Monthly Archives: September 2010

Dealing with Book Reviews

I said I would write about some experiences with book reviews, so here goes. At the moment I’m talking exclusively about reviews on Amazon.com. It’s not clear to me how much effect those reviews have on prospective readers of books. I would think it’s a safe bet that it depends on various factors, including what kind of book is involved, why someone would be buying it, how many reviews are on Amazon, etc. For example, if there are hundreds of reviews, there are likely to be some five-star and some one-star reviews, so the reader won’t be swamped with any single opinion. And, if it’s the only book available on a particular subject, a reader may decide to ignore negative reviews on the chance that the reviewer was overly critical.

In my case, I’m dealing with reviews of only one book at present, Photographer’s Guide to the Leica D-Lux 4; my second book, Photographer’s Guide to the Panasonic Lumix LX3, has no reviews on Amazon right now. Well, actually it had one review, but that one is gone. I’ll talk about that review in a minute.

I’m going to talk first about a recent review of the book about the Leica D-Lux 4. That was a one-star review, in which the reviewer said the book was a complete waste of time; it apparently didn’t tell him (her?) anything new, and seemed to be a re-hash of the camera’s user’s manual. The reviewer had purchased the book for the Kindle, Amazon’s e-reader, and had been so displeased that he (she?) got a full refund from Amazon.

Well, that review really bothered me. For one thing, I had worked very hard to dig up good, solid information about the camera that is not covered in the user’s manual. I did many hours of experimenting with the camera’s various settings and purchased quite a few flash units, adapters, and other accessories to test them with the camera. I covered topics, such as infrared photography, street photography, and others that are not mentioned at all in the user’s manual. And the reviewer made a nasty remark about me personally, which did not seem appropriate for a book review.

So, although at first I considered just posting a comment on the review as an opportunity to make some of the above points and state my case, I asked Amazon to remove the review, which they did, within 24 hours of my request. I have found Amazon to be quite responsive in this area; I have now asked for two reviews to be removed, and both were removed quickly. Of course, I don’t make that sort of request lightly. As I noted, in the recent review of the Leica D-Lux 4 book, the reviewer made what I took as a personal slur against me. In the other case, a reviewer of the Panasonic Lumix LX3 book stated, completely erroneously, that the book was out of date because it covered version 2.0 of the camera’s firmware (internal programming), when the latest version was 2.2. That was not true at all; the book was completely up to date and covered version 2.2. The clincher was that the reviewer said that it was too bad the book was out of date, because he (I assume it was a he) really had wanted to buy this book!  Well, of course, my basis for asking to have the review removed was that the reviewer admitted he had not read (or even seen) the book!  The review was removed promptly.

Since I’ve gone through this process as a writer of these books, I have become more sensitive to the impact of bad reviews.  Today I saw a one-star review of a book I had just bought, The Wild Side of Photography.  I found the book to be excellent, so I posted a five-star review to counteract the negative effects of that lone, thoughtless review.  In that case, the reviewer was upset because the book, which was translated from the German, included a reference to a German web site for further information about one of the many topics in the book. Well, that may be a glitch, but it certainly doesn’t warrant a one-star review of the whole book!

I’ll get off my soap box now and get back to work on other things.  I need to write some more books, so I’ll turn my efforts in that direction for a while.