Why don’t people write reviews of Kindle books?

Why don’t people write reviews of Kindle books?

I wrote last year about a neat trick I’d found:

New search tip: sort by Most Reviews

Recently, a reader, jubunam, noted that Mockingjay had fewer than 20,000 reviews, and wanted to know why.

It’s a reasonable question.

Back in 2012, it was being reported that 9 million copies of the book had been sold…and it’s continued to sell well since.

Not only has it sold, but it has been a popular title in

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

and presumably, many more people have read it than copies/licenses have been sold.

That’s true even with Kindle books (although reviews combine formats…paper and electronic reviews both  show up on both).

If I “buy the book” from the USA Kindle store (really, I license the reading rights), many people on my account could have read it…and with p-books, it’s been big in the used book market and checked out of public libraries (at least, that would be my assumption).

So, I think we can reasonably say that fewer than 1% of people who read Mockingjay posted a review on Amazon.

My guess would be that the percentage of readers posting reviews is typically much higher on one with fewer sales, especially indies (independently published books).

My sibling’s book,

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

has 63 customer reviews (with an average of 4.7 stars out of 5) at the time of writing…and I’ll say confidently that it hasn’t sold 63,000 copies/licenses. 🙂

So, I think since writing a review is so rare, it’s like a green sheep. The question becomes not, “Why are other sheep white?” but, “Why is that sheep green?” 😉

The question is, why do people write a review?

I think there are a few main reasons.

One is to support the book. That would seem like the most obvious one…you like the book, you want others  to read it, you write a review.

There is also the flipside: you want to warn people about what you think is a bad book.

You may also want to support the author or the publisher. This might not be the best book from that author/publisher, but you want to promote them more generally. I see this in reviews, “If you want to read a great book by so-and-so, read ‘X’…this is a good book, but not the best.” Similarly, if it’s a publisher with personality, you may want to promote them.

People write reviews to support (or oppose) a cause as well. The book is a symbol of something for you, and you take the advantage of the platform to voice your opinion.

Reviews may be written to support or oppose something that’s less of a cause, more of a policy…like the price of books, or the lack of the ability to lend a book.

Some people just like to write. 😉 Book reviews are one form of expression, and they are one that people see. On Amazon, you can get feedback on your reviews. You can have your review show up as a “most useful” review, for example.

There are people who see writing reviews as a kind of fame.

People also write reviews so that publishers will send them other books to review.

Some reviews are written because people have a financial interest in the book, or otherwise personally gain from the book selling. Those aren’t supposed to happen, and Amazon has gone after people who sell good reviews on Amazon (“For $5, I’ll give your book a 5-star review”).

For some people, it becomes a habit. They review every book they read.

I think those are probably the main reasons.

I’d say the main reason people don’t write reviews is…inertia, basically. It takes an effort to write a review, and if you do nothing, the net result is that you haven’t written one. That’s the default.

Let’s do a quick poll:

What do you think? Are there other reasons people write reviews? Do the number of reviews on a book influence you? Why have you or haven’t you written a review? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and 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.

12 Responses to “Why don’t people write reviews of Kindle books?”

  1. Lady Galaxy Says:

    In the early days of Kindle, I wrote reviews to give a heads up to other Kindle owners about bad Kindle formatting. I made the mistake of giving fewer stars to those books because I wasn’t thinking that it would hurt the author who, in most cases, had no control over the formatting. When I realized that was unfair to the author, I stopped doing that. I stopped writing reviews completely when I discovered that some of my reviews had been taken down without notice to me leaving me with no idea about what I had done wrong.

    I get really frustrated with reviews that just put a five star rating followed by the meaningless, “Page turner,” or “Great Read!” I also get frustrated with closed minded people downrate books because they disagree with the author’s political, sociological or religious slant, especially when the reviewer is not a verified purchaser. Still, I have to chuckle at the “creative” explanations the reviewers give to explain the lack of purchase verification. “I found it lying on a park bench!” “Somebody left it on a plane.”

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Lady!

      It is odd that reviews might stay up for a while, and then just disappear. Amazon doesn’t have to give a reason, of course…but it would be nice if they did. 🙂

      I think that it’s funny that they give a reason! Amazon is fine with people having bought it somewhere else and then reviewing it, as I understand it.

      Hm…I wouldn’t take a book from a park bench, unless there was a note saying you could! Left on a plane? I’d turn it into the airline…

  2. Jamie Says:

    I used to leave reviews, but they seem to always end up deleting them after a few months. Amazon has some sort of weird “You know this author, so you can’t review” policy that is super vague. An author friend of mine had reviews deleted on her book because the reviewer was in the same facebook group as she is. I gave up even trying with Amazon.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Jamie!

