People want quality books: blogs? Not so much

People want quality books: blogs? Not so much

This started out as a post about the bestselling blogs in the Kindle store…but then I noticed something.

Those bestselling blogs have surprisingly low averages on the customer reviews at Amazon. I’ve decided I’m going to compare the bestselling items in different categories, to see if there is any pattern. First, though, let’s look at those blogs:

Blogs in the Kindle store have always been a bit of an odd duck (and there probably is a blog specifically about odd ducks). 😉

Subscribers (thanks, subscribers!) read them on Kindles…and not on Fires, for the most part.

Non-subscribers often read them on Kindle Fires.

I keep hoping that they will let you subscribe directly to them for the Fire, but they haven’t yet. My best guess is that most people just navigate directly to the site in their tablet’s browser, although some may certainly have them in some kind of feed reader.

In the case of this blog, for example, I have a Twitter feed…and you can add that into

Flipboard (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

and other apps.

I like to look, from time to time, at how the blogs are doing. I do keep an eye on this one specifically…it’s normally top ten (and has been #1), but has dropped out of that.

Subscribing to blogs typically costs $0.99 (for the more popular ones) or $1.99 a month, through Amazon.

Here are the top ten right now:

  1. Kindle Books and Tips by Michael Gallagher: 4.4 out of 5 stars, 158 customer reviews…1,637 days in the top 100
  2. The New York Times – Latest News: 3.9 stars, 80 customer reviews…1,818 days in the top 100
  3. OnKindle: 2.6 stars, 20 customer reviews…1,514 days in the top 100
  4. Huffington Post: 2.8 stars, 34 customer reviews…1,818 days in the top 100
  5. Free Books for Kindle: 3.7 stars, 23 customer reviews…1,512 days in the top 100
  6. Kindle Nation Daily by Stephen Windwalker: 3.6 stars, 41 customer reviews…1,769 days in the top 100
  7. National Review Online – Articles: 4.2 stars, 13 customer reviews…1,513 days in the top 100
  8. Free Kindle Games: 1.9 stars, 35 customer reviews…851 days in the top 100
  9. I Love My Kindle: 4.2 stars, 39 customer reviews…1,709 days in the top 100
  10. Joke of the Day by Gagler: 2.5 stars, 20 customer reviews…1,648 customer reviews

It’s strange to me how low rated some of these are…and the small number of reviews.

What’s the average number of stars for those top ten blogs? 3.38. Honestly, out of five, that’s not great.

For the books?

  1. 4.2
  2. 4.8
  3. 4.1
  4. 4.1
  5. 4.0
  6. 4.5
  7. 4.5
  8. 4.3
  9. 4.3
  10. 3.8

Average? 4.36…a full star (and then some) higher.

Hmm…Kindle magazines are also fairly low.

  1. 2.9
  2. 3.5
  3. 2.9
  4. 3.6
  5. 3.2
  6. 4.2
  7. 2.4
  8. 4.4 (Soap Opera Digest)
  9. 4.4 (Real Simple)
  10. 3.9

I pointed out the two highest. The average? 3.54. Higher than blogs, but not by much. My guess is that the low blog ratings have to do with content, and that these have to do more with formatting or restrictions on use. Just my guess, though.

Newspapers, though, where I would expect the content to be better, also have disappointing ratings:

  1. 3.4 (The New York Times)
  2. 2.5 (The Wall Street Journal)
  3. 3.6 (The Washington Post)
  4. 3.1 (USA Today)
  5. 3.0
  6. 3.4
  7. 3.9
  8. 3.0
  9. 3.0 (The Onion)
  10. 3.9

Average: 3.28…even worse than blogs! These are professionally produced. So, my initial thought that the blogs might be lower rated because the content is amateur (and perhaps misleading in some cases) doesn’t appear to be holding up.

I have to take into account what makes someone write a review. I think it may be when people are surprised. That would make some sense to me. People are less likely to be surprised (in a positive or negative way) because they have a lot of experience with the medium of books…and e-books are not that great a departure in experience.

Most people don’t have a lot of experience with blogs, I would say…so they might have expected them to be something different.

With the newspapers…I’m guessing that the experience of the electronic version is so different from the paper version (or even a website version) that it disappoints people.

Let’s test this.

I would guess that albums are more like books…that they would tend to rated fairly highly.

Apps…well, my intuition is that people who rate apps may be easier on the rating system, more likely to go high. I’ll take a quick look at those…but Kindle active content, I would guess, will be rated fairly low.

Let’s try MP3 albums first:

  1. 3.6
  2. 4.3
  3. 4.9
  4. 4.1
  5. 4.9
  6. 4.1
  7. 4.7
  8. 4.0
  9. 4.8
  10. 5.0 (Rascal Flatts Rewind)

Average: 44.4…the highest so far!

Hm, another hypothesis: maybe books and MP3 albums benefit if their scores are combined with their physical counterparts…which wouldn’t be the case with blogs or e-magazines or e-newspapers, I think.

Checking apps:

  1. 4.5
  2. 3.5
  3. 4.4
  4. 3.9
  5. 4.1
  6. 2.2 (Mods for Minecraft)
  7. 3.0
  8. 4.3
  9. 3.2
  10. 3.8

Average: 3.69

Active content (games/apps for non-Fire Kindles):

  1. 3.1
  2. 4.3
  3. 3.2
  4. 4.1
  5. 3.4
  6. 4.3
  7. 3.9
  8. 3.6
  9. 3.3
  10. 3.9

Average: 3.71

Hmm…this may require a more in-depth analysis at some point.

I think that most authors/publishers think that better customer review ratings averages drive sales…but here we see top-selling items that just don’t have exemplary scores (except for books, and albums).

I’m going to have to think more about this.

