Quite honestly, I rarely buy a book or request a book without checking to see if there are some reviews already out there and seeing what the general opinion of the book is. I look on Library Thing, I look on the Book Blogs Search Engine and yes, I look on Amazon.
On Amazon, I will read what the Editorial Reviews say, I will look at the spread of the stars and I will often read a couple, especially the negative ones, which I think are often the most telling.
Now I appreciate having these resources but, as with many things, you have to use them with care. Especially the reviews on Amazon.
Certainly, others have noticed and written about this before. And certainly it is not only an issue on Amazon, but on every site online that has reviews posted, but because Amazon is so big it is very visible there.
Cases where 'fake reviewers', often people that work for the company whose product is being reviewed, write glowing, 5 star reviews. On the other hand, you have cases where you so to look at a product or a book and see a huge number of one star reviews. But then you read them and find the review is not about the book or the product but some off subject complaint. Maybe the reviewer is actually complaining about the cost or the fact that it is not available on Kindle..or the cost of the book on Kindle.
Another favorite issue of mine on Amazon is to look at the reviews of a book and see a large number of 5 star ones that may not be what they seem. At first you think, "Wow, people must love it!" But wait. Look a little closer at those "reviewers". I was posting a review today and took a closer look at some of the other ones. More than half of the 5 star reviews were by people who had never posted a review on Amazon before. Am I too suspicious if I wonder who they are and exactly what their connection to the author might be? What did they used to say about Chicago-style voting..."Vote early, vote often!"
Now, I am not saying don't read on-line reviews. No, not at all. I post reviews on Library Thing and Amazon all the time, pretty much every book I review here and a lot of product I buy through Amazon. And I am a member of the Amazon Vine program and, of course, review everything, book or product, that I receive from them. I love the Vine program an i love the opportunities it offers. I take my reviews seriously, as I do the ones I post here, because I know that people may be spending their hard earned money, at least in party, based on what I and other reviewers say. And many, maybe most, reviews take it seriously too. The Internet is an anonymous place and some people misuse that anonymity, maybe to attempt to mislead or misdirect through reviews they post. I am just saying, as with everything, buyer beware! Reviews are just one more tool you can use.
But there is another issue about these reviews that I never really saw until today. It is possible to take reviews way TOO seriously!
I reviewed Jodi Picoult's new book here a couple of weeks ago and posted a version of the review on Amazon. I did not like the book. I thought it gave a very one-sided view of some important issues and I thought many of the characters were shallow and one dimensional. I found the book disappointing.
Well, I posted it on Amazon as well, and thought no more of it until I was posting a review of Crystal Light Chewy Candy (pretty bad IMHO) today. While I was there, I took a look at all my reviews on my profile page. I happened to notice one review, the Picoult book, had a number of comments and was curious about them.
Wow! People though I should be ashamed of myself for not loving it, people were ranting on about cults and all sorts of political issues and heaven knows what. Name calling, nastiness, flaming I think ya kids call it.
Folks...really...it is just a book review, about a work of fiction meant for entertainment. Calm down!
As in so many thinks, moderation is the key!