pages if they didn't like it? Who reads a book to the end when they hate it? Maybe they don't read through and leave a bad review because thirty pages in, someone was unkind to a parrot, or expressed a political view they found displeasing. Quitting a book before finishing it should forfeit the right to leave a review.

In the end, one should only finish a book that pleases or enriches them. To do otherwise is mad (life is short, etc.).




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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #59 on: July 11, 2018, 06:15:25 PM »
Netflix doesn't need reviews because customers aren't choosing among various products to purchase. They already paid their monthly sub and they can watch anything they want, free of charge. They can even watch 2 minutes of a movie and decide it's not for them and switch to something else.

Sites selling something, like books, use reviews so customers can decide whether to front the money for the product or not. The idea is that a buyer wants to be informed.

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Offline thegreenheron

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #60 on: July 11, 2018, 08:07:56 PM »
At the expense of losing nice reviews, I wish Zon would abolish them entirely for books.

What I wonder about most are negative reviews. If a reader didn't like a book, why did they wait until the end to decide? Why didn't they put it down after ten pages if they didn't like it? Who reads a book to the end when they hate it? Maybe they don't read through and leave a bad review because thirty pages in, someone was unkind to a parrot, or expressed a political view they found displeasing. Quitting a book before finishing it should forfeit the right to leave a review.

In the end, one should only finish a book that pleases or enriches them. To do otherwise is mad (life is short, etc.).

Why shouldn't the customer have a right to point out they didn't like something to such an extent they didn't finish it? If someone books a hotel and leaves an hour after checking in because they find bed bugs, I'd like to read about that on Tripadvisor even though they didn't complete their stay.
 
I find it valuable to know that other readers quit the book and why. Often the articulated reason doesn't matter to me in which case I discount the review. But sometimes it does. Like I know I wouldn't enjoy a book where one of the main characters is mean to parrots because I like birds.

I always look at the overall trend of reviews in anything I purchase or research be it a car, a hotel, or a book. If most people are happy, then I feel confident buying. But if multiple people are complaining their car's transmission failed at 30K miles, or that the hotel's wi-fi doesn't work and the rooms are dirty, or that a book's plot falls apart at the 50% point, then I take notice. It's the trend and content which matters to me, not the occasional bad review.

Offline Rod Little

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #61 on: July 11, 2018, 10:13:15 PM »
Why shouldn't the customer have a right to point out they didn't like something to such an extent they didn't finish it? If someone books a hotel and leaves an hour after checking in because they find bed bugs, I'd like to read about that on Tripadvisor even though they didn't complete their stay.


A hotel room, car or electronic device... are not the same as a book, song or movie. Artistic endeavors are very subjective. You can say with proof that a hotel had bugs when you stayed, was noisy, or is far from the city center. However, you cannot say with any conviction that "Earthsea" is a bad book, or that "XYZ" is a great read. It was that for you only. Just as you cannot say Justin Bieber's songs are totally rad and great! and that another band's songs are bad. A review such as "Metallica is over-rated and stinks" doesn't stop anyone from buying it, or a review that says "Metallica is rad!" might make anyone run to grab it. This is all subjective.

The thumbs up/thumbs down idea sounds interesting. Reviews are just a time waste for subjective artistic properties - in MY opinion :) . (And too often the artists/writers waste too much time worrying about them.)

What's next? Reviews of kboards threads, emails, or times of day? I like this thread, and 3pm. I love 3pm (third coffee).

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Offline D-C

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #62 on: July 12, 2018, 02:03:04 AM »
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 agree with this.

A book, unless the pages are falling out or the Kindle font is garbled etc, is such a subjective experience, making reviews pretty worthless. "This books sucks because the heroine is a $%^%&" One star. Well, that's an opinion, which is great, but does it deserve a one star? They bought the book, they read it, it delivered a story which is exactly what a book is supposed to do. No, it doesn't deserve a one star. (This is just a hypothetical example, btw). "I got it free. I usually read military sci-fi and this was fluffy romance." One star. "OMG I LOVE EVERYTHING" Five stars. Equally unhelpful. Plus the abuse of the review system is rampant. 

Amazon will never get rid of reviews. Their entire shopping ecosystem hinges on reviews. But for books, like art, reviews aren't necessary.

Offline Splunge

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #63 on: July 12, 2018, 04:20:58 AM »
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.

What she said.

