Not About The Book Alone

Yes, Author, I realize you don’t like it when people give low stars on Amazon for Kindle formatting issues. I know you want to be reviewed on your literary merits, or at least those things within your control. Problem is, to a reader, formatting matters. I want to see that information in a review. I also want formatting errors fixed, and low-star reviews get attention. No, I haven’t done this myself, but I don’t like to see authors barging in on legitimate reviews to complain that formatting errors aren’t what the review system is about. I know the review hurts, but please put yourself in the reader’s shoes, here.

These review comments for Judi Fennell’s Catch of a Lifetime are what prompted this rant.

When I look at reviews for a DVD, there are often comments about picture quality, or if the DVD is a bootleg.  These have nothing to do with the artistic merits of the film, but they’re very important for someone purchasing the product.

On a review site, or in print, reviews should certainly be about the art alone.  I read these reviews to answer the question: will I enjoy this story?  On a retail site, reviews must encompass everything that cannot be determined without buying the product.  Here, I’m asking the question: do I want to buy this particular product? Errors in formatting profoundly affect this decision.  Rants about pricing are not on, because not only is pricing variable from day to day, it’s something anyone can see up front.  Kindle formatting doesn’t change until fixes are uploaded, and you can’t tell–often not even in the sample–if there will be problems.

Finally, yes, the system works.  I recently browsed reviews for a book I just read, to find one that mentioned a high amount of typos in the book.  The version I read, while it had other editing problems (was the girlfriend’s name Nancy or Sugar?  Did she dump him or didn’t she?), it didn’t have typos.  It was an indie book, and the author had re-edited and re-uploaded to fix the errors.  I don’t know what mainstream authors can do to correct Kindle errors, but I would hope they could at least contact their publisher and attempt to get the book fixed and re-uploaded.

So, please, beloved authors, whom I love with all my readerly heart, think about what Amazon is for, and what a buyer needs to get out of reviews, and leave an honest reviewer to it.

4 Responses to Not About The Book Alone

  1. Marmalade says:

    Well said, and I concur. I just re-read ‘Through the Looking Glass’ on my Kindle and imagine this… NONE of the poems were included. Hello?! Jabberwocky, The Lion and the Unicorn, The Walrus and the Carpenter are all integral to the story and missing. I hate reading something that goes like this:

    “…I don’t know any soothing lullabies.”
    “I must do it myself then,” said the Red Queen, and she began:

    “And now you know the words,” she added, “just sing it through to ME. I’m getting sleepy, too.”

    I guess I got what I paid for, which was nothing. I should have sprung for the $.99 version. If only I had known.

  2. Cat says:

    Oh man, I hope you left a review on Amazon!

  3. Lisa says:

    Since I was one of the author/commenters who prompted your “rant” (it’s pretty mild for a rant, actually 🙂 ), I thought I should reply here.

    I appreciate what you’re saying about Amazon and the purpose of Amazon product reviews.

    The main problem, as I see it, is that Kindle reviews are bundled with the paper book reviews. So if you give a one-star review for a book because of a Kindle problem, this rating also applies to the paper version, where in all probability there aren’t any such issues.

    I think it’s appropriate to warn potential buyers of formatting issues. Believe me, authors like these problems even less than readers, because it DOES reflect on them and their work.

    In a perfect world, there would be some way to rate the products separately, or to separate the “book review” part from the “product review” part.

  4. Cat says:

    I do agree it would be nice to separate reviews for formats. The best we can do at this time is trust people to actually read the reviews–which I believe they do, especially the low-starred ones.

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