Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Amazon Reviews and Boudicca & Co

For the first time ever, I wrote a short Amazon review – for Jane Holland’s book, Boudicca & Co, which is a good read.

Amazon customer reviews are often fairly worthless. For example, I read an obnoxious review of a Collected Poems. The reviewer gave the book one star. He had studied this poet at school and hated the poetry. I felt certain he had never read this Collected Poems, by one of my favourite poets! The review, besides being libellous, should never have been published. Many “reviews” are at that level. I’ve just reported it to Amazon as defamatory (yes, it was that bad).

Do you buy books on the strength of an Amazon review? That’s if it was a five-star review from someone who sounded like he/she had read the book and had thought about it. Do they have any influence on you at all? Would a one star review put you off?


Colin Will said...

I don't buy on the strength of a review alone, but I do read them, often to get more information than the publisher supplies. For instance, if I come across a new science book that sounds interesting, I'll often get a better idea of the level of readership the book is aimed at from a reviewer than from the publisher. That often helps me make my mind up.

Matt Merritt said...

I do much the same as Colin, but I'd say I use it more with history books, where the review can give you quite a lot of factual information, than with poetry or novels. Having said that, I do enjoy reading opinions of any book after I've read it.
I mentioned on my blog recently that on the Amazon entry for If No One Speaks Of Remarkable Things, one reviewer absoltely hates it, claims she could write better herself, then gives it three stars. What on earth you'd have to write to get one star from her I don't know.

Ben Wilkinson said...

I'm in two minds about Amazon reviews: like much of the internet's content, it's a case of filtering the good from the sea of bad. Having said that, there are some good reviews and reviewers out there: I tend to trust the top 100 and some of the top 1000 reviewers that appear on Amazon (they typically have a little badge next to their reviews to indicate that their reviews are usually helpful to customers). I can't say I've bough many a poetry collection on the strength of an Amazon review, though; it tends to be music and the odd novel.

Anonymous said...

I presume you mean the review of Morgan's Collected, where some toerag attacks it due to the supposedly heartless nature of one poem which sounds very like 'Assisi', which is of course by Norman MacCaig! Well done for complaining.

My Selected takes a pasting on US Amazon - I woudn't mind, but it's the only review there and is poorly written. I don't mind a negative opinion if the case is well made.


Rob said...

Yes, I did mean the Morgan. As well as the point you mention, Roddy, it also made another personal insinuation about Morgan that was compeletly untrue. I saw both statements as not just idiotic, but legally defamatory.

However, Amazon have indeed now removed the review, so their system works! Although the book still has only one star.

If I get time, I'll write a quick review of Edwin Morgan's Collected to restore some balance. Perhaps an American reader could do the same for Roddy!

I agree that Amazon reviews are a mixed bag. I sometimes get useful information from them. I also agree that negative reviews can be illuminating when reviewers back up their assertions with evidence.

Sometimes, if I've read and liked a few poems by a poet I don't know much about, I'll read reviews, including those on Amazon, to decide which collection sounds most interesting.

Jane Holland said...

Hi Rob

Thanks for doing the Amazon review for Boudicca & Co. I hate coming across poetry books with no reviews at all. How am I meant to know whether a book is any good when I can't have a flick through it before buying? That's what those reviews are for, in my opinion.

You inserted a word into one of my poems which ain't there, btw. But the text is in the eye of the beholder, so no matter. Your version may be better, for all I know!

I love blogs.

Jane x