Offline Bill Hiatt

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #64 on: July 12, 2018, 09:50:34 AM »
Reviews will never go away, but I'm increasingly in the camp of those who think they are inappropriate for creative products.

If I know a reviewer's taste are similar to mine, I can gain something from that review. Unless that reviewer is someone I know personally, or the review is atypically long and detailed, I'm unlikely to know enough to be sure.

If you look at any book that has a significant number of reviews, they typically cover the spectrum. The same book produces radically different responses, and reviewers are often not clear on what led to their conclusion. I've also seen many instances in which reviewers disagree on the same feature. For instance, one of my own books has reviewers praising the teenage dialog as very realistic and reviewers condemning it as unrealistic. Same book, same dialog--different assessments. Someone who didn't read the book would have no way of knowing which assessment was accurate.

Aside from the necessarily subjective nature of judgments on literature, there is also the problem of reviewers who misstate the facts about the book. For example, I have one book in which two reviewers, both positive, cite graphic sex scenes--in a YA novel that doesn't have any real sex scenes, graphic or otherwise. There is one scene in which one of the characters fantasizes, but the description is so metaphoric the scene could be visually portrayed in a Disney movie. In an earlier post, I mentioned some examples I've seen of the same kind of think in movie reviews, where the reviewer references something that doesn't actually happen. As the saying goes, "You're entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own facts." The problem is that someone who hasn't read the book has no way of knowing the facts are misstated.

Another issue that goes along with the subjectivity issue is that people don't have one, consistent way of applying the star ratings. Given the way the human brain operates, that's inevitable, but creating averages (or some algorithm-driven composite) of those star numbers suggests that all reviewers are in fact using the same scale. I  have five-star reviews that sound like four-stars and vice versa. My most recent review was a very complimentary three-star. Earlier, I think someone was talking about one-stars that sounded mostly favorable. And, of the course, there are those occasions when people think one star is the highest rating...

None of this is intended as criticism of the reviewers. We each have a point of view that is not identical to that of any other person on earth. It's not surprising that five people can read the same book and produce five different assessments. The problem comes in when other consumers treat those assessments (or a composite of them) as gospel.

Sure, you can spend a lot of time analyzing the reviews and try to pick out the ones that seem to come from people whose point of view might be similar, and obviously some folks in this thread do a good job with that. I doubt, however, that the average consumer puts as much thought into that part of the process as some authors do. I know plenty of star counters whose only interaction with the reviews is to look at the average.

Come to think of it, perhaps just dumping the star ratings would be a good approach. People who like to spend time gleaning info from the reviews could still do it--but without the pseudo-objective averaging together of ratings that weren't originally based on the same criteria.

 


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Offline SunbirdBooks

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #65 on: July 12, 2018, 09:59:40 AM »
I cut back on Netflix watching in a big way when they axed the star review system. It became harder to find things I actually liked. Getting rid of reviews will only exacerbate that problem. I might actually cancel the service before the end of the year.

Offline Edward M. Grant

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #66 on: July 12, 2018, 12:13:01 PM »
I cut back on Netflix watching in a big way when they axed the star review system. It became harder to find things I actually liked.

The Netflix recommendations work pretty well for me. Presumably because they're based on what people like me watch, and not on how much companies pay to push their show up the rankings.

Offline Alan Petersen

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #67 on: July 12, 2018, 12:36:02 PM »
The Netflix recommendations work pretty well for me. Presumably because they're based on what people like me watch, and not on how much companies pay to push their show up the rankings.
Right. It's not like Netflix is letting you drift aimlessly. They know what you like, what you watch and sort that dashboard in a way to keep you paying that monthly subscription. Just like Amazon knows what we like to read, which books we click on, etc.


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Offline Thoralene

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #68 on: July 12, 2018, 12:51:19 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.

I agree with all of this.
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Offline Cookie Monster

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #69 on: July 12, 2018, 03:04:09 PM »
I always check reviews when I'm buying a book from an author I haven't read before. Mostly I'm looking for my dealbreakers--is the book rapey or full of abuse, etc--but I also check for common themes in the reviews. Lately several reviews on a book noted the heroine was  too-stupid-to-live, but I was really attracted by the cover and blurb and bought it anyway. Sure enough, the heroine was TSTL and I will not be reading any further in that series. (As in, she suspected someone was a murderer, and went alone to their house to return blackmail material she'd inadvertently collected, material that she believed they had already killed someone over. :o) I should have listened to the reviews!

