trust book review

trust book review

The Importance of Trust in Book Reviews

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1. Introduction

There are many book reviews and reviewing being done on and off the internet, and the differences between credibility of sources can be significant. But is it necessarily the case that high quality can be trusted and low quality be dismissed?

High-quality book reviews will be well-written with a good balance of critique and summary. They will be based on the whole book and not just parts, and provide enough evidence to support the reviewers’ claims. High-quality book reviews are what should be most valuable to readers and possibly authors and publishers.

Book reviews can be a source of information for many people looking to gather an understanding of popular literature. Because a book review is the opinion of a reader, including the summary and critique of the book, it is subjective information about a piece of literature, and the reviewer provides the review to try to persuade the reader to do/not do something. Usually, the review is written with a readership in mind, i.e. people planning to read the book or people trying to decide whether they should read the book. Given this, the trustworthiness of the reader takes into account how worthy it is that he/she read the book and provides possible factors to the decision.

An exploration of the concept of credibility of all sources, including book reviews. It is known that different types of information are of different credibility levels, suggesting that it is not the information per se that is of certain credibility, but the given source of the information. Believability of a source then is how likely the information given from the source is true. Ideally, you want to look for a source that is accurate in what it says and also provides clear reasons and evidence for the claims made.

2. The Power of Trust

An important consideration is how trust affects negative reviews, although the terminology seems like an oxymoron. It seems that individual books have an inherent threshold of quality to their target reader, below which only an alternative book would be a more worthwhile purchase. Wenn (1982) argued that people who share the same demographic characteristics will group together in terms of a subculture, under a shared system of cultural production. If these people are book readers, it is fair to say that what they look for in a book may be a higher standard of literacy and thus a more intellectually challenging read. Returning to Bullock and Sum’s theory, this is their cultural capital. High-value books have an inherent importance to their readers, and it is only these books that a negative review will dissuade their readers from buying, to the benefit of their market of cultural capital. This has the advantage of reducing the sale of bad books, but the disadvantage of reinforcing the closed loop system when readers only trust people who have similar values of cultural capital. This is something that has already been learned from the field of literary criticism. There are many classic books which have now been proven valuable but have been dismissed as such by negative reviews in their own time. Once again, the importance of trust will make people seek out good reviews of books that have perceived higher cultural importance.

One of the most important aspects of trust, in terms of context, is how it relates to the power of a review. It is no exaggeration to say that often, a book is bought solely on the power of a good or bad review. This represents a shift of power from the producer to the consumer, more so than many other entertainment or consumer products. For instance, a bad film review will stop many people from going to watch the film, but how many times have you heard a friend say “It got a terrible review, but I wanted to see it anyway.” This is almost unheard of in the book purchasing market. Compared to other entertainment media, a low-quality review will stop a potential customer from purchasing the book instead of justifying it later. So, as Barnes points out, people tend to recommend a book they have valued higher than other media, and this is why the perceived helpfulness of the Amazon review is so important. If the individual looking to purchase a book values what other people regard as a high-quality review, he is more likely to seek out specific reviews for that book. This acts as a powerful information filter, saving time and effort to look for quality reviews on good books. Stepman and Yaverbaum (2006) stated that “Positive reviews create sales by confirmed readers and the possibility of releasing the book through word-of-mouth to unconfirmed readers” and confirmed readers, as shown by the previous quote, are those customers who already trust the bookseller. The result is a closed loop system, books being recommended to others that are already known to be book buyers. In Bullock and Sum’s terminology, this is the market of cultural capital.

3. The Impact of Trustworthy Book Reviews

A book review without trust leads to an incorrect or skewed perception by the readers about the book in discussion. As a result, this could adversely stop many potential readers from buying or borrowing the book, thus causing the book to receive less notice than it potentially could have. Consumers and avid readers also regularly seek book reviews before making purchases or visits to the library. They know that time and money are precious resources and they need to spend these resources wisely. The best way to do so is to read reviews, whether it be in a newspaper article or in other people’s blogs and websites. With potentially every source of publication having book reviews, the increase of reviews availability has caused the trustworthiness of certain reviews to become more crucial than others. A recent development in book reviews, which can have a large impact on customers’ perception, is’s recent implementation of having book reviews being written not only by well-established critics but also anyone who has purchased an item from their site. Now these customer reviews are a great help to potential consumers as the range of reviews can vividly depict a general consensus of whether the particular book may be worth reading or not. It can also help a consumer discover whether the book is in a genre that they are personally interested in. For example, a science fiction fan’s interest would be piqued by a book that has a lot of praise from various science fiction fans. However, with the lack of credibility from some of these reviews and the fact that other book reviews by well-established critics have some bias to get the reader to read book x so they buy book y, customers may be misled from the truth. This also concerns the books. High praise for a book with a lackluster story may likely sell more copies than it will ever suspect and, in turn, the opposite for a book with high criticism. The impact on the book industry can be both positive and negative, and it is important to realize that these are the fruits of a review lacking in trust.

4. Building Trust in Book Reviews

The quality of book reviews is judged by readers from the commentary offered by the third party. The best recommendation a book can obtain is verbal communication from the consumer to the third party. While the book industry is abundant with writers who are eager to review a good book, it is important to note that the profession is marred by the generalized idea that a book review can only truly be effective if the book was impressive. Such a mindset adds an inward bias for the reviewer and it leaves the review subject to being more of a favor to the writer instead of a service to the reader. In turn, this may form an untold agreement between reader and writer and it can have an adverse effect on the content of the review. A conscious or subconscious need to promote an impressive book or to avoid downplaying mediocrity will lead to a writer altering an objective opinion into a gilded one. This undermines the worth of the review and it does not furnish the reader with ample guidance when deciding the value of the book in question.

5. Conclusion

An important thing to remember is that a positive review isn’t always a good book. Sometimes reviewers are friends with the author or are being paid to write the review, so knowledge of whether the reviewer has made any personal or financial gain for writing the review can be very useful in determining its honesty.

When considering the source, you should reflect on where the review was published. Some sources are more trustworthy than others. For example, a book review published in a renowned literary magazine is likely to be more trustworthy than one on an amateur writer’s blog. Similarly, the profile of the reviewer is important, and influential reviewers such as Times Literary Supplement will largely be more trustworthy than a review of the same book written by an unknown person.

It is clear from this essay that the best method for establishing if you can trust a book review is to consider the source, the content of the review, and the purpose. You should always remember that people who write book reviews often have an agenda and are trying to influence your opinion.

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