The Sword and Laser discussion

Do you Read Reviews?

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message 1: by Bryek (new)

Bryek | 271 comments So I was reading the reviews on amazon of a book that I really like but it seems to be a polarized book, people either hated it or loved it.
So I was wondering, do people here read customer reviews of a book before buying?

Personally I have never bothered. Same with movies. No one can tell me if a book is going to be good or bad and I have enjoyed books others hate and hate books that everyone else loves (ASoIaF). I also tend to find with movies, anything that "professional Reviewers" hate I love and vis versa.

So does anyone find customer reviews of books helpful? if you do, where do you start looking at reviews? 5 stars, 1 stars, 3 stars, most liked/voted for?

message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

Only read the reviews of friends I trust, usually. If none of them have reviewed a book I'm interested in, then I'll look at the 2 star reviews to see if the negatives are anything that I might find annoying as well.

message 3: by Adrian (new)

Adrian Pienaru (adi_pie) | 124 comments Same here, I usually don't read reviews and even when I do I pay attention to negatives, though In the end they don't really influence what books/movies/games I consume, only when cash is tight, but even then it only influences which ones I buy right now and which I put off for later.

message 4: by Louise (new)

Louise (louiseh87) | 352 comments Usually, if I've made it as far as looking up a book on Amazon, I've already decided its worth reading. I tend to look for reviews elsewhere, in sci-fi zines etc, and listen out for recommendations.

message 5: by Laurel (new)

Laurel I'm like Ala, if a friend recommends a book I trust that opinion implicitly!

message 6: by David (last edited Jan 04, 2013 06:15PM) (new)

David Richards (dgr2) | 30 comments I read reviews to get a better idea of the story and general plot. I also read the blurb on the back of the book. I consider reading someone else's review to be the same as reading one in a newspaper or magazine. I do like to find out a lot about movies before I go to see them, as once you have paid for your ticket they have your money regardless. I am not so hard with books though, as I tend to only buy ones that fit my needs, but I do check the free samples and still do my best to find out as much as I can. As others have said, my preferences might not match those of the reviewers, so bad reviews won't put me off if I see something in there that I like.

message 7: by Lena (new)

Lena Horn (lenahorn) | 11 comments I actually pay a lot more attention to the rating and how the ratings are distributed.

Like if a book has a ton of 4 and 3 star reviews, and an overall rating of like 3.5 stars, I'll probably give it a try (assuming the plot interests me). But if a book is about even in 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 star ratings, but also an overall rating of 3.5 stars, I'd hesitate.

I might just be weird... anyone else like this?

message 8: by Margaret (new)

Margaret (arosecoloredlife) | 1 comments I like to read reviews, but I don't always abide by them. Also, unless a book has very few other reviews I tend not to bother reading the 5 star and the 1 star reviews. They tend to be the most biased and tend towards "I Love this book!!!You should buy it!" or "I hated this book! save your money!" without giving reasons why.

message 9: by Melissa (new)

Melissa | 42 comments I read reviews from sources that I trust. I don't always trust reviews on Goodreads and Amazon.

message 10: by Kristina (new)

Kristina | 532 comments When I'm adding a book to my to read list I'll glance over the synopsis, then check the stars. Anything less than 3.5 is a no go. I don't usually read into the reviews at all.

message 11: by terpkristin (new)

terpkristin | 3366 comments Depends who writes the reviews. Some people seem to have similar tastes as me and I trust their reviews. On places like Amazon, I have a lot less faith in reviews. And I almost never go solely by stars/rating. So many people use different schema for stars, they become somewhat meaningless. Really, I look to friends here and posts in forums like this to suggest books far more than I look to reviews.

message 12: by Laura (new)

Laura (conundrum44) | 82 comments I find the one star reviews most helpful in predicting if I'll like a book. If they all complain about something that would be a problem for me, they are usually right. If they complain about something that isn't a big deal for me, I usually like the book alright.