If Amazon removed reviews, I would have to check Goodreads before reading new-to-me authors, so I would probably buy more books by authors I already know I like and avoid the hassle. I think removing reviews would probably be bad for discovery, actually.

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #70 on: July 12, 2018, 03:34:47 PM »
A sample can tell me if the writing at the beginning is decent, but it can't tell me if the book as a whole contains elements that I don't want to read.

This. I can't tell you how many times I took a chance on a book based on the quality of writing and premise in the sample only to have it fall apart later on. The effect it had on me was to stop me buying books from new-to-me authors. So... I'll try a new author through KU or the library, but won't buy. Yes, I can return, but there's a limit how many returns of anything you can make before drawing Amazon's ire.

What I rely on most heavily is the blurb. If it's poorly written, I figure the book will be too. And if it's one of those that goes through the plot point by point, I figure why read the book, I already know the story.

I do rely on reviews even when it's KU or the library and sometimes for favorite authors who can occasionally go somewhere I don't want to follow. For instance, I skipped a Nevada Barr book based on reviews. Yes, some reviews also do the point-by-point retelling of the plot, but it's easy to identify those at a glance and skip over them. Whether it's fair or not, how heavily I rely on reviews does depend on how many there are. Only a few, and I tend to worry they're all friends and relatives, or in the case of non-books, employees, paid for, etc. But once the total gets to a certain point, I figure there has to be input from ordinary consumers. Generally I don't read that many reviews but go by averages.

I wouldn't want Amazon to ditch reviews, but if it did, I'd be looking for that kind of information elsewhere for non-books. Probably my attitude toward trying new authors couldn't be any more restrictive than it is.

Offline danpadavona

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #71 on: July 12, 2018, 04:45:16 PM »
What I wonder about most are negative reviews. If a reader didn't like a book, why did they wait until the end to decide? Why didn't they put it down after ten pages if they didn't like it? Who reads a book to the end when they hate it?

That's nothing. I had one reviewer read all four books of my series just so he could 2-star the final novel and explain what a chore it was to make it through all four books. I mean, why would anyone read books 2-4 if they hated book 1? On a lighter note, I'm totally happy that I made him miserable for months.  :D


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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #72 on: July 12, 2018, 04:56:27 PM »
If you look at any book that has a significant number of reviews, they typically cover the spectrum. The same book produces radically different responses, and reviewers are often not clear on what led to their conclusion. I've also seen many instances in which reviewers disagree on the same feature. 

One of my books has reviews which state : Too many commas, Not enough commas, and, Commas all in the wrong places.

Same book. 3 different reviewers.


Exactly how much help are these? I find it almost normal for reviews across time to totally disagree with each other on exact same points.

Offline KelliWolfe

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #73 on: July 12, 2018, 05:30:05 PM »
I constantly see gushing five star reviews for books that are so full of typos and bad grammar that I can't finish the first paragraph of the Look Inside without my eyes bleeding, and one stars for things that have absolutely nothing to do with the book itself, like payment or technical issues with their Kindles. The $50/year rule has cut way down on the number of organic reviews without making any impact on the paid reviews. I think the system is so broken that they ought to eliminate book reviews on Amazon completely. If they feel like they just have to have some kind of rating/review on books, then import the ones from Goodreads because the ones on Amazon are practically worthless.

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Offline Rick Partlow

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #74 on: July 12, 2018, 05:37:18 PM »
I think getting rid of reviews is an extraordinarily bad idea.

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #75 on: July 12, 2018, 07:13:55 PM »
One of my books has reviews which state : Too many commas, Not enough commas, and, Commas all in the wrong places.

Same book. 3 different reviewers.


Exactly how much help are these? I find it almost normal for reviews across time to totally disagree with each other on exact same points.

Reminds when someone posted two reviews on their romance novel. Two one stars... one complained that there was too much sex, the other one that there wasn't enough.


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Offline Jack Krenneck

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #76 on: July 13, 2018, 02:03:04 AM »
I've seen one reviewer give dozens of books 1 star reviews all with the same comment "I didn't buy this book and I didn't order this book."

The review system is broken for a whole range of reasons. I can't see Amazon getting rid of it though (or fixing it either).

