The Bivings Report recently wrote a very insightful blog post where they ask the question, "Are Amazon Comments Truly Helpful?" It caused me to stop and realize that I've rarely, if ever, used reader comments to help decide whether or not to buy a particular book. I'm not even sure the overall 5-star rating influences my purchase decision. Btw, every time I write a book review here on the Publishing 2020 blog I cut-and-paste it onto the book's Amazon page. Now I'm wondering why.
Perhaps my problem is that I tend to be a destination buyer. I generally know what I want, I find it, and I buy it. I'm more swayed by the description the author/publisher provided than the opinions of seven strangers who (might have) read the book. That said, I often wind up reading books that have been recommended to me by friends and colleagues, people I trust.
So where's that filter option on Amazon? Why can't I provide a list of trusted friends and colleagues and have a separate system that just shows their reviews and ratings? Sure, it works best with larger numbers of friends/colleagues, but I'll bet there are plenty of reviews from people I know that I've never come across on Amazon. That's a shame (as well as a lost sale).
One last point about the Bivings post... It's funny how the vast majority of customer reviews are 5-stars. I'll bet the reviews I posted follow this same pattern, partially for the first reason cited. In fact, if I don't enjoy a book after 20 or 30 pages I generally put it aside and never pick it up again. I can only think of two times that I've actually written scathing reviews of books on my blog (and Amazon); in one case I suffered through the entire book and in the other I couldn't make it past chapter 1.