What Zagat Reviews and Amazon Reviews Have in Common

The idea that your next-door neighbor’s opinion may affect your decision to buy or pass up a book seems unlikely. True, word of mouth has always been a factor in the fate of successful books, but usually the mouth that the words come from belongs to someone you know, not an anonymous name on a website.

But wait — when you search your Zagat guide for a restaurant recommendation, do you know who has written the review? No, but in all likelihood it’s a restaurant patron with no more professional reviewing credentials than yourself. That doesn’t stop you from saying, “Let’s go here!” Some of your neighbors thought the food was good, the place clean, the atmosphere pleasant, the service excellent, and the prices right, and that’s good enough for you.

In short, we live in an age when peer review is meaningful if not significant, and Amazon.com has used this fact to create a cadre of reviewers who must be taken seriously. Go to Amazon, click on any recently published book and page down beyond the official reviews (Publishers Weekly, New York Times, etc.). You’ll find Customer Reviews, and note that many of the reviewers identify themselves as the authors of a number of reviews. If they regularly review or blog about specific genres you may in time come to the conclusion that this person’s judgment is reliable and enlightening. Thereafter, when you see his or her name next to a review of a new book, you may very well be motivated to buy it.

It’s worth your time to click on the link that says “See all my reviews”, or on the badge beneath the reviewers name. Amazon has created a badge system to help you identify the reviewers credentials and review-worthiness.

I haven’t seen too many traditional books with Amazon.com quotes blazed on the cover, but I won’t be surprised if that changes before long. The first time you see one, let me know, and remember you heard it here first.

Richard Curtis

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