What do you read? The impact of book reviews
Today’s post will focus on how book reviews influence readers. Next week I will examine the impact reviews can have on writers.
Personally, as a Kindle reader, the first thing I notice besides the title and the cover, are the Amazon reviews. Namely, how many reviews and stars on average a particular work has received.
I tend to favor books with 4+ stars and at least 100+ reviews.
But even when I don’t search online for novels, my bookstore browsing is influenced by reviews. Magazines, newspapers, online ads, just to name a few, direct my attention automatically to novels that have received a large marketing budget. If that isn’t enough, the positioning on a shelf and handwritten notes from bookstore employees guide my attention to certain paperbacks first.
Capturing my attention alone of course does not always lead to a purchase. I’ve seen Amazon books with 1,000+ positive reviews and I’ve decided the books weren’t for me due to genre, book blurb, etc.
I’ve also avoided some of the most hyped up books. Simply because in my experience, my expectations were far too high and led to an otherwise enjoyable book, feeling like a disappointment. Counter intuitively, the result has been a personal reluctance to buy books with too strong of a marketing campaign.
Nevertheless, books that do draw my attention still have an advantage. They receive my ‘fresh’ eye; before I get overwhelmed by the multitude of options and potentially walk away, either not buying anything or buying something that I’ve heard of before (with the implicit promise that this book will be better).
As a reader I am well aware that my reading choices are influenced by other people’s opinions and a multitude of marketing factors. Even if reviews didn’t exist and all books were displayed in the same prominence, I am sure that my eyes would wander to certain titles first and that specific cover art would appeal to my curiosity.
I think it is important to be aware of these factors that influence our reading choices. While there is nothing wrong with checking out the bestseller list, it is fun to veer off from the road most travelled and challenge ourselves to discover new writers, instead of religiously buying the works of authors we have discovered decades ago. After all, a name is not synonymous with quality, as avid readers of Candace Bushnell know, whose recent novels are meager by comparison to the freshness and insight that was found in her earlier work.
A book that has organically amassed a respectable amount of positive reviews, in my experience is far more enjoyable than one that has accumulated a disproportionately large amount of reviews, if long-loyal readers or an enormous marketing campaign are the sole drivers of such ‘success’.