      Yep, there is no guarantee your review will stay up at Amazon…and often, people don’t know why it was removed.

      I’m not sure that it would help for Amazon to have to be defending why they removed a review…they might spend a lot of time justifying things based on a policy, if they had one. With no policy, they don’t have to defend it.

      It reminds me of one time when, as a manager, I was required to reduce my staff (not at the bookstore…at a training company). I was in California, which is an “at will” state.

      That meant that, just as an employee can leave without having to prove fault on the part of the company, a company can let an employee go for no reason.

      The employee I released called me and asked me if they could have done anything different (a not unreasonable question).

      I basically said, “You’ve been laid off, with no indication that you did anything wrong. If I tell you anything that says that you were fired for cause, you won’t be eligible for unemployment…”

      A bit awkward, but better for the employee…

  3. Deanna's World (@langshipley) Says:

    Great article. Really like your insights on why people write reviews. I assume your reasons are more targeted towards regular readers as opposed to book bloggers?

    On a separate topic, do you know that data limit for Amazon, in terms of the number of books I can use the “send to Kindle” feature on for emailing books to myself? I do that a lot and I do not know when I am going to hit a limit or if I will?

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Deanna’s!

      I suppose more targeted because there are more of them reading the blog, but I’m not sure the reasons would be significantly different. Someone who is a book blogger might tend to fall more often into some of the reasons than someone who is not, but I think they are likely covered.

      Here are the terms, but they aren’t that specific:

      Kindle Personal Documents Distributor Terms of Use (at AmazonSmile*)

      My personal guess is that if someone was sending public domain documents to the account for their own use, they probably wouldn’t limit it. If someone was a book business professional, making commercial use of the files (which might include things like reviewing the books for pay), then Amazon might eventually do something.

      Just a guess, though… 🙂

      • Deanna Says:

        Thanks Bufo. Yeah, I expect the same reasons would apply to book blogger. Promotion would be high on the list I think.

        Thanks for the info on personal documents. I think getting paid for reviews are frowned upon. It certainly is in all the articles I’ve read where authors have paid for reviews. They are highly criticised and the reviews often get taken down.

        I get sent books to review which is what I send to my Kindle. I definitely do not get paid for it.

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Deanna!

        What people don’t like is the suggestion that authors influenced people to write insincere reviews, certainly. Bloggers have to reveal if they were given something (as I understand it, to be in compliance with the IRS), but reviewers on Amazon commonly don’t. If somebody says, “I’ll write a 5-star review for five dollars,” (five for a fiver), that’s definitely frowned upon…and can potentially have a negative effect on that book’s sales n the author’s other sales. However, I don’t know if it’s a bigger effect than the positive effect they might get from a 5-star review. I don’t think the stats are really available.

  4. Man in the Middle Says:

    You missed my reason for writing reviews – to pay forward the help that other people have given me via their reviews in deciding what to buy and read.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Man!

      That’s a good reason. I always appreciate it when someone expands a list I’ve made. I don’t pretend to be think of every possible perspective while writing a daily post. 🙂

  5. Edward Boyhan Says:

    I suspect that the number of star ratings (as opposed to reviews) is way higher. I do most of my book reading on a PW2. The time to best do a review (IMO) is mostly right at the end of the book. The key entry facilities on a PW2 are poor, but it asks me at the end of every book to give it a star rating which is easy to do, and I always provide one.

    When I’m reading something on a device with a keyboard (like this blog :grin), and I have something to say, I’ll write something — although sometimes not right away. Certain topics get the brain spinning, and I can walk around the house for hours thinking about things and stuff, before I reply to something or comment — sometimes the process can take days.

    But book reviews? Not so much — I have written maybe 5 in my time since I got my first kindle — all only for books I rated at 5 stars (and would have given more if I could).

    All those end-of-book star ratings are stored under my account on Goodreads (an Amazon property), and I tell myself that someday I’ll go into Goodreads, and write some reviews for those few 5 star books on my account … Yeah, someday (:grin).

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      I’m sure you are right that there are many more ratings than reviews.

      My approach is a bit different.

      I don’t want to rate a book until I write the review…because writing the review could affect my rating. It’s when I get contemplative about the book.

      When I write something, even though I may have other things going on (the TV is on right now), I need to mentally engage with it. When I write a review, I feel like I want to not just say something about the book, I want to produce something with some good writing in it as well. Oh, and unfortunately, at this point, I still want to be at a full-sized keyboard.

      At the time I finish a book, I’m almost always rushing on to something else…heading into work, falling asleep, or just starting the next book. 😉 So, I then end up needing to devote time to write the review (which also means rating)…and that just doesn’t alway happen. Once I start falling behind, it’s worse, because I feel like I owe them all reviews, which discourages me from writing even one of them.

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