Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Do we need a review process for reviews?

You may have heard that some organizations are calling for Amazon to be more proactive in deleting inappropriate book reviews. The Horror Writers' Association (disclaimer: I neither read nor write within the horror genre) has defined those reviews that should be up for deletion as follows:

  • "indicates the customer has not read the book, but only a small portion of it, such as a free electronic sample;"
  • "includes spoilers which, once revealed, could significantly reduce interest in the work;"
  • "includes negative personal remarks about the author"
  • "is focused on the work's price rather than its content."

As an avid reader who reviews approximately 100 books per year and a writer starving for book reviews, I understand the motivation here but not the result. I would argue that some reviews should be removed from Amazon, and there is a link with each review that allows any Amazon user to report those that they find inappropriate. However, I don't completely agree with what is being proposed by HWA.

Their first point would have reviews deleted because a person confesses that they did not read the entire book. I would argue that if the free electronic sample of a book is abysmal enough that a reader gives up, they have the right to share that opinion. It is clearly stated that they did not finish the book and those reading the review are likely to take that into account. I do not believe these should be deleted.

Reviews that are irrelevant or make it clear that the reviewer has read none of the book are a different story. Book reviews in which customers complain about their Kindle or shipping delays should be pulled. Those are reviews of Amazon, not the book.

Spoilers, while annoying, also should not cause the elimination of what may otherwise be a valuable review. Anyone who reads reviews understands that there is a chance that a reviewer may mention more than they wanted to know.

The problem with addressing comments about the author is that you wind up with the same issue that caused the Goodreads revolt. How much is too much? Can I say that I have tried several books by this author but I never will again? Sure, threatening violence is inappropriate, but there is just so much grey area here.

Finally, I believe that price should absolutely be up for grabs in a review. I have read and said myself before that a novel was "Okay for a Kindle freebie but I wouldn't have paid for it." On the other hand, authors attempting to sell novellas at the price of full books should be called out on it. If your price isn't appropriate, I believe that reviewers, like myself, have the right to comment on it.

A review habit that is glaringly missing from those that HWA would like to see removed are those that the author has paid for. I am much more annoyed when I see a Fiverr writer with a Goodreads or Amazon profile stuffed with 5-star reviews that sound curiously like they have not read a single book than I am when I see any of the issues that HWA is concerned with. I say that Amazon should clear the landscape of these long before we begin to worry about reviewers who are a little too mean.

What do you think? Should Amazon delete reviews? Which ones? What do you look for in a book review?

No comments:

Post a Comment