What do you think? Does this surprise you, or do you expect that people will buy items which other people have reviewed relatively poorly? Could it have to do with being given popular items as gifts…and then turning out that you don’t think they are very good? What impacts why people review something? Will people give a bad review to something just because it is very popular? Perhaps popularity encourages people to try something, thinking it must be good…and then they are disappointed? Is it just because I haven’t done a larger sample…maybe a 3.0 average is relatively good in the Kindle store? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

New! Try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.


10 Responses to “People want quality books: blogs? Not so much”

  1. Phink Says:

    I did not look at the reviews so I may totally off base with my hypothesis but here goes. Blogs and magazines tend to be political a lot of times. If the blog or the person who’s name is attached to the blog is political in anyway you will have people (on both sides of the aisle) bashing them with one star just because they do not like their politics. Just look at the next Bill O’Reilly book and see all the one star reviews where they review him and not his book. I could see those on the right giving the Huffington Post a one star just because they perceive them as a left leaning machine. I can see the left doing the same with Michel Gallagher. I hate seeing people do that and the review system is not there so you can vent about how much you hate the left or the right. You are one of the highest rated blogs and you always leave politics out of it. I gurantee you if you had the same blog and never talked about politics, just like now, but you were a host on MSNBC or FOX NEWS you’d not have the rating you do. I guarantee you that. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for leaving politics out of this blog. Never bring politics to this forum because we want an escape it for a while.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Phink!

      Well, that goes back to judging the art by the artist. I feel sorry for people who would rate something one star because they disagree with the politics (or lifestyle) of someone, if that is not reflected in the material. They are simply going out of their way to find things which make them unhappy, which I find difficult to believe is enhancing their own quality of life.

      However, I was just reading something (Thinking, Fast and Slow) which suggested that optimism is inherent…so maybe I can’t take credit for being an optimist. 🙂

      I suppose it might depend on how broadly one defines politics. I have talked about a legal case brought by the Department of Justice, for example, and expressed my opinion on it. I think it is more that I don’t try to influence how people vote (or for the most part, how they think) to make it feel less politically charged.

  2. Lady Galaxy Says:

    With books, the reviews for Kindle format and print format versions are all combined. Some folks tend to rate a book downward if there is problem with the Kindle formatting. I’ve been guilty of that in the past, but I stopped when I realized it wasn’t fair to the author. Now, if there’s a problem with the Kindle formatting, I’ll mention that in the review as a heads up to folks thinking of buying the Kindle version.

    With blogs, they are all Kindle format, so some might be giving lower ratings if they’ve experienced technical problems with the blogs. Blogs can be very wonky. Occasionally they will stop downloading for no apparent reason. The first time that happened to me, I first contacted Amazon and was informed that blog difficulties aren’t their problem. So I contacted the publisher. The publisher wrote back that they outsource the blog to another source. I contacted the source given to me by the publisher, and they responded that they had no idea what I was talking about. Finally, I came stumbled upon the online version this blog, which was not the one with the download problems, and I poked around until I discovered that sometimes when blogs stop downloading, you need to do a restart of your Kindle. I did that, and after a week of no new downloads, the other blog started downloading again. In the meantime, out of frustration, I’d written a review about the blog in which I had lowered the star rating because of the problems I’d had.

    What’s my point? Frustration and difficulty getting help can be motivating factors to send one to a product page to write a negative review. And for many of us, it’s easier to write a negative review because it’s easier to come up with reasons why we don’t like something than to come up with reasons why we do.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Lady!

      Yes, I’ve had people write to me about the blog stopping delivery. I even created a page about it:

      However, I haven’t heard that in some time…perhaps the problems are less than they once were.

      In terms of your last statement, I think that might actually be a positive thing. I think people tend to write about (and notice) things which are out of the ordinary. If people are more likely to write about negative things, that may suggest that they think that “normal” is “positive”. At least, that’s how I’ll optimistically interpret it. 😉

  3. Carolyn perreau Says:

    for me the kindle fire is by my side most of the day. I’m retired. if I get the blog to be honest it takes away from my reading time which I do at bedtime. at one time or another I have probably gotten almost 20 or so of the blogs. yours of course is my favorite. but I am guilty of reading I t on the fire. and I’m sure lots of other people do also

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Carolyn!

      Don’t feel guilty for reading it on the Fire! I’m happy that you are reading it. 🙂 I read things through Flipboard on my Fire, and I haven’t even checked to see if I could subscribe to most of them.

      I like it (and am grateful) when people subscribe through the Kindle store. That’s a reliable source of enablement and justification for doing the blog. I also like (I’ll admit it) being highly ranked there. 😉 However, there are other ways people support the blog…including kind words and comments. Using the links on the blog can also help.

  4. Bob Anderson Says:

    Does the $1.99/month NYTimes blog work over 3g? Tempted to get a 3G Kindle if it does….

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Bob!

      Yes, the blog works on 3G: it’s available for the 1st generation Kindle, and that’s all it had. 🙂

      It is available on these devices:

      Kindle Paperwhite
      Kindle Touch
      Kindle Keyboard
      Kindle DX
      Kindle (2nd Generation)
      Kindle (1st Generation)

      Be aware that this is not the whole newspaper, though, just a news feed.

      There is also a more complete version, but it is a lot more…$19.99 a month:

      Kindle Paperwhite
      Kindle Touch
      Kindle Keyboard
      Kindle DX
      Kindle (2nd Generation)
      Kindle (1st Generation)

      Even that is specific to the Kindle…

  5. Karen Salmons Says:

    Hey Buford, I have a question for you off this topic. Before I forget though I want to tell you I’m really enjoying the new Flipboard Magazine. The question is: Are Good Reads and LibraryThing pretty much the same thing or would a person want both?

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