We're Lucky to Have Internet Reviews

Day 317/365 - I have EpinionsThere's been a lot of drama about negative reviews and the reactions to them in recent months. Goodreads is even on the verge of releasing review guidelines, and posts that don't fit them may risk being hidden from casual browsers.

This has led to discussions about privacy, professional writerly behavior, and the role and impact of reviews, but I feel like there hasn't been enough focus on how very lucky we are to have such vibrant online book communities in the first place.

Until I was sixteen, my main sources for books were a small rural library and the racks at the supermarket where we bought our groceries. After going away to school, I had four bookshops, two new and two used, within walking distance. But even in those days of increased choice, my reading decisions were largely based on a book's description and first few pages.

It wasn't until years later, with the rise of book-related websites, bulletin boards, and blogs, that I had easy access to opinions about the types of books I most like to read. Thanks to online reviews, it's more likely than ever that I'll love what I'm reading.

When I'm really into a book it's hard to put down, so having more info to base book picks on has me reading more (and buying more books). I do come across opinions that I don't share and arguments I think are badly stated. But if a review feels unfair, then I'm free to ignore it.

Dealing with disagreement is part of being an adult. Blow-ups over reviews, even ones that seem gleefully negative, are short sighted. Any writer hip deep in that mire can seem unprofessional, and fear of becoming the next dramabomb target will make some folks reluctant to review.

As someone who remembers the "pick it up and cross your fingers" days of finding a new novel, I think every reader owes web reviewers some love.

Photo by Tony Case, used under Creative Commons.

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