I read with interest the article on the digital book world website (Exploring the Murky Waters of Unreliable Consumer Book Reviews by Jack W. Perry) about the questionable reviews on Amazon. The query that I had in my mind is whether these reviews are hurtful or helpful in the marketplace. There are two distinct trains of thought on this question of reviews:
- The reviews must be at a rating level of three or above on this scale to engender more readers to look into a title.
- A bad book review is the death-knell for a new author who is trying to get a viral buzz in his chosen genre.
This begs the old philosophical question in marketing: Does a bad review still engender people to look into the possibility of buying a book even though others may think it is not worth the cost? I tend to think that any publicity can be good publicity whether it is critical or complimentary. There have been plenty of instances in the recent past where books and movies have been panned by critics and also by critical audiences, and still the book or movie was a success in the marketplace based on consumers’ purchasing preferences. The more insidious part of the review process is where people are buying reviews to prop up their numbers and make it look like their book is actually critically acclaimed in the marketplace. This would border on cheating, and even worse a fraud on the book buying public.
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I think the consuming public has come to the point where they realize they can’t believe everything they read or see on the Internet. In many different ways, the Internet has become a great clearinghouse for information that can be deemed to be questionable. The book buying public has to be aware already that when a book or Ebook comes out on Amazon or in the iBookstore for Apple the author has probably had many of his friends and family members read and write some of the reviews that are placed onto the web site. There is a reverse psychology in the mentality of the purchasing public that tends to make them think “I need to find out for myself. “ It is this thought process that drives consumers to make purchases on books you would never think they would buy.
Another aspect to ponder is the relationship with the buying public and the reliability of the information contained on the Internet. There have been many times in the recent past where I have seen the phrase “I saw it on the Internet so it has to be true” used as the punch-line of a joke. If the Internet was looked upon as a reliable source of information, jokes of this sort would not be able to get a laugh when mentioned in TV commercials or on television shows. The Internet is a repository of information that leaves everyone to ponder and wonder whether they have received the correct information when accessing websites on given topics. There do not appear to be any plans to replace the present rating system with something else, and this question about the rating system will continue as long as there is anonymity in place behind those who are actually making the critical reviews.
In conclusion, be a smart consumer and read parts of the book before you make your purchase. Product scanning can be done before downloading an Ebook for an Amazon Kindle by reading the 10% excerpt, but even more easily accomplished on a print title when visiting a bookstore or public library. To give a great plug to the public library system, I suggest you go and take the book out of the library and either read it in total or read selected chapters to get a feel for whether the book is worth your spending dollars. Being an educated consumer is always preferable to not having any information on a product for purchase.
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