Author Topic: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?  (Read 4402 times)  

Offline Alan Petersen

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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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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.



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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 »

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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.


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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.)

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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


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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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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. 


Offline jb1111

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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.

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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.


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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

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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.

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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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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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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.