Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Was this review helpful to you?

When I review books on Amazon, I try to be helpful. I try to say more than, "This was the best book I've ever read!" or "This book was so bad, it would only be good for toilet paper!" Goodness knows I could have used some more helpful reviews before reading some of the really awful books I've read in the past couple of years. But the numbers on Amazon really don't mean anything. The number of helpful votes have little to do with how helpful the review actually was, and more to do with whether or not people agree with what you've said.

Some books (and book series) tend to polarize people, and it shows in the reviews on Amazon. There are quite a few reviews for books like Breaking Dawn (which people either loved or hated) that have little to do with the book itself and are just rants about the stupidity of people who had a different opinion. And those kind of "reviews" get rated as helpful! I fail to see how calling someone a "peabrain", a "moron", or a "pervert" (actual quotes) because they have a different opinion will help readers decide whether they want to read a certain book.

Are helpful ratings that big of a deal? Perhaps they are for some people (especially if they're trying to increase their reviewer rank on Amazon). I do tend to look at the ratings, especially because they often indicate problems with the book that have been noticed by many. If a reviewer gives a book one star, provides good reasons for doing so, and a majority of people found the review helpful (or agree with the review), then I might be hesitant to purchase... because there's obviously something not quite right with the book.

So what should Amazon do? Keep the helpful votes system? Change it to "Do you agree?" votes? Have a two sets of voting buttons ("Was this review helpful?" and "If you've read this book, do you agree?")? Or something else?


  1. Hummm.
    Good question.
    I always check Amazon reviews before picking a book and I always give good reviews a thumbs up.
    I think it's more than agreeing.
    It's like saying, "Yah you're review helped me make my decision. Thanks."
    Great question!

  2. The helpful option is a joke. It's more about a popularity contest there. (on Amazon) If you aren't with the clique, you won't get lots of helpfuls. I have seen three stupid lines get so many pats on the head...lol!

    I don't know if I shoot for being helpful. Maybe I should. I am just thrilled if I get the book read, reviewed, and posted in a timely manner.