Why has the value of Amazon book reviews gone down so?

I used to be able to get a pretty good idea on the quality of a book from looking at the reviews on Amazon. Something that had a few hundred reviews with a majority in favorable 4-5 star territory used to be a solid bet to be a good read. But that seems to have changed recently. I’ve read several books that were recommended to me (both by webpages and by acquaintances) that had really good reviews but were drudgery to read. Has the explosion of social media and the automatic “share / rate what you just bought / read” filled the databases with a bunch of worthless reviews?

PS - I guess the other option is my perceptions have changed. So anyone else noticing this, or is it just me.

My answer isn’t very helpful, and it’s that Amazon reviews or any reviews have never helped me find books that I enjoy reading and that I think are well written/thought out/etc. Certainly in the realm of fiction just looking at the stars a book gets is useless, because there’s too much chacun a son gout. Nonfiction can be more helpful, at least to weed out the crackpots.

Are you talking about fiction or nonfiction?

Amazon reviews for fiction have never had much value. You don’t know anything about the reviewers. They may love a terrible book, but you have no way of knowing their taste. Indeed, many Amazon reviewers don’t seem to have even read the book – their reviews are vague without giving any concrete examples of anything from the book.

Online reviews most everywhere are never to be taken too seriously.

You might want to try Goodreads. They’re a little more thoughtful.

Yup. Unless it’s listed as a verified purchase then the review isn’t worth reading.

Was that autocorrect’s revenge there or something? :confused:

The font in this book was too small, and the mailman was mean to me when he delivered it. One star.

And, in some cases, not even that helps. Some people download their friend’s book for free via Amazon Prime and write a review to logroll.

to each his own (literally, “each has his taste” in French)

I was talking talking about fiction.

I used to think they were pretty decent. I automatically mentally deleted the ones Randolph mentions. But there seem to be so many boilerplate type reviews now they can’t all be the author’s friends. Full disclosure, I didn’t review my friend’s book on Amazon, because, well it wasn’t very good. And although I discussed with him privately areas that I thought could use work (he asked, and I knew it wouldn’t go well, but did it anyway) I didn’t want to give him the low rating I honestly thought he deserved.

I’ll give good reads a shot.

Just checked the two most recent offenders on Goodreads and they score similarly high there. Maybe those just didn’t work for me. Both of the titles I looked at are sort of meta / breaking the fourth wall about gaming. So maybe that just isn’t my cup of tea.

Personally I still find Amazon reviews moderately useful for the non-fiction I usually read. Not the rating necessarily, but the actual reviews, particularly the ones that are longer, voted as helpful and relatively well-written.

I’ll just note FWIW that Goodreads is owned by Amazon.

I’ve noticed recently that Amazon changed the default review sort order to Most Recent First. When I tried to change it back to display Most Helpful First, that was no longer an option – or so I thought. My only two options were to sort by Most Recent or to sort by Top. Apparently sorting by Top means putting the reviews rated as most helpful first. Is that meaning supposed to be intuitive? Because I equate the word top with a direction on the page, and it was only when I clicked on it to see what it did to realize that Top meant Most Helpful.

So you may have better luck if you change the default sort order. Or you may not. I have found that nearly every book on Amazon is rated over 4 stars, while Goodreads clientele are more discriminatory in their book ratings.

I gather a rating is “Top” not because the user rated the book highly, but because other users rated the review highly.

If recommendations by your acquaintances have changed, that doesn’t sound like an Amazon problem, it just sounds like your tastes have started to diverge from your friends and you need to find a better source of recommendation.

But yes, all review websites are in a constant game of cat and mouse against people trying to game them and the review websites seem to be losing as the scammers get more sophisticated. Aggregated reviews are of significantly less value than they were just a few years ago.

I’ve developed a system: when I’m considering buying a book, I start by reading the one and two star reviews. I can immediately dismiss the opinions that ripped the book for non-relevant reasons (it took too long to come! I hate the publisher’s logo!) AND for reasons that don’t matter to me personally (I don’t care if the author ‘uses the f-word’ or if the heroine turns out to be gay or “he takes the Lord’s name in vain.”

The remainder often offer useful info. Did they hate it because the plot didn’t make sense? Or the characters were wooden? Or it’s chock full of the types of error any basic proof-reading should have gotten rid of? One or two complaints like that, maybe just someone with a hairtrigger sensitivity or crackpots, but if it’s a general theme? Time to move on to a different book.

Then I look at the three star reviews. These are often the most balanced and thoughtful, inho. The writers usually will say WHAT they liked and disliked, and you can decide if the good points are things that matter to you or not, and same for the bad points.

What I never read are the four and especially the five star reviews unless maybe after I’ve finished reading the book and want to compare my own take. with what others think.

IME, a lot of the five star ratings are from friends, or people who have no discrimination at all. If they managed to get through it, well, it’s THE BEST BOOK EVAH.

What’s worse, tons of the 4/5 raters seem to think the idea is to RECAP rather than REVIEW the book. You look at a handful of 5 star ratings and you are almost certain to have the book ‘spoiled’ for you.

The main use they have for me is for plot summaries and also I buy a lot of Trade Paperback comics and often the same issues will be reprinted in multiple volumes. Reviews are good for helping me figure out if I am rebuying something I already have.

bumping the thread a little…

I have some stories on Amazon, for Kindle. I have a handful of reviews.

Recently, I was feeding the old ego and reading the reviews…and I noticed that a number of one, two, and three star reviews had been removed. The fours and fives remained.

I didn’t do it! Someone at Amazon did it. I do not know why, but it sure improves my overall score.

To be (painfully) honest, I do not approve. People read my stuff, thought it was crap, and that’s an opinion that ought to be respected. Review inflation does not serve anyone’s actual interest. It’s like grade inflation in schools: it just makes the averages less meaningful.

I read the three star reviews. They pretty much tell me if I want to read a book or not. Fives are generally fan reviews.