Review Wars!

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This post isn’t so much a review of these books, although I have read both recently, it is more a look at Amazon reviews and what they actually mean.

I chose these novels because they are similar in genre, and they are both Kindle First books. In case you don’t know, Kindle First is an offer from Amazon where they offer you a choice of 1 of 4 to 6 books before they are released for 99p each or free if you’re an Amazon Prime member. I am, so I got both of these books free. As far as I can see all the books are published by Amazon’s own publishing imprints and it’s a way of getting lots of reviews before the books are released to help sales.

Here are the reviews for The Short Drop:

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The first thing to notice here is that Amazon categorise 5 and 4 star reviews as ‘positive’, and 3, 2 and 1 star as critical. This book has got way more positive reviews than critical at a ratio of about 17 to 1. However there are also reviews such as this:

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Personally I thought it was good, although I felt the main character to be a bit of a cliche and some of the plot a little far fetched. But as a kind of mystery/action thriller it was a good read. I pretty much agree with the the 3 star review above. In contrast here are the reviews for Everything Burns:

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Here the ratio is much lower, only about 8:7 positive to critical. I actually quite enjoyed it. The start was a bit slow, and the writing slightly flawed but it really picked up and got better with some good twists. Although the ending was slightly disappointing. I liked the fact that the main character was very flawed. I would probably give it 3 stars, but my review is a lot better than this 3 star review:

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This illustrates the problem. As a statistician I would say that the system lacks reliability because the data is flawed, the value of any particular rating doesn’t necessarily place that review in the correct place. In other words one person’s 3 could be another persons 2 or 4. It is  very subjective.

What we don’t know is how many books have sold. We could estimate based on the number of reviews, The Short Drop has 372 compared with 151 for Everything Burns, but again that’s making assumptions.

So what conclusion can we draw from this ?

It’s difficult to say. As Kindle First promotes only books that come from Amazon publishing imprints, and they only take books via an agent, then we can at least say that both and agent and a publisher thought they were good enough to make money and therefore print. The Short Drop in particular benefitted from Kindel First, it was number one in the Amazon lists before it was actually released which is some accomplishment.

Are the books any good?

As my Grandma used to say, “you pays your money and you makes your choice”. It depends what you like and what you feel like reading at the time. I think we sometimes make too big a deal about ‘quality’, as if every book has to be a masterpiece. It can’t be. A book serves a purpose, which is to be read. Sometimes we want to read something amazing, at other times we just want something light to help pass the time. We shouldn’t get too snobby about it.

On the same page I saw this which had an excellent rating and far more reviews than either. So I guess that makes Pampers nappies better than both books!

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2 thoughts on “Review Wars!”

  1. I do think that Amazon reviews (but I’d say, store reviews in general) are quite unreliable but for a different reason: as your excerpts shows, there is not coherence to them. A review by 1 star that just tells me “it isn’t for me” tells me absolutely nothing meaningful and so it’s exactly like it wasn’t there.
    This happens with ‘negative’ reviews, but with ‘positive’ reviews as well. Reviews that only said “Great story. I couldn’t put it down” equally don’t say anything meaningful to me… and often I just assumed are from the author’s friends.

    Then there are truly awesome review where the reviewer dissects the story in a very competent way, both ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ and I adore this kidn of reviews. But with the messy way these different kind of reviews get mixed in the system, it makes the system quite unreliable to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree. You even get reviews for some products that are based more on things like delivery or customer service. There’s also the issue of really good/ really bad being more likely to get a review than in the middle.

      Like

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