Thursday, July 12, 2018

Hotel Review, Book Reviews, A Lot Of Similarities

Early this week, I read an article about an author who was giving up on the 5-Star rating system on Goodreads. Her rationale was that it limited the ability to really get into what made a book good or not. As someone in education, I have seen similar versions when you grade a paper using a rubric that has only 5 points. If an assignment, or in this case a book, is not 100% perfect, we give it a 4 (but note that brings it down to an 80% or B-.

I do applaud this author. It is also this reason why I have consistently pushed writing contests, including the Golden Heart and RITA to go to a larger point scale with a clear rubric. This allows for that flexibility.

But, I do think there is a bigger issue here with online reviews which can be seen in other forms of online reviews, including hotels.

When thinking more about this, I went out to see what else I could find. I know I had seen several news stories on TV as well as hearing something on NPR about this once before. One article I read stated...

E-commerce platforms have become so popular that online sales of travel products, particularly by hotels and airlines, have become the “biggest part of their business”, write the researchers. One reason for this rising popularity is the availability of online reviews and feedback posted by customers, which help potential customers to make informed decisions. From the service provider’s perspective, online reviews provide “fast, instant and easily accessible customer feedback”, and good reviews can increase their revenue.

Because we simply are missing out on that bookstore experience, so many readers have to rely on these comments just like people do with hotels and airlines. Think about the algorithms on sites such as Amazon. Customers who bought this item also bought...

Readers, and authors, are buying into these without a lot of critical thinking skills.

But there is another issue that we have to take in. Who are the people writing those reviews.

One practice authors use is that of having a "street team" helping out with promotion. These are handpicked readers the author has chosen who go out and, hard-core, push those great reviews. Once a new title is out, they are posting, fast and furious on every one of the sites they are connected to talking about how "AMAZING" this latest book was to read.

Again, from that 2016 article on hotels and airlines...

However, the researchers warn that although “every e-commerce platform has a system and procedure to ensure the authenticity” of reviews, there is growing concern that companies, or customers, manipulate reviews or give false ratings for various reasons. Owners, for instance, may post positive reviews themselves, or get friends or others to do so, to attract customers and boost sales. Conversely, they may post bad reviews to “defame competitors”.
Although false and misleading reviews can lead to consumers making the wrong purchasing decisions, there is still insufficient evidence on the extent of such practices. One reason, the researchers note, is the lack of a reliable method for detecting fake reviews. Detecting them by differences in writing style, for instance, “assumes that the writing styles of manipulators will be different from those of genuine customers”. 
Authors want that great publicity. They want those 5 star reviews! They want the great quotes. Unfortunately, we are also living in a busy world and for many readers, even if they did love that latest book, finding the time to get online, log in, and post the review may not seem worth it. When reading a bad book, we often state that "It just wasn't for me," and posting the review is also not worth it.

Does this mean that all reviews are bad? Absolutely not. Does this mean that all reviews are fake. Again, I say, absolutely not. What I am saying, however, is that readers and authors need to be cautious. They need to understand that those reviews ARE biased. These are reviews are not necessarily showing the entire picture.

What we need to do is simply think. Make our own choices. Trust our own gut instincts.

And, as a follow up... If you do love your favorite author's latest book, let them know. They love to hear from you. But keep it authentic!

1 comment:

  1. To tell you the truth, even though I love to get 5 star reviews for my books, I don't know how much that motivates sales. In my case, I don't really buy a book because of a five star review. I'm grabbed by the Book Title and the blurb on the jacket, and even more, I prefer to go into a bookstore and pick the book up and peek through it. Nothing beats that for me. The online books I buy are usually be recommendation or because of a favorite author or because they deal with a theme I'm writing about.