But I don't look at them all the time. I usually do if it's for a book club or something and I'm wondering if I want to invest the time in the book or take a break for the month. :)

message 13: by Emy (new)

Emy (EmyPT) | 98 comments I read the premise or blurb and then only read reviews if I am not sure, based on that, whether the book achieves it's target.

I don't read reviews for a few reasons:

1. Book taste is too personal to trust another too much to say if I'd like a book
2. Reviews based on the wider catalogue of the author ("not as good as The Hobbit") rather than whether the story held. Sometimes this can be good in that if you didn't like X then Y not being as good can help, BUT I've seen too many relative reviews that I categorically disagree with.
3. Reviewing with a purpose, where the purpose isn't to help you consider, but to override you - the vitriolic "Don't Bother"s as well as the didactic "You Must Read This"...
Added to that, it's also because I am perpetually frustrated by things which end up as spoilers for me that aren't at all for the reviewer...

I stick to reviews from places where there is some sort of discussion or debate, and those which instead of giving bad reviews, just don't review that book.

message 14: by Rick (new)

Rick | 1517 comments Yes, I do, if it's an author I'm not familiar with. What I do is to read the 2 star reviews. Usually the 1 and 5 star reviews are less than useful - they are either "LOVE IT" or "THIS SUCKED". The 2 star reviews are usually pretty good about why the reviewer didn't like it and what I'm scanning for is whether the book pushed any buttons for them that are also hot buttons for me. In other words I'm trying to see if there's anything that will set me off and really irritate me... is there a reason NOT to buy the book?

message 15: by Sky (new)

Sky Corbelli | 309 comments Assuming it's not something that was reccommended to me and I'm randomly looking at a book that caught my attention, I take a sampling of both the highest (4/5 star) and lowest (1/2 star) reviews and make my decision based on the following easy, 3 step process:

1. If a review is 100% positive or negative, it is disqualified.

2. If any of the reviews directly contradict each other, both are disqualified, unless one is significantly witty.

2a. In the case of significant wit, either positive or negative, I stop reading reviews and download the free sample. Anything that inspires wit is worth at least sampling.

3. If I like what I hear from the positive reviews more than I dislike what I hear from the negatives, I look at the price, estimate my potential enjoyment against how much I want a similarly priced meal, and go from there.

In short, reading reviews leads me to rely on my gut.

message 16: by Ruth (tilltab) (new)

Ruth (tilltab) (till-tab) | 1338 comments I tend to buy books on impulse because I like the sound of them, and then I will not read anything about them because I want to form my own opinion. Sometimes I will read a review in a magazine of a book I'd hadn't known about and will stop reading the very second I am interested enough to want to read the book for myself, often not getting much more than a description of the basic plot similar to what you would find on the back cover. I do the same with film reviews.

However, when I find myself very very tempted to take advantage of kindle daily deals, I will click down to the reviews which will usually help me to resist clicking the buy button. Just because a book is only a pound doesn't mean I can afford to buy it, and negative reviews are really useful for reminding me of this. Of course, if the book interests me enough, I may still give in to temptation and I can't NOT check the deals in case something on my wish list shows up there. But thank goodness for negative reviews!

message 17: by Jeff (new)

Jeff Namadan (jnamadan) | 218 comments I don't read reviews in fear of spoilers. I might just lightly skim the stars and the review subject, but rarely do I go into the review. Star reviews aren't the best way of choosing I know. Sometimes I barely read the synopsis. The less I know the better.

Films I'm just as bad. For those I just pop to the bottom in hoping there is a general summary and I can go from that.

message 18: by John (new)

John Wiswell | 86 comments I'll read reviews by friends particularly those on Goodreads, and in major papers like The Guardian or New York Times. In both cases it comes down to me trusting a particular reviewer who frequents that source. Much more frequently I'll have friends buzzing about a book and talk to them, which I find more useful for product selection than even a formal review.

