Monday, October 1, 2012

Reforming Amazon

(My review for The Casual Vacancy is still in the workings; I'm not done with the book yet D: )

So, first off, read the reviews for The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling. "Gasp!" you might exclaim. "It has only 3 stars!" The 1-star ratings are about 60 in number (from the time I write this) and the 5-stars are only in the 40s.

But then look at the 1-star reviews.

And then realize that more than half of these are based ONLY on:

a. the price of the book
b. the formatting glitches of the e-book


I've seen this happen many times: to versions that are not the full, unedited versions of books; editions that are not the 'best'; glitches in the formatting.

The book should be reviewed, nothing else. For the most part, authors have no say over the price or the e-book formatting of their books. The book, basically, is NOT the price, nor the formatting; the actual product is the words.

This out to ALL Amazon products, but I've seen it affect mainly books so far. This is because in most other products, glitches in the product equal a failed product. However, the book's main 'product' is the words.

Readers and Amazon buyers form a negative opinion about any book based on the rating; if one only browses, one will skim over the lesser-stars and go for the 4 and 5 books. Basing a product on anything other than the product itself is illogical.

However, the opposition has a stance because who wants to buy a faulty book?

I think the best solution to this would be one of two things (and, maybe, a combination of both):

1. Reviews that garner below a certain 'helpfulness' rating, say, 20%, should not affect the overall starred rating. The reviews will still be visible, and thus the reviewer would not be censored, but the reviews would not play a part in the overall 5-star rating. Nearly all the 1-star ratings in The Casual Vacancy concerning price and formatting attained a very low 'helpfulness' rating; these ratings would not hinder the book's rating. This would also get rid of the infamous 1-star and 5-star spammers, who, for selfish reasons, rate down or rate up a book.


2. Create a separate 5-star rating system for the technicalities of the product. This will probably only play a part in books, because in other products, the 'technical' parts make or break the product. In books, however, this will result in only the content being reviewed. One 5-star rating for the 'Content', one for the 'Product' or something to that sort. I get tons of knowledge from reading the technical reviews. How else would I know if there is a superior version of the product? Using this method, the buyer will know whether the product is worth buying, and the buyer will be informed about the actual product as well without compromising on actual quality.

Also, the two proposed methods above don't hinder the interface of the Amazon reviewing system; it is almost as easy as normal reviewing, and if the reviewer doesn't want to fill out two reviews, it would be possible to give him/her an option of completing one or both.

I do think this would help immensely in skimming the fat from the otherwise helpful pool of Amazon reviewers. Just think if your own book was on the receiving side, getting hate for something out of your control. These methods would make it fairer and more democratic than the current system. As of now, without all the unhelpful reviews, The Casual Vacancy would probably have 4-stars.

Now, I know The Casual Vacancy set this all off in my mind, and I know I am a huge JK Rowling fan, but it is not only because of this book's reviews I thought of this; I was wondering about it when I read other reviews as well ;)

What do you think? Would this help?

(I don't know why I wrote this all up. I doubt it will help at all, hehe. But just for fun.)


  1. I think ratings based solely on those two things shouldn't be allowed in the first place. The product is the story, not the packaging.

  2. I agree, partially.

    A review is not the place for griping about the price, but if the glitches you speak of affect the reading experience, then yes. They should be mentioned. (Although, I wouldn't give a 1-star over it.)

    I think ebooks should be held to the same standards as print books. Amazon/the author/publisher should have an opportunity to check and fix this before it goes live, but it's part of the product IMHO.

  3. Gah. I'm not a fan of the star system...

  4. I think it sounds like a helpful idea. Sometimes there are just too many aspects and versions of things out there to get a good impression of what the review is on. I don't know how many times I've looked at a special edition DVD of the Big Lebowski on Amazon to see that it has 1 star. I read the review, and the reviewer is griping that there are no additional special features. That is a legitimate gripe for that product; however, it makes it look like the problem is with the movie itself. --Rob