Offline AnnaB

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #77 on: July 13, 2018, 06:44:28 AM »
I've seen one reviewer give dozens of books 1 star reviews all with the same comment "I didn't buy this book and I didn't order this book."

Many problems come from Amazon's pushiness in soliciting them.
Your case was most likely a shared account where the main holder wasn't the one to order the books but got nagged into leaving reviews. Many don't seem to know they can just ignore the nagging and/or change their emailing preferences instead of leaving an irrelevant review.
The in-your-face pop-up at the end of books on a tablet is also annoying, apparently purposely designed so that most people won't know how to simply shut the thing and go back to their books listing, which might result in quite perfunctory or annoyed comments just because there's no "No I don't want to leave a review now, go away" button, and their device isn't really practical to type substantial reviews on.

Offline WHDean

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #78 on: July 13, 2018, 07:54:55 AM »
There were probably multiple reasons why Netflix decided to dispense with their review system, but one the more public reasons was customer reaction to a big Netflix comedy special starring Amy Schumer. Apparently there's a sizable demographic that despises her for whatever reason. When her show came out, enough of these people started piling on with negative reviews that it generated considerable angst in the Netflix upper echelon. Shortly thereafter, they switched to the down-vote/up-vote system.

If Amazon did decide to dispense with reviews, I suppose it would merely create a need for someone to start a site devoted to Amazon reviews. I realize there are a myriad sites like that in existence, most of them focused on a niche, but a move like that on Amazon's part would create even more pressure for a single, gargantuan review site to emerge. Despite review gaming and stuffing, there's a great deal to learn from other people exercising their opinions. I would find it difficult to trust in a seller's marketing language alone in determining whether or not to purchase; a seller's chief and only allegiance is to selling his product, whereas a buyer/reviewer is slightly more dispassionate.

I wonder whether it's related to Netflix's move into content creation more generally. Amazon produces its own books, yes, but films and TV series are much bigger investments. (Yes, Amazon does too, but see below.)

I think you're bang-on about Amazon's incentive to keep reviews. It's a short step from a review site to a retail site, which is probably why it bought Goodreads and similar sites. Netflix doesn't have this problem because it's a subscription service.



Offline Usedtoposthere

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #79 on: July 13, 2018, 11:02:37 AM »
Reminds when someone posted two reviews on their romance novel. Two one stars... one complained that there was too much sex, the other one that there wasn't enough.
That's actually a really useful pair of reviews. They tell potential readers that there's sex in the book (sign me up!), but that it's not erotic romance (sign me up!).

"What kind/how much sex is there in this book?" is one of the most useful types of review for a romance author OR a reader. Including "nothing but a kinky sex-fest," "Your Kindle will overheat!" and "vanilla and not much described." I've had all those particular reviews and many more like them on the same book. You read those things, and you know that the story isn't about sex, but it has sex scenes in it, and they're probably not going to make you uncomfortable as long as you like sex in books.

As an author, I learned a lot from my early reviews. I still do, actually, though not as much, since I can now recognize a case of "not my reader." (I learned that, though, by reading my reviews.) I do want to know the tone that sells best for me, and the things about my work that attract readers and keep them reading. WHY are certain series their favorites? If I know that, I can do more of that in other series, and hopefully widen my appeal.

Just another way you can look at it, since reviews aren't going anywhere as long as customers want them, and they do.
« Last Edit: July 13, 2018, 01:16:35 PM by Usedtoposthere »

Offline Dpock

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #80 on: July 13, 2018, 12:59:46 PM »
Reviews will never go away, but I'm increasingly in the camp of those who think they are inappropriate for creative products.
 

The more commodity-based genres seem to view a high number of reviews as a sign of merit, hence the popularity of ARCs. Twenty years ago ARCs didn't go out to the general public. They went to professional critics. Now, any author can put out a call for ARCs to their lists. The ones that raise their hands are already fans. That must be why ARC reviews often sound so similar (and why many of them, but not all, read like 8th grade "What I Did Last Summer" essays). Those aren't professional critiques. For the most part, they're blurbs from gushing fans, and 300 gushing five-star reviews are not a sign of literary merit. They're a reflection of huge mailing lists. The general public doesn't know the difference. In many cases, that's a set up for a poor customer experience.

If Zon eliminated ARCs, 90% of the reviews in certain genres would disappear overnight. Without having to sift through them, the average reader would probably get the actual information they're looking for -- a fair assessment of the book in question.


