Sunday, November 18, 2007

Amazon Vine Conundrum (Book Reviewing Dilemma