I’ve been reviewing books for a while now, and I have to say that it is enjoyable, challenging, and all-in-all an overwhelming positive. But not everything is rosy.
I always post my reviews on Amazon. Groups like Thomas Nelson and such ask you to post on a commercial site anyway. I tried to go with Barnes & Noble for a time, but found that often the books I own, and some even that I review, just were not in their collection. So I threw all my eggs into Amazon. I like that there is ample space for a full review (normally). I think it is fairly easy to navigate the reviews, to publish them, etc.
But one thing I don’t like is the “Helpful/Not Helpful” tracking.
For one, though I do my best to tell myself this is something not to give too much credence to, I watch those numbers like a hawk. Every bump up is a little party in my head. Every bump down is a little bit of internal grumbling, searching for validation in my memory of the book. I know in my heart of hearts that I cannot judge my work (and certainly not my person) on these numbers. If there was any doubt, I learned it when I was pummeled for my strong negative reaction to “The Sign” by Van Kampen (I wrote one line years after the actual reading, mostly in response to the author’s contention that Hitler would be resurrected as antichrist), and more recently, for my technical and qualitative barrage of “The Sacred Meal” by Gallagher. I actually watched the numbers as someone went in and systematically flagged all the negative reviews of the book “Unhelpful”, and flagged all the positive reviews “Helpful”. Just weird, and certainly biasing of the results.
For another, watching how people use them, it isn’t about “Helpful-ness” at all. It’s about “Like-ing”. Its about “agree-ing”. At least, I think a terminology change is in order for Amazon.
On a side note, I have read some people complain when people both mark a post as unhelpful and leave a negative comment. I guess I can understand the thought behind that, but I myself would rather be told exactly why someone didn’t find what I wrote helpful (if that is indeed the correct terminology), than simply be flagged as “Unhelpful” without so much as a “good day to you” in the comments. I think if you are going to flag a review helpful/unhelpful, then you should have to give at least some reason why you came to that conclusion. Show some backbone, you know?
Ok. Rant over.