Offline Usedtoposthere

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #81 on: July 13, 2018, 01:30:53 PM »
As long as reviews are non-incentivized, having a lot of them, ARC or no, is just a sign that the author has a lot of readers. Yes, the bulk of customer reviews on ANY book, early on, will be by fans. ARC or no. Take a look during the week that the new Jack Reacher comes out. You'll have a small percentage of people, sure, who'll be saying, "I hated this one," but the vast majority of people will have waited for the thing with bated breath, because they're big fans. Their reviews will tend to be gushing five-stars.

If you think it's easy to get hundreds of people to review your book (without tricks or payments, direct or otherwise), I have to wonder if you've tried it.

I say this as somebody who only gave out free copies for a short period. When I did, the same people reviewed the books--eager readers who love them. They just reviewed them earlier on if they got ARCs. My review averages for periods when I gave out free review copies and periods when I didn't are about the same.

Reader reviews are just that--reader reviews, not measured critiques of a book's literary quality. I do think most readers are perfectly capable of reading what reviews actually say and determining whether the book is likely to be a match for THEM. If almost all the reviews just say, "Jack is so hawwwwtttt!!!!!," or "I love her books!," that tells you something different than reviews that discuss writing skill, character development, or whatever--or, more likely, are a mix of those reviews and one-sentence things that say, "Great book" or "Her heroes are so great." (Which is, yes, how lots of people review books.) The "Jack is so hawwt" book may be exactly what you're looking for at that particular moment, though, so--win.

Also: Most people, Goodreads, Amazon, or wherever, will only take the trouble to write a review if they loved a book, really disliked it, or don't understand why it got so many positive reviews and want to set the record straight. Lots of readers also subscribe to the idea of, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." Their review is a DNF and/or just not reading the next one.
« Last Edit: July 13, 2018, 02:00:00 PM by Usedtoposthere »

Offline Aloha

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #82 on: July 14, 2018, 07:13:49 AM »

 One persons trash is another's treasure, after all.
So true, there is treasure to be had by many:

Reviewers can receive books for free months before anyone else. Meanwhile, readers have to wait until the book is published and then pay anywhere from 99 cents to $14.99 (in some cases, even more).

Publishers receive free advertizing from reviews.

Authors can use reviews to determine which books might be better off if they were unpublished. (I read elsewhere in another thread that for a short period of time Amazon was allowing books to be deleted instead of merely unpublished.)

Offline Dpock

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #83 on: July 14, 2018, 10:45:10 AM »
Organic reader reviews are fine and useful to authors, even if negative. Gushing reviews from fans receiving free advance copies just clog the system and are seldom useful to anyone. "I love this book!!!" often just means "I love getting free books!!!".

ARCs were once meant to go to journalists and booksellers, not the general public. Amazon changed the rules (and with surprising clarity), but it seems to have backfired. It's why Hemingway's Islands In A Stream, published in 1970, has 205 reviews, while books like Navy Seals Spring Break Harem have 200 the day they're published. Seems askew.

Amazon doesn't care. What's screwy is, what's an indie author's incentive in sending a fan a free book? It's to get a review. The free book, a "gift", is the incentive. Any review generated by this gifting is in fact "incentivized".

It does appear new constraints have knocked down the number of reviews on new releases. I just hope they don't block organic reviewers with positive opinions of my books


Offline Usedtoposthere

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #84 on: July 14, 2018, 11:10:21 AM »
Goodness. Leaving aside incentivized/purchased/shady reviews, do people really imagine that readers are willing to read anything, just because it's free? They really aren't.

I say that as somebody who doesn't give out free advance copies anymore. But honestly, think of all the people here who have tried without success to get people to read and review their books. There isn't some pool of dumb-as-a-brick romance readers who will simply read anything as long as it's free, AND write a review. There is absolutely no shortage of free books to read, if that's what a reader is after. Readers sign up for an author's ARC team because they love her books, AND they're probably excited to be "in the club" of other readers who love that author's work. Yes, they're excited to get the books free, but they may well be signed up for KU already, and lots of romance is still in the $2.99-$3.99 range. They're probably more excited to get the books early.

Would "Free" be enough inducement to YOU to read and positively review books you don't like? It isn't for anybody else, either. They love the books. If the author doesn't do ARCs, that is the reader who stays up late to read the book at 10 PM, or whatever time Amazon releases it. They might read the whole thing that night and go to work bleary-eyed the next day. Those are the early reviewers, ARC or otherwise.