If I can't find much in that way, though, I'll skim Amazon. I've mostly done that for non-book products. There's no spoiler on the Sole Elliptical Page.

message 19: by Geoff (new)

Geoff (GeoffGreer) | 300 comments I only read reviews to laugh at people's terrible reviews.

If someone starts their review of The Name of the Wind (as an example) with the phrase "I don't usually like fantasy...", the rest of the review isn't going to have much to convince you with.

message 20: by Dara (new)

Dara (cmdrdara) | 1587 comments I read the positive and negative reviews and go off that. In a bookstore, I'll open to a random page and started reading to see if I like the writing style. Reviews can be helpful but I don't disqualify a book because of them.

message 21: by Emy (new)

Emy (EmyPT) | 98 comments Dara wrote: "In a bookstore, I'll open to a random page and started reading to see if I like the writing style."

I can't do that. I mean I can't make myself. I HATE reading out of sequence even within the book I have, to the extent where if I drop a book I would rather go backwards and read from somewhere I know I have already read, than risk reading ahead of where I was... Yes, I know :P

message 22: by Bryek (new)

Bryek | 271 comments I read the synopsis ans nothing else. Necer really thought about reading reviews much. I don't even read anything inside. I couldnt imagine how many books I would have never enjoyed if I depended on those things.

message 23: by Kate (new)

Kate O'Hanlon (kateohanlon) | 778 comments I read costumer reviews of books I've already read because I think it's fun to see what other people thought.
But when it comes to future purchases there's just a handful of pro and semi-pro reviewers whose opinion I take into account.

message 24: by Katrina (new)

Katrina | 28 comments Ala wrote: "Only read the reviews of friends I trust, usually. If none of them have reviewed a book I'm interested in, then I'll look at the 2 star reviews..."

This. I check for reviews of people I know who have tastes similar to mine. If there are none, I may read the lowest reviews to see why they hated it. I am rarely swayed too much by reviews though. The general opinion has a tendency to lead me astray. *coughcough*50 shades*cough*

message 25: by Brian (new)

Brian (maeglin73) | 20 comments I don't usually read reviews on a site like Amazon, but I will read them here. I usually give priority to friends and people whose reviews I follow, particularly those whose tastes seem really, really similar to mine.

message 26: by Drew (new)

Drew Perry (drewperry) | 9 comments Darren wrote: "I'm probably going to read Starship Troopers this year only because I have heard so many negative things about Heinlein and it that I'm curious if there's any truth there, or if this is just one of those "generally held opinions" which seem to snowball out of nothing."

Good for you! As a Heinlein (and Starship Troopers) fan, I really feel that it is a novel with two audiences. Whereas most books have the "liked it/didn't like it" camps, Starship Troopers, like many other poignant sci-fi, has the "loved it/not for me" camps. I don't want to say directly that those who don't like it didn't understand it, but I do feel that many people dig in to Starship Troopers expecting something entirely different than what they're given, ESPECIALLY if they've seen the film or (God forbid) one of its sequels beforehand.
It's not your "typical" space opera. It's truthfully not even very "core" sci-fi. It's more suited to a military audience willing to expand into sci-fi than anything else. Keep an open mind and I'm sure you'll love it. Even if you don't, it's extremely short. And then you'll be able to say you've read it. Welcome to the club, we have t-shirts.
An unusual plug I will make, however, is to seek out the animated series. Amazon has most of it. (It was cancelled before the final few episodes were made, however their scripts have made it online.) As far as capturing the "feel" of the novel, the cartoon comes the closest. It's by no means canon, but it attempts to grasp the drudge of war in much the same way as the novel did.

message 27: by Erik (new)

Erik Redin (erik_redin) | 143 comments I work at a library, so I'm constantly getting recommendations from patrons and co-workers. I largely ignore patron recommendations because they don't know my tastes. I'll listen to certain co-workers, especially those into genre stuff. I don't use reviews on Amazon or any website (including this one) to determine if I'll read or purchase a book.

