In a world where reviews can be bought and writer’s reputations are shredded by “sock puppet reviews”, how does a reader chose a book to read?

Updated: Thursday May 22, 2014 MYT 4:04:30 PM

Discerning readers

BY ELIZABETH TAI

In a world where reviews can be bought and writer’s reputations are shredded by “sock puppet reviews”, how does a reader chose a book to read?
IN a post few weeks ago, I wrote about the online petition requesting Amazon to remove anonymous reviews and allow only verified purchases. This was allowing unethical people write fake reviews to bring down competitors.
I came to the surprising conclusion that while I agree with the urgency behind the petition, it wasn’t the kind of petition I’d sign.
One, because I firmly believe that if authors can maintain their privacy by using pen names, reviewers or readers have a right to do the same. Two, I’m not convinced that Amazon would overhaul a system that has worked so well for them.
Only allowing verified purchasers to comment would drastically cut down on the number of reviews they’ve gotten and as a business, that is equivalent to shooting themselves in the foot. I am not convinced that Amazon would capitulate.
Yet, if authors band together to combat fake reviews, that could be seen as cyber-bullying as well.
Perhaps readers can educate themselves to spot a fake review, but even that is not an iron-clad strategy as what may appear to be fake could actually be genuine, and you’d end up with a splitting headache trying to see evil intent behind a seemingly dubious review.
As I researched further into the issue, I came across a controversial blog which accused a number of prominent indie authors of buying fake reviews. Some of the accused authors have posted a declaration that they do not buy fake reviews, and judging from the lack of evidence on this blog, I’m more inclined to side with them. Still, there’s this little voice in your head that goes, ‘Just who is telling the truth?’
Amidst all this confusion, I wouldn’t blame you for abandoning indie e-books altogether and just sticking with traditionally published books.
Please, don’t.
I am a reader myself, and I share your frustration. But as a writer as well (disclaimer, I published a short story on Amazon and plan to release more in the near future), I love the freedom Kindle Direct Publishing gives creatives like myself to reach readers. There are decent, talented and honest writers out there.
All we need is to learn how to find them.
As a reader, you’re probably at a loss as to whether to buy indie books. I love indie books, and I support the creative spirit that goes behind it. However, with the existence of fake reviews out there, is there a way to determine if there are true-blue good quality indie books out there?
Get a free sample. A lot of writers these days offer a free short story or even a novel. Have a taste of their writing and see if it’s to your taste. Alternatively, you can always get them from the library or from friends first.
Study the reviews carefully. Avoid reviews that don’t state reasons why they didn’t like the book. Instead, look for reviews that clearly list why the book is good or bad. A lot of times three-star reviews are often more helpful than five-star reviews because they highlight both the good and bad. Be wary of five-star reviews. A book is never perfect.
Hang out at Goodreads. This is where readers dwell, discuss and recommend books. I personally find the reviews at Goodreads more geared towards people trying to find a good read. However, it’s still prudent to be careful as fake reviews are known to dwell on Goodreads too.
Read book blogs. Most book bloggers (most, but not all, admittedly) review out of sheer passion. Read several reviews of the same book if possible.
Be suspicious of books that have only five-star reviews. Because even Stephen King gets one-star reviews.
Read the author’s blog. It’s a 21st century, digital age strategy. Many authors are posting their fiction on their websites for free. Both reader and writer win. The reader gets free fiction, and the writer may end up snagging a new fan and promoting his work as well. By reading the tales offered online, you’d have a good idea whether his works are to your liking.

 

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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