Life's too short and there's too much romance out there (since that's the genre that always seems to be brought up), including a whole, whole lot of free, KU, and 99-cent books, to read stuff you don't like.

There's more review activity on a popular romance than on an obscure Hemingway book because lots more people are buying the romance.

I for one am very happy that Amazon is cracking down on reviews, because there's been a lot of abuse, and a lot of readers don't trust the system. But I don't kid myself that readers don't really like the books they actually DO review, the ones that aren't incentivized. Just because the books aren't to my taste, that doesn't mean they have no audience. If you do a good job establishing an author brand and can set your books apart in some way, romance readers can be incredibly author-loyal.

If you didn't have written reviews and only had the up- and downvotes, though, you'd never know WHY people liked the book. You also couldn't see if the reviews looked suspiciously similar. In short, all the useful info would be gone. I feel confident in predicting that this will never happen, but I'm truly puzzled as to how it would be an improvement.
« Last Edit: July 14, 2018, 12:17:28 PM by Usedtoposthere »

Offline Thoralene

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #85 on: July 14, 2018, 03:51:16 PM »
Many problems come from Amazon's pushiness in soliciting them.
Your case was most likely a shared account where the main holder wasn't the one to order the books but got nagged into leaving reviews. Many don't seem to know they can just ignore the nagging and/or change their emailing preferences instead of leaving an irrelevant review.
The in-your-face pop-up at the end of books on a tablet is also annoying, apparently purposely designed so that most people won't know how to simply shut the thing and go back to their books listing, which might result in quite perfunctory or annoyed comments just because there's no "No I don't want to leave a review now, go away" button, and their device isn't really practical to type substantial reviews on.

I can relate to this. I read a lot on my phone with the Kindle app and I really dislike feeling almost forced into leaving a review. But I also don't like that you can't basically "finish" the book without reviewing, the app forces you to go back into the book and access your main library screen that way. I doubt I'm alone in being annoyed by that and annoying readers is probably not what Amazon thinks it's doing. Not sure.
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Offline Bill Hiatt

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #86 on: July 14, 2018, 04:42:38 PM »
Organic reader reviews are fine and useful to authors, even if negative. Gushing reviews from fans receiving free advance copies just clog the system and are seldom useful to anyone. "I love this book!!!" often just means "I love getting free books!!!".

ARCs were once meant to go to journalists and booksellers, not the general public. Amazon changed the rules (and with surprising clarity), but it seems to have backfired. It's why Hemingway's Islands In A Stream, published in 1970, has 205 reviews, while books like Navy Seals Spring Break Harem have 200 the day they're published. Seems askew.

Amazon doesn't care. What's screwy is, what's an indie author's incentive in sending a fan a free book? It's to get a review. The free book, a "gift", is the incentive. Any review generated by this gifting is in fact "incentivized".

It does appear new constraints have knocked down the number of reviews on new releases. I just hope they don't block organic reviewers with positive opinions of my books
ARCs aren't the only problem--and frankly, many of them aren't a problem. I'm with Usedtoposthere on that one. Just because someone gets a free book doesn't mean they'll be corrupted and not leave an honest review. Frankly, if a writer has enough fans to run his or her own ARC team, that at least tells me the author has enthusiastic fans. (I tried to set up an ARC team and got two signups. Sigh!) I know that some authors do suspect things with their ARCs, but everyone doesn't. Your analysis also doesn't account for ARC organizers like Hidden Gems. In a case like that, the reviewers are getting a free copy but don't know the author and weren't recruited by the author. Let's not tar all ARCs with the same brush.

Also, I'm not sure Amazon was the first site to do customer reviews online. The reason indies send ARCs to readers instead of professional reviewers is that indie authors see ordinary readers as their customers, whereas trads see book stores as their customers. Different demographic leads to different review strategies.


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Offline Dpock

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #87 on: July 14, 2018, 08:00:22 PM »
ARCs aren't the only problem--and frankly, many of them aren't a problem. I'm with Usedtoposthere on that one. Just because someone gets a free book doesn't mean they'll be corrupted and not leave an honest review. Frankly, if a writer has enough fans to run his or her own ARC team, that at least tells me the author has enthusiastic fans. (I tried to set up an ARC team and got two signups. Sigh!) I know that some authors do suspect things with their ARCs, but everyone doesn't. Your analysis also doesn't account for ARC organizers like Hidden Gems. In a case like that, the reviewers are getting a free copy but don't know the author and weren't recruited by the author. Let's not tar all ARCs with the same brush.

