I’ve always had the impression that online ‘book reviews’ are a vital commodity on which to sell books.
I have heard that sales algorithms are driven, in part, by those reviews – and certainly if the book’s discovered they can help the would-be reader decide whether to buy the book or not.
The thing is that, to me, they aren’t really reviews – not in the discursive essay sense of traditional print media reviews. What online ‘reviews’ really are is a ‘comment’, in the same style as any comment on social media – and, often, about the same length.
Like social media comments, online book reviews vary widely. Some are lengthy and erudite and, indeed, meet the discursive nature of the traditional review. Others are brief, to the point. And some express a personal impression or thought on reading the book.
Often the commenter expresses a personal opinion – which is fine. But then they also adjust the star rating to suit. On that sort of system, one person’s single-star book could well be somebody else’s five-star. It’s all valid information, but it needs to be understood in that context.
Personally – as someone who’s been writing the trad-style review for years – I’d prefer to see the online bookstore reviews re-named ‘comments’, as a more accurate term.
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2016