Friday, April 20, 2012

Hail! Amazon Reviewers

Hail! Amazon Reviewers

  Okay, some of you already know how I feel about Amazon's contributions to the expansion of the literary universe.  In case you don't, here goes: in just a few short years, Amazon successfully peddled full-on democracy and autonomy to both readers and writers.  By issuing books electronically, they gave authors the means to self-publish their stories at reasonable prices and make fair money at the same time.  In turn, readers received more choices in books and authors, and began buying differently. But wait, Amazon did something else, too. Amazon introduced us to Amazon book reviewers and we've been hooked ever since.  How deep does my affection for these stalwart souls run?
   Amazon reviewers read books all of the time for pleasure and devote even more time to writing public reviews.  They don't get paid but live off of passion and devotion. (I imagine that most of them get paid doing something else.)  And while professional reviews are still important for many reasons, including paving the road for achievement accolades and award ceremonies, readers like me, want to know what readers like you, think.
   Much has been written about the decay of the book critic and her/his reviews.  Some (critics) say you shouldn't review a book unless you're steeped in literary tradition and own demanding editing standards.  They don't believe that ardent reading and knowing what you like, love and hate, is sufficient background for making public endorsements.
   It doesn't matter, though.  Most people buy books because of recommendations from other readers.
   You might ask, what is wrong with paid pundit reviewers?  Normally, they give accurate  descriptions of plot and purpose, location and characters, and something too, about the higher or lower, meaning or significance of the story.  They sound smart and sassy and just a bit out of reach.  That's because many professional reviewers, not unlike some intellects in academia, naturally impart their own visions about a story without necessarily understanding how to fully engage the consumer of the review.
   You  can't distill the magic of story by bogging down a reader with rules about writing benchmarks.  Like ones that concern the balance between narrative and dialogue, or when and if characters' voices ring unique, and if they are consistent?  Really, unique and consistent, in one sentence? And don't get me started on the concept of plausibility.  If authors and readers worried about sticking to strict industry standards, we'd never have read To Kill A Mockingbird or Carrie, or viewed films like Citizen Kane or Apocalypse Now.
   Readers want to know if the reviewer was swept away and why.  They want to know if the story flowed, did the pages turn, and yeah, can you learn something by reading the book.  Amazon reviewers speak from their hearts and guts, oops - not very intellectual. But, by nature, these reviewers are information gatherers, and isn't that all what we really need?  A little peer-to-peer assessment can go a long way to purchasing the right book for you.

Another way Amazon brings a little more democracy to our literary body politic.

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