Also, I'm not sure Amazon was the first site to do customer reviews online. The reason indies send ARCs to readers instead of professional reviewers is that indie authors see ordinary readers as their customers, whereas trads see book stores as their customers. Different demographic leads to different review strategies.

I'm not so sure about Hidden Gems. Haven't they just monetized the review process? Their reviewers must come from the same pool being solicited by authors in the most popular genres. (I doubt they're pitching NYT book reviewers to join their ranks.) Remove their carefully worded pitches and third-party ARC services are essentially selling reviews with the added benefit of no guarantees.

We could probably agree ARC reviewing has been co-opted by indies and has reduced the value of a five-star review in several genres.

There's nothing wrong with fans leaving reviews. If they need to receive a free book as an incentive to feel motivated to do so, so be it. Just don't offer them diamonds.

I roamed through several books published by traditional publishers. This is where you see snippets of true editorial reviews solicited by traditional publishers via ARCs. Looking at the customer reviews, I didn't see any "I voluntary reviewed an ARC of this book..."  statements but did read many amazing, well informed, well-articulated reviews -- a joy). Non-incentivized reader reviews can indeed be informative and a pleasure to read. 


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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #88 on: July 15, 2018, 01:24:10 AM »
Organic reader reviews are fine and useful to authors, even if negative. Gushing reviews from fans receiving free advance copies just clog the system and are seldom useful to anyone. "I love this book!!!" often just means "I love getting free books!!!".

ARCs were once meant to go to journalists and booksellers, not the general public. Amazon changed the rules (and with surprising clarity), but it seems to have backfired. It's why Hemingway's Islands In A Stream, published in 1970, has 205 reviews, while books like Navy Seals Spring Break Harem have 200 the day they're published. Seems askew.

Amazon doesn't care. What's screwy is, what's an indie author's incentive in sending a fan a free book? It's to get a review. The free book, a "gift", is the incentive. Any review generated by this gifting is in fact "incentivized".

It does appear new constraints have knocked down the number of reviews on new releases. I just hope they don't block organic reviewers with positive opinions of my books

I have to agree here. Whenever I read through a pile of gushing reviews and they all said "I was given a copy to review" I put it in a category.

I would rather read reviews by the general public than nothing but reviews from a sling of gushing fans who were given copies for free to read and review.

Reviews from a paying customer -- good or bad -- I think hold a bit more weight.

I realize that ARC's are a promo tool to push a book during its launch, gain traction, and all that. And in that sense, it helps the indie author.

And obviously, not all ARC reviewers are mind-numbed robots. But I still think it skews the reviewing system somewhat. If the Zon takes it or leaves it, it makes no difference to me. I see why it exists. But when you see a pile of 25 gushing reviews the day of release, it just looks like another form of advertising.

Offline Dpock

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #89 on: July 15, 2018, 10:22:36 AM »


I realize that ARC's are a promo tool to push a book during its launch, gain traction, and all that. And in that sense, it helps the indie author.


They probably help initially, but they won't necessarily assure a favorable release or lead to evergreen success. There are loads of indie books with dozens, even hundreds of five-star reviews, ranking in the millions.

Ultimately, the magic sauce for evergreen indie success is in the books, not reviews.


Offline Jack Krenneck

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #90 on: July 17, 2018, 02:14:18 PM »
Reviews are a hotbed of black hat tactics because people think they're a big influence on buyers. Obviously, the more the review system is abused the less credibility it has. Trust has already been greatly eroded...and despite Amazon's efforts it's never going to come back.

But how many book buyers are really influenced by reader reviews? The below Bookbub survey puts it at 36%. Not a figure to be ignored, but not that high either. And it will probably drop further...

https://insights.bookbub.com/how-readers-discover-new-books-to-buy/?utm_source=how-readers-discover-new-books&utm_medium=email

Offline Usedtoposthere

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #91 on: July 17, 2018, 02:37:20 PM »
What people THINK influences them and what ACTUALLY influences them are not necessarily the same things. In any case, reviews will go away when stores determine their customers don't want them, and I don't see that happening. I DO think Amazon will crack down harder. They've already started.

