When I’m feeling a bit low on inspiration there’s nothing better for the spirits than whipping out the credit card and spending some of the money currently burning a hole in my bank account. My drug of choice – and I apologise for being so incredibly dull – tends to be books on things like business psychology, marketing, search engine optimisation techniques, website metrics, that kind of thing. You can keep your white truffles and Pernod-Ricard Perrier-Jouet; I get my kicks by reading "Influence". Look, I had a sheltered childhood, okay?
I tend to order through Amazon, because their customer service has always been excellent. All my address and payment details are set up with them, so buying stuff is fantastically simple. Another good thing about the site is the objective reviews of stuff you get to look at. Want to know if a business book is any good? Check out its rating and what people are saying about it.
More and more, though, I’m starting to wonder if I shouldn’t be perhaps a little more cynical about the glowing reviews I sometimes read for books that end up being a disappointment. And Amazon, with the lack of checks they have for objective reviewers, might be part of the problem.
There’s a book on a particular business topic I’ve previously written about on this blog. Doesn’t really matter what the name of the particular book in question is, so I won’t write it. What I would like to write about, however, is the dubious marketing practices either the author or publisher of the book is using to make it look more attractive than it actually is.
The book was published several months ago to a chorus of… well… a chorus of yawns and mild contempt, really. It managed to scrape up about six reviews in the first four months following publication. Most of the reviews gave it one or two stars, saying that it promised a lot but didn’t actually deliver much. A lot of marketing-business books are like that. They have one idea in them that might make an interesting 10-page white paper. When it comes to translating that one idea to 200 or so pages of text, however, you tend to get a lot of repetition and meaningless anecdotes. The book in question, judging by the reviews, seemed to be one of those books.
Until April 1, that is.
Suddenly, after two months of zero interest… BOOM! Along come five reviews, all giving the book the maximum five stars. The very next day… POW! Another five reviews, all with – you’re way ahead of me, I can tell – five stars. And every single one of those ten reviews had something in common:
- They were all written by reviewers who had never sent in a review before
- They were all between 50-70 words in length (yep, every one of them)
- The writing style was exactly the same for every review
So whereas on March 31 the book’s average customer review would have been around 2, now it’s up to 4. I don’t think it’s a coincidence, do you? It’s the same person creating multiple accounts with Amazon and writing multiple reviews.
So what’s the moral of the story? It’s that you don’t take reviews at face value; you have to spend time doing your homework. It always depresses me when I come across stuff like this. Why can’t people just, I dunno, do a better job and earn good reviews legitimately? Why the chicanery? Sighhh…. It’s obvious I’m going to have to cheer myself up by looking at Bizkit the Sleepwalking Dog for the thousandth time now.
Have a great weekend.
p.s. Afternoon update. Just checked the USA Amazon site. Same story: several contemptuous and lengthy reviews giving reasons why the book is rubbish, along with dozens of five-star, one-paragraph odes to its wonderfulness by first-time reviewers. Shill, anyone?