Book Reviews or Advertising?
October 15, 2012
An article in the Kansas City Star’s A&E section on Sunday (Sept. 16th, 2012) really got my attention. The article was titled "5 Stars, No Reading Required." I think most book lovers enjoy reading book reviews. I even enjoy reading reviews of books I’m probably not going to read or at least not read any time soon. I like knowing what’s new in the literary world. Who hasn’t gone to Amazon to check out a book you’ve seen or heard about from friends, a bookstore, a television program, or, yes, the library? This story really delved in to the world of book reviews.
The article in the paper tells the story of Todd Rutherford, who started a company called GettingBookReviews.com. He began by writing the reviews himself, but was soon able to hire reviewers for his company by advertising on Craigslist. Rutherford realized that reviews had lost their traditional function. They were no longer just to evaluate or describe the book, but to vouch for its credibility. The book reviews were really "like blurbs as on the backs of books," Mr. Rutherford explained. He said in the article, "attention despite being contrived, draws more attention." Consumer reviews are powerful because they offer the illusion of truth. We think as we read them that they are testimonials of real people, even though some or many are paid for writing them. One of the reviewers hired by Mr. Rutherford said she could write a 50-word review by just finding information on the Internet. For a 300-word review, she spent about 15 minutes reading the book. She made over 12,500 dollars in just a few months. She also stated that she regretted that she didn’t have enough time to actually read some of the books she was reviewing. Mr. Rutherford’s business was brought down by an author's complaint that her reviews did not show up quickly enough. This brought his business to the attention of Google and Amazon. Google suspended his advertising account, and Amazon took down many of his reviews. GettingBookReviews.com had commissioned 4,531 book reviews in its brief existence. WOW!
This was a really interesting article that brought up lots of other issues involved in the online book review process. There is no doubt, the changing world of book publishing and popularity of eBook self-publishing is creating a demand for these online book reviews. Could anyone do what Mr. Rutherford did with his business? I think probably so. What do you think?
North Oak Branch