Why I Read The Bad Book Reviews As Well

My apologies if this blog post depresses you like the book market does me.

Photo by Chris B on Unsplash

We live in a world dripping with hype. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the realm of book publishing. “Popular” does not necessarily mean significant or valuable. Hula hoops were popular for a season. And hoop skirts for quite a few.

If you’ve ever bought books from Amazon then you’re no doubt aware that they like to make additional suggestions from time-to-time based on your browsing history. They also do a nice job of recommending a dozen related books when you are looking up another book that interests you. I like this feature. “People who bought this (what you are looking at) also bought these.”

Buying books is very different from borrowing from a library. They don’t send them to you for free, even when you can find them used and discounted. So to assist us in our decision making, Amazon gives readers the opportunity to weigh in. For example, here are three one-star reviews of a social media marketing book that got mostly five-star reviews.

This book is horribly written and has basic knowledge that explains what youtube, facebook, and twitter does. This author does not explain anything beyond what a 16 year old child does not know about social media.

Repetitive and absolutely useless. Nothing in this book is worth a penny.

This book would be very good for complete beginners. I was already generally familiar with LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, so for me most of the book was superfluous.

I love how these reviewers aren’t afraid to pull any punches.

Here’s another book recommended by Amazon based on my browsing history. Several one-star reviewers complained about the problems with font size not being adjustable on Kindle, and thus unreadable. Here is a one star review about the content itself:

Lots of fluff, no meat.

The books on digital marketing success are legion, and so many promise the moon. Can they really deliver? This review sums up a problem many of the books have. They actually do have some useful info, but making a book length document wasn’t necessary.

The book has some good tips, but you have to really want it. You need to wade through all these stories that wined and twist that have no real value to get to the information. Took me two days to get through it and I had only a few pages of useful info. Over priced and lots of page filler.

This could have been a 50 page book instead of 230 of useless drek,

A similar book seems to imply that anyone can do what Mark Zuckerberg did. Two billion customers? I doubt it. And yet, despite the easy-money promises and extravagant declarations, this reviewer is the lone nay-sayer in the midst of a batch of five-star reviews. For some reason this rang true.

Waste of time, money. Mostly just common sense. Many points only applicable to a dating website.

Bernadette Jiwa’s book, Story Driven: You don’t need to compete when you know who you are was the first of several recommended books in a Christmas email I received from Amazon. For starters, the cover design is eye-catching and nicely done. And the lengthy endorsement by Seth Godin is golden. Most of the reviews are positive, this one especially over-the-top:

I have all of Bernadette’s books but this one has gone to a whole new level of excellence.

I was curious what that whole new level was so I read a more reviews looking for clues regarding actual content. Finally I fast-forward to the one-star reviews. This one says a lot:

On average, I read a non-fiction book per week. This “Story Driven” book was by far the worst in the past year. I paid $1.00 for this book. That was 100 pennies too much, so I’m returning it. Here is the whole book in a nutshell. If you are starting a business don’t bother about competing and don’t worry about making a profit as long as you do some social good and know who you are (really, that’s the book). This basic theme is repeated throughout the book. Long lists of really lame questions were listed to supposedly help you find a story to tell, which would be helpful if you graduated high school with a “C” or lower average or a drop out. These lists made up 10% of the book and resources and references take up a full 20% of the book which rounded out the last 30% of the book.

I decided to see if any of Bernadette Jiwa’s books were in my local library before grabbing my wallet. Sure enough, our local library has The Fortune Cookie Principle. So out of curiosity I went to find the Amazon reviews for this volume, and the first thing I found was another Seth Godin endorsement: “This should be the next book you read. Urgent, leveraged and useful, it will change your business like nothing else.” SETH GODIN — Author The Icarus Deception

Note how his name is in all caps, just so you don’t miss it. There are 115 reviews at Amazon, 78% five-star, the rest four and three stars, and a lone one-star review.

Nothing special. Fake reviews

Now personally, I have a hard time imagining all of those other reviews being fake. Some will be friends, but the “nothing special” could have merit, depending on the amount of reading you do.

I checked out her blog, and see that she has taken a page from the Seth Godin playbook. Her blog posts are short, very short. Each one has a point, though. I’m reminded of Aesop’s Fables, which are also short. Might be why they are so memorable. Seth Godin is an advocate for shorter blog posts, as opposed to those gendarmes who insist that 2,000 and 3,000 word blog posts are what we should all be crankin’ out.

Speaking of Seth, one of my other Amazon-recommended books on this Christmas day was Mr. Godin’s 2007 Bestseller. As for reviews of this bestseller, let’s start at the bottom…

Purple Cow

It offers nothing new or groundbreaking. In fact, it even says in the book that there is no formula for creating a Purple Cow.

Great disappointment. Watched many of Seth’s interviews on YouTube before buying this book, thought it would be decent. The phrase creating something remarkable is overused with limited supporting information or industry examples. There are a few examples cited, but not nearly enough or with results to support them. I saw this writing as philosophical not informative or usable to leaders in an organization. Its ironic that he preaches the need to create something remarkable, milk it for all its worth, and then repeat the process. Yet criticizes the current industry’s methods, which is the same thing. Also known as innovate and market.

I like to take it one step further and sum up the book in one sentence: Seth is proposing that companies have to develop star products (he renamed “purple cows”) and stop being followers. DONE

Oh well. Assuming you’ve read this far, feel free to leave a comment. And have a great year week leading up to the unfolding new year.

An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon https://tinyurl.com/y3l9sfpj

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