I definitely use Rotten Tomatoes when deciding if I should go to the theater to see a film and I'll use Metacritic when determining whether to purchase a video game. I'm not sure why I don't care about professional reviews at all when it comes to books.

message 28: by Geir (new)

Geir (Makmende) | 40 comments I sometimes read some reviews after I finished the book, mostly if I thought it was much worse than its average rating would indicate, or if I really loved it. Seeing what other people appreciated about it might enrich my own experience.

message 29: by Brian (new)

Brian (maeglin73) | 20 comments Erik wrote: "I'm not sure why I don't care about professional reviews at all when it comes to books."

It's funny that you seem to equate reviews on Goodreads in general with anything resembling professional :-) Even most of the ones you read on Amazon aren't, but for me those are worth less because I don't know the people making them. Here, at least, that's a possibility.

message 30: by Morgan (new)

Morgan (stahlblau) | 2 comments Yes, all the time. Actually reading the reviews is much more helpful than just looking at the star ratings. I do the same with everything I buy, from books to electronics. The ratings that are around 3 stars tend to be the most honest, with people fully admitting the flaws but also appreciating the good parts. Reviews with 1 or 5 stars tend to only emphasize the negative or positive aspects respectively, trying to justify the star rating.

message 31: by Jon (new)

Jon (jon17) | 27 comments My cutoff is 3.7. Anything below that and I need a pretty good reason to read it. I'm assuming the book has at least 650 reviews.

I challenge anyone to recommend me a book they really liked that has a score lower than 3.7.

message 32: by Nekroskop (new)

Nekroskop | 86 comments I have only recently started reading reviews for 2 reasons:

- the advent of the ebook makes it so alluring to just buy/download dozens of books
- by joining goodreads I get loads of ideas for things that could interest me, but I can't read them all.

I also prefer the negative reviews, as they give me e abetter insight into what I don't want to see in a novel, and for some reason I seem to find more spoilers in the big positive reviews.

Also, I enjoy reading reviews in absence of existing discussions on books, as it gives me sometimes a bit more inside. And yes, sometimes validates my opinion, I can be shallow like that ;)

message 33: by Marcelo (last edited Jan 22, 2013 03:41AM) (new)

Marcelo (cimmeria) I only read reviews when I don't know a thing about the author. But I don't segregate professional critics from readers' comments (e.g. at I don't think they're equivalent either — pros are going to dissect the novel with technique with their (supposedly) critic eye, while readers tend to express, I think, a more visceral, emotional opinion.

If I already know the author or the book was recommended by a friend whose taste I value, I still read reviews after I read the book, just to see how "in tune" critics and other readers are with me.

message 34: by Pedro (new)

Pedro António | 64 comments I do read reviews, but generally not the 5 star ones, unless I know the reviewer and know he/she is critical enough that the 5 stars mean a masterpiece. I find that most people give out 5 stars to anything they happen to like, regardless of its flaws. I for one am incredibly reticent about giving a 5 star rating and believe that shouldn't be given lightly, as it only encourages bad writing and misleads other readers when it is not deserved.

From the people I don't know, I tend to read mostly the 2-3 star reviews as many have said, so I know what the consensus of the book's issues are and if that would prevent me from enjoying it.

I also tend not to pick up anything that has less than ~1000 reviews and/or is below 3.5 stars, unless it's a sequel to a novel I liked, in which case I want to have a proper first experience without any preconceptions and only read reviews after I'm done with the novel and written my own.

message 35: by Marcelo (new)

Marcelo (cimmeria) Hey Pedro, I couldn't agree with you more about people giving out 5 stars as if they were candy. I only reserve a 5-star to the best of the best, often only one book for each genre, so they're my measuring stick.

message 36: by Ruth (tilltab) (new)

Ruth (tilltab) (till-tab) | 1338 comments Marcelo, Pedro, I'm giving you 5 stars each for those magnificent comments. I couldn't agree more! ;P

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