…Or, Why I Probably Won’t Review Books Very Often Anymore
You might have heard the news that printed-word-behemoth Amazon has now purchased Goodreads, the online book site where readers and authors connect to share opinions on books and make recommendations, as well as keep lists of books read, book ratings, book wishes, and so on.
Some friends have expressed to me that they find this news good, a way to get word-of-mouth buyers pointed toward authors’ books. Others find it troubling.
I’m probably more in the latter category, since, for one, I’m a bit of an old person at heart, not liking change. I was probably one of the last people alive to change from WordPerfect word processing over to the ubiquitous Word program.
But it might be more than a dislike of change. It could also be factored in that I’m a “Six” in the nine Enneagram personality testing categories. We Sixes are Loyalists, and while we love having a consulting team on almost every topic (which makes Goodreads solid gold for us) we also have a strong streak of suspicion. And that’s the side that takes over for me when I think about Goodreads going Amazon. What are they doing with my reviews, things I assumed would be shared mainly with my selected friends? Will these now be posted on a commercial site for all to see?
But now? I don’t know where they’re going.
Even beyond that, though, I have concerns about reviews in general. Not that I don’t think everyone should have an opinion on a book. It’s how it is. But different books resonate with different people. There are very, very famous and popular book series that just don’t capture my interest. Harry Potter? I made it through three books before the series got too dark for me. Vampire novels? The thought of drinking blood is just too yucky to me, no matter how compelling the love triangle.
Maybe it is bugging me because a few months ago I got a negative review, and the concerns the reviewer expressed were fair and honest, which is fine, but they also didn’t take into account that chances were, he was simply not the audience for my novel (an expert sumo fan and not a novice like the vast majority of my readers). Now, that’s his prerogative; however, the review is now on Amazon. And there will be people who will read the review and take it to heart I mean, who hasn’t done that? A dozen five-star reviews for a product and then a single one-star review blows the whole purchase for us.
So, anyway, I realize I have been one of those people living in this bubble all my life where I simply assume that my taste is superior and correct and that everyone obviously ought to agree with my taste, for the most part. Haw! (Be honest, we’ve all been there.) But now that I can see that my occasional dislike for something might deter someone from potentially thoroughly enjoying something, I realize I might not be the arbiter of all things after all.
It’s not like I have written a large number of bad reviews. For a long time my policy has been along the lines of “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all,” for the most part. Unless there’s a book that I feel is completely destructive to the human soul for some reason, I will not give a negative review. However, there are a few reviews on my Goodreads page (which I wrote for FRIENDS) that say things like, “I expected to like this book, I tried to like this book, and while the language is beautiful, I think the characters needed to wake up and stop being lame!” Or some such stuff.
And now that Amazon owns the site, I have this quivering in me that I need to suddenly curtail my free speech or something, like now Big Brother is watching and I need to be careful about what I say in certain company.
This, clearly is my suspicious nature talking here, but is it unfounded? Does anybody else have these concerns? For me, what started out as book-chat-among-reading-pals is now anybody’s guess where it’s going. I almost feel nervous to post this concern on my blog. What if Amazon were to blacklist my novels for this? Who’s to say they can’t?
And who’s to say that just because I’m paranoid that doesn’t mean nobody’s after me?
I wish there were a “dislike” button for this whole literary-consolidation-culture.