Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Book reviews in the news

A number of stories about book reviews have cropped up in the news recently:
  • Early this month on Salon.com, Jeanette Demain surveyed the one-star reviews of classic books on Amazon. She found negative reviews of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, and Anne Frank's Diary, among countless others. She even found a review of the Bible, slamming it as "boring" and "badly written."
  • In Examiner.com, Michelle Kerns digs up the 50 best author vs. author put-downs of all time. These include Mark Twain's opinion of Jane Austen: "...her books madden me so that I can't conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Every time I read 'Pride and Prejudice,' I want to dig her up and hit her over the skull with her own shin-bone."
  • On the History News Network site, Donal O'Sullivan catches us up on a scandal in which Amazon reviews by someone with the screen name "Historian" ruthlessly cut down the books about Russian history by every author whose work competed with that of Orlando Figes: "In an email issued by his attorney late last week, Figes conceded that the poison reviews had been written by his own wife."
  • In LATimesblogs.com, Carolyn Kellogg responds to the stories about negative Amazon reviews, mentioning that some authors plump up their own books by asking friends to weigh in: "Some of the reviews on Amazon seem more like notes left in a friend's yearbook than anything else."
  • In Techcrunch.com in March, Paul Carr encourages Amazon to change its policy, noting that authors reputations can be damaged by on-line reviews that are nothing more than complaints about the lack of an electronic edition or libelous personal put-downs: "Too often, especially with controversial authors, the most negative reviews come from people who haven’t even read the book in question."
I haven't looked at the reviews of my books on Amazon in a while. I think I'll hold off for now...

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