Offline Jack Krenneck

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #92 on: July 17, 2018, 06:26:20 PM »
Agreed. I don't see Amazon getting rid of reviews. Ideally, they'd just get rid of the shady practices and leave genuine reviews alone. They need to get a lot better at this though. Even non-authors have a swiftly-growing sense of mistrust about reviews.

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #93 on: July 18, 2018, 04:54:07 AM »
I hope they don't get rid of them, tbh.

My tiny ego needs all the massaging it can get, and a positive review makes my day.

Negative reviews? Meh, that's what beer's for.

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #94 on: July 18, 2018, 05:43:16 AM »
What people THINK influences them and what ACTUALLY influences them are not necessarily the same things.

Quoted for truth. So much of marketing is subliminal. And what any marketing professional will tell you is that the more loudly a person protests that they aren't influenced by something, the easier it is to influence them with it because they don't see it happening. We are all influenced by a million stimuli we are exposed to every day, and if you aren't actively examining it, you don't often realize it is happening.

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Offline horse_girl

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #95 on: July 18, 2018, 12:12:36 PM »
There are a lot of interesting perspectives posted already on this topic.

I am one who hates that Netflix did away with reviews. While good reviews mean nothing--I tend to not like what's popular because it's become so grim and graphic--the bad reviews tended to hit the shows that were poor quality in general. I feel the same way about books.

I need reviews. In fact, I usually go right to the negative reviews first, no matter the product, and especially if it is rated highly overall. Those reviews usually contain the tidbits of what I really want to find--the reasons a product may or may not work for me. That includes books.

I don't foresee any online bookstore eliminating the review system. However, I would like them to redo their review system. This is what I would like to see: a rating for each of -- writing, characters, worldbuilding, and overall story along the same way that some sites have products rated on such things as durability, quality, and value (check out any product at smartpakequine.com for this type of rating system) with an overall rating for each and all together. I would also like to see a check box for spoilers so that, when it's checked, the review comments would be hidden unless a person clicked to see the spoiled review. These are the kinds of things that would mean more to me as a reader.

The peek inside feature is nice, but a person can have very polished first chapter or whatever sample length is featured but then not be able to follow through with building the story to a satisfying conclusion.

Remember the abuse of the review system on BN a few years ago, where text rpg players were using the review comments to play their games? BN finally fixed that.

I was going to address other issues here too--verified purchases and the $50 minimum spending to leave a review and such--but ultimately, it all comes down to one simple issue: improving the review system. Too many consumers depend on reviews to eliminate it completely. And there will always be those who game a system to their advantage. So far, every time Amazon does something meant to stop scammers, it seems like they only hurt the rest of us. Getting rid of reviews altogether isn't the solution, imho.


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Offline CatParker

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #96 on: July 18, 2018, 01:09:03 PM »

Considering how much conflict there is surrounding book reviews, does anyone think that booksellers will/should do the same?

I do. When I'm looking to buy a book, I never read customer reviews. Why would you? Just a bunch of random nobodies, venting. I can trust my own opinion. I read the blurb, and I read the sample of the book.

I would occasionally listen to what a professional critic has to say. Someone who has spent their life studying literature, and can put the book in context. But customer reviews are utterly useless. And if they affect how Amazon displays books, then I might be missing out on seeing something I like because a bunch of no-brains dissed it.

As a writer, I find reviews are helpful. Good and bad. But that's not their real purpose. Amazon conceived of them to help other customers. They are an act of cultural vandalism in that regard. If you need any proof of this, go and read the customer reviews on the Brothers Grimm's Fairytales:

"I couldn't relate to the characters."   "Didn't find the plots engaging."  "Didn't speak to me about my own life."

Jesus wept!
« Last Edit: July 18, 2018, 01:14:19 PM by CatParker »

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Offline Jack Krenneck

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #97 on: July 18, 2018, 02:09:03 PM »
There are a lot of interesting perspectives posted already on this topic.

I need reviews. In fact, I usually go right to the negative reviews first, no matter the product, and especially if it is rated highly overall. Those reviews usually contain the tidbits of what I really want to find--the reasons a product may or may not work for me. That includes books.


I get exactly what you're saying. But the problem is that the black hats don't just artificially inflate the number and star rating of their own reviews...they sabotage their competitors' reviews. Negative comments could be real...or they could be fake. It's not easy to tell which is which.