Sunday, October 16, 2011

Just What Do Those Stars on Amazon Really Mean?

This morning I was checking out the free (and almost free) Kindle books suggested by ireader review ( and I stumbled across these comments:

"Next, some kindle book deals.
BrainRush, a Thriller by Richard Bard. Price: $1. Genre: Thriller, Action & Adventure. Rated 5 stars on 85 reviews. The author has a contest or something where you can email him the receipt of this book to get his next book for free. 584 kb in size.
It’s interesting, isn’t it – an author who is selling his 5-star rated book for $1 also has to run a contest and give away his next book for free. You’re probably tired of me writing this – Soon we will have authors paying readers to read their books (except for the top 2% of authors). Authors’ desire to be read (for 98% of authors) is far greater than readers’ desire to read their books."

Someone left a comment in response to this:

“'Soon we will have authors paying readers to read their books'
Actually, they’re already doing that… :( Some authors will pay you $5 (!) for reading their book and leaving a 5-star review on Amazon. That system has been around for about a year now…"

I'm surprised (and I guess, a little naive) that some people pay readers to post positive comments on Amazon.  I've asked my family and friends to add their positive comments, but all they've ever gotten from me is my undying love.  (By the way, I'm NOT suggesting that Richard Bard pays for 5 star comments.  I am impressed, though, that he got 85 positive comments!)

I've wondered before about books that will have several 5 star ratings and about as many 1 star ratings, with nothing much in between.  In the past I'd figured that the book must be controversial in some way, that it was one of those books you either love or hate.  Maybe that's still true, but after discovering that people pay for readers, it will just make me doubt those 5 star ratings in the future.

So, if I'm now doubting the 5 star ratings, does that mean that the ratings mean anything any more?  If the system has been compromised, is it of any value any more?  What do you think?  Do you trust the 5 start ratings on Amazon?  How do you choose a book?