Basing Your Reading Habits off of Reviews is so…Grade School!

reviewsThe following conversation actually took place. Names have been changed to protect the Innocent:

Elf: My gawd, you’re just now reading that!

Alien: …yeah…

Elf: Even after the movie came out? Didn’t it spoil everything for you?

Alien: I didn’t read the book when it first came out.

Elf: Why?

Alien: Because the reviews were so bad.

Elf: …You base your reading habits off the opinions of others?

Alien: …Well…yeah.

Elf: Dude…that’s so grade school.


I’ve noticed a trend in the digital book market. It goes something like this:

  • 5 out of 5 (overall stars) – gets a book a lot of attention.
  • 4 out of 5 – almost the same as 5/5
  • 3 out of 5 – Makes people uncomfortable. They have to check the reviews!
  • 2 out of 5 – automatic skip
  • 1 out of 5 – You’re basically invisible
  • 0 out of 5 – You’d be lucky if someone accidentally clicked on the cover

Am I wrong? You’re free to disagree.

One day I was browsing through Amazon looking for a decent book to read. I found one, sampled it, liked it, and bought it.

Then I noticed it had a poor overall star rating.

One reader wrote a long review on how the author’s writing style was amateurish, that their characters were cardboard, and the manuscript was in need of a professional editor. The icing on the cake was this last part, “don’t waste your money on this rubbish.”

This reader’s review was declared the “most helpful” and one user thanked the reviewer for saving them money and time. I doubt they even looked at the sample…

Ok, the reviewer is entitled to their opinion. But the commenter…

Reviews are opinions of another reader. I’m not suggesting that we should do away with the starring/review system like some totalitarian regime. However–we (as mature readers, budding authors, and authors) should be adult enough to form our own opinions / decisions based on our own judgments.

At least give the author the courtesy of reading their synopsis and a sample of their work. It’s free! Still want to read the reviews? Go for it! But don’t base your reading / buying decisions off of them.

…it’s so grade school!


That’s my opinion, what’s yours?

13 Replies to “Basing Your Reading Habits off of Reviews is so…Grade School!”

  1. I usually check out books by authors I know or that I’ve heard something about– I don’t browse a lot. I read the sales copy (blurb) first. If that’s compelling and well-written, I read the sample. That’s usually where a book loses me, but I do give them a chance. Star ratings might sway my decision to read the sample (and if reviewers are consistently leaving poor reviews, I do take it as a warning), but they’re not everything. I know there are cases where authors get bad reviews for reasons that have nothing to do with the book, so I let the writing speak for itself.

    I admit that I judge books by their covers sometimes and skip ones that look unprofessional.

    1. Exactly, letting the writing speak for itself is the best way to go. Don’t ignore the reviews but don’t let them be the deciding factor either.

      I find it a bit silly when reviewers leave a negative review that has nothing to do with the book. (I read a review where the reviewer criticized amazon’s shipping process…what does that have to do with the story?)

      As for book covers…I think it’s safe to say that everyone does.

      (p.s. don’t worry I edited it for you 🙂 )

  2. So true… People base their opinion on someone else’s opinion, not on the author’s actual work.
    When I review I try my best to write my opinion about the book, occasionally checking other reviews.
    One person commented to me on Amazon with a complain why we (as all reviewers) always put a good rating, when he/she didn’t like the book at all and bought it as the waste of money. It was clear to me, the commenter was mad on my good rating. I wrote back to the person, explaining my stand as the book reviewer. I never heard from the person again, though he/ she left a bad vote on my review.

    1. That reviewer makes no sense. I guess, in their eyes, everyone should dislike the book because they did. That’s like me saying that everyone should like listening to classical music just because I like to.

      Sorry you had to go through that, Vik.

  3. There’s one author that I follow on Twitter who refuses to review a book unless she honestly feels that she can rate it as a 5-star book. I can see where she’s coming from since starred reviews can impact sales and it’s important to support fellow writers.

    However starred reviews seem to be a necessary evil as they are one of the easiest ways to quantify opinions. Movie trailers use them during advertisements, and published movie and book reviews often rely on them too. They make it very easy to figure out the reviewer’s opinion. The intent, of course, is for a potential book buyer or movie goer to read more. To see why the reviewer has that opinion. Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is that a number of people don’t bother to read the reviews.

    Everyone is entitled to their opinion about a book, and they are free to write whatever they want on the internet. (That is one of the reasons that authors are encouraged not to look at reviews of their books online.) Whether someone else uses that opinion as justification for buying or not buying a book is completely up to them.

    I personally don’t look at reviews for books unless I’m reviewing them and that’s only after I’ve already read them. I read the blurb and occasionally check out the free sample. If neither interest me, then I usually pass on the book.

    1. True on all accounts.

      I completely agree that the review and starring system is a necessary evil. They can “bring a book down” and/or offer great exposure. But, overall, they’re just the opinions of someone else. All I’m saying is that, good review or bad review, the reader should see for themselves if the book is interesting or not. But, like you said, that’s the reader’s choice. I just hope that more people start choosing to judge for themselves.

      I find it interesting to look at the reviews of a book after I’ve read them. Especially when a review criticizes an aspect of the book that I enjoyed. It’s just another reminder that shows how different we all are.

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