How do you view reviews?

How do you view reviews?

What do you think…would the title make a good Frank Sinatra chorus? ;)

I was thinking about this issue of reviews when I wrote my last post, and had been talking to my family about it a couple of days ago.

When I’m looking to buy something from Amazon, something about which I don’t know that much, I do look at the reviews.

in the moment, it feels like I make the decision quickly, but I’m an analytical person…have you noticed? ;)

One of my main fascinations for years has been how people come to conclusions. Why do we think what we think, and how do we get there?

So, I’m going to tell you somethings about what influences me…and then ask you about what influences you.

One of the factors for me is the how many reviews there are. Let’s say I want a non-fiction, reference book on a particular topic. Maybe I can see the review count and average for five titles (perhaps under “people who bought this also bought this”). One of them has two hundred reviews, and the others have ten or fewer. I would consider that large number of reviews more important than a minor difference in ratings…if a title with three reviews had five stars, and the one with two hundred reviews had four and a half stars, I’d be more impressed by the two hundred review title.

Another thing I do?

Look at the 1-star reviews.

I want to see if the 1-star reviews (which are dragging down the average), make sense to me. They often don’t…well, I shouldn’t say they don’t make sense, but they don’t seem like a legitimate complaint. For example, somebody might give a 1-star review to a product because it isn’t available for their device. I wouldn’t do that…I don’t think you should review something you haven’t viewed. :) It’s legitimate to complain about that, but I wouldn’t do it in a product review, personally.

I’m curious about how recent the reviews are…especially the bad reviews. When people write a review, they typically don’t go back and change it if the product changes. If there were bad reviews in the beginning, but none for months, that suggests that the problem may have been fixed.

If I’m interested in a particular feature (“Does it talk about x?” “How’s the battery life?”), I may search the reviews for that.

I also look at the “most helpful” reviews.

Now, I’m not saying  I make the decision solely based on the reviews all the time, but I do think it’s one of the most valuable tools Amazon gives us…thanks, Amazon!

How about you?

I’m going to poll the group about reviews.

I’m excited to do this one! I do think this information may be useful for authors, for one thing.

If you have other things to say about reviews, feel free to comment on this post.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

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18 Responses to “How do you view reviews?”

  1. Edward Boyhan Says:

    If it’s an agency book, I’ll likely know the author, and only be considering him because of past good experiences. I might look at the review distribution to make sure it’s not a dog, but I probably won’t read any reviews in detail.

    If the average is below 3 stars — no matter the price, or anything else, I won’t buy it.

    If it’s a lower priced book (presumably non-agency), I will look at the review count, and will generally only buy if there’s more than 10-15 reviews. I like these to average 4-5. I always read a few 1 and 2 stars for these kinds of books.

    If the book is newly published with less than 5 reviews, but all are 4’s and 5’s, I might give it a shot.

    If a bad review is about poor copy editing, or typos, or poor ebook conversion, I’ll discount the review — these kinds of things are never a problem for me when buying books with a price under say $3.99.

    In terms of reviews that I might write — all I’ll do is maybe give a precis of what the book is about (but not plot details). For the rest of the review, the only thing that matters to me is: was it an enjoyable read — nothing else matters.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      I appreciate your detailed analysis!

      I have to say, I’m not as interested in whether somebody enjoyed a book or not as I am the topic and feel of the book. I like it when people say, “It’s like such and such a book.” Somebody not liking a book may be a recommendation to me…if they don’t like it for reasons that appeal to me.

  2. Common Sense Says:

    The reason for writing a review should be a checkbox, I wrote them to let people know about a good book but also wrote a couple to warn about bad books.

    I almost always discount 5 star reviews, gushing doesn’t give me a good idea if I would like the books. The 3s and 4s are helpful if they’re well written. I always read the one star reviews for content warning and formatting/editing issues. I’ve been unpleasantly surprised by a couple of books and would have been warning had I read them earlier on.

    I have a pretty good BS detector so I can usually tell if a review is by a friend or family.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Common!

      Yes, that makes sense…I’m not going to change it now, since I already have a number of responses.

      That’s an interesting point about your assessment of your ability to tell…how do you know you were right?

  3. tuxgirl Says:

    I honestly use reviews very differently for books than for other products at amazon. for books, i glance through the 1-stars really briefly to make sure there’s no crazy red flags (like “kindle version very poorly formatted” or “says it’s a children’s book, but is full of sex” (no, i haven’t seen that, but i would want to see that if it happened). other than that, i only look at the average. i do primarily buy free books or very low cost books, though. for other products, i tend to read reviews pretty fully, or at least a good number of both the upper and lower star points, if there’s a ton of reviews.

    As far as writing reviews, I usually do write negative reviews more often than positive, but I’m as clear as I can be about the reason why, and it’s not just a “hey, this book wasn’t for me”. if it’s for kindle formatting, i specifically say that in the headline of the review, too. I also gave a pretty scathing review to a book by an author that had some obvious sock-puppet reviewers. interestingly enough, one of the positive reviewers on that book bashed me in a response to that review, and a different positive reviewer from that book said almost the exact same thing within a few minutes in reply to a book review i’d made months earlier… and then later bashed me in another book review from even further back….

    oh… and on that note, if i *ever* see an author reply unkindly to a negative review where the reviewer was putting in even moderate attempts to be polite, that author will likely *never* end up on my kindle.

    i ignore reviews on politically-related books or books by political figures. reviews of those books are always worthless…

  4. Curryanne Hostetler Says:

    I agree that I use reviews not necessarily as you do but iread them. Many times the negatives don’t keep me from buying but let me know when something might happen. For instance I bought a keurig coffee pot inspite of the fact that there were several reviews complaining of short cupping. I decided to take my chances. In relation to books (I am a pastor and read a lot of theology books) I may read their negative reviews and determine that it has a lot to do to with their personal theology butit does give me a heads up on where a book may be going.

    But when it comes to fiction the reviews are helpful but with fiction the author only has the first page or two to capture me. Then it is the sample that plays a bigger part. In my decision. However if the book is free I will download anyway just to give it a greater try. I have found some very good authors that way

  5. Roy Knight Says:

    I would write a review if I knew others were interested in such reviews other than the highly excited goodness of such or the totally put off. Lets say if a review was a tool used by others I would feel honored to write them.

  6. Jody Rankin Says:

    When I make any purchases, Amazon or other, I always use the exact set of criteria you do when looking at reviews. What always bugs me is when people review a product for a nonproductive issue, such as shipping or damage. It makes weeding through the reviews more time consuming and those issues will probably never happen again. I also have begun to look at the dates and make sure there wasn’t some kind of “good review” bombing effort going on, what I think you called sock puppets. That makes me want to review them poorly to compensate.

  7. 295,000 borrows from KDP Select in December « I Love My Kindle Says:

    [...] I Love My Kindle Fun and information about the Kindle and the world of e-books « How do you view reviews? [...]

  8. katxena Says:

    I read reviews before I buy books. I focus on the 4-star and 2-star reviews, and the most helpful reviews. I find the 5-star reviews too gushy, and the 1-star reviews frequently irrelevant. But the 4’s and the 2’s give me a really good idea of the book (I often find the 2’s to be the *most* helpful!). I also try to remember to search the reviews for the terms “kindle” and “typos” because I want to know how the book performs on kindle, and i find typos really distracting.

    I also write reviews. I don’t write them for every book I read. I try to write them for every non-agency book I read, to help the author out — but I’m honest and don’t bias my reviews to the positive for them. I also write reviews for books I’m really excited about or liked a lot, agency or non-agency. I tend to avoid reviewing books that I find painfully awful, especially if they are non-agency. There’s usually enough negative reviews there to cover the bases, and I see no benefit to anyone from piling on.

    I also try to make note of any kindle-related issues I encounter (for example, so many typos and/or OCR errors that whole paragraphs are unintelligible) and also whether the TOC is active, etc. Unless there’s a kindle-related problem that caused me significant difficulty in reading, I write about kindle issues in an informational way, without allowing them to color my review one way or the other. I always appreciate when other reviewers include that kind of information.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Katxena!

      I appreciate that detailed experience report.

      I wonder if any “sock puppets” write 4-star reviews (and still gush) to cover folks like you? :)

      I’m also curious..have you ever edited one of your reviews if Amazon offered you a corrected edition? I know that may not happened with a book you reviewed, of course.

  9. Jessica Moyer Says:

    I don’t write reviews for Amazon only because I’m paid to write book reviews for other places (mainly publications for librarians) and I just don’t want to write any more

    I really like having reviews available. For books I check to see if the book is really terrible (like an outlier for an otherwise good author) or if the Kindle version is bad. I didn’t buy a ebook set once because all the Kindle reviews said the formatting was terrible and it was full of typos. That’s very helpful. For not book stuff on Amazon, I really do rely on reviews and read them carefully. The more the better as it helps in seeing trends

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Jessica!

      I understand not wanting to do for fun what you do for work…my Significant Other prefers not to answer the phone at home, because my SO talks on the phone a lot at work.

      For me, writing is like a couple of other things in life…the more I have, the more I want. ;)

  10. jean boggs Says:

    I read the reviews regularly for the free books. If it doesn’t sound like something I will like, I don’t take it even if free. Already have about 400 TBR, so don’t want to clutter my Kindle if I don’t think I will read it. Don’t always read them for other purchases as I am pretty much an impulse buyer and if I want it I want it! By the way, I put ILMK on the pulse last Nov w/your help and love it there.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, jean!

      I really like that Pulse app! I have ILMK on there, too. :)

      I tend to get most of the free books, on the theory that somebody who is or who may be on my account at some point may want to read them. I know my standards aren’t universal. :) The exception is some books that are likely to be offensive to people currently on my account.

  11. Aimee Says:

    I generally start at the lower reviews first and work my way up; that way I can see what people didn’t like and then compare it with what they did. I wish I had done that for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo before I got it as a gift – it would have saved me some unpleasant surprises.

    I also really appreciate *spoiler* warnings. It’s not fun when a review gives away something really important to the plot.

    I generally write reviews when I love something so much that I think other people should know about it, which probably makes my reviews less helpful, but there you go.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Aimee!

      I think positive reviews are helpful for people. Many folks don’t look at something unless there is a self-imposed threshold reached (maybe 4-stars, as an example). You may be helping them find their favorite book ever! That sounds helpful to me…

      Spoiler warnings are crucial to me! I love analysis of a creative work among people who have all seen it, but I’m always surprised at how many professionals seem to confuse a “review” and a “summary”.

  12. Round up #65: Firestorm #4 « I Love My Kindle Says:

    [...] I’ve recently written about reviews on Amazon and polled my readers about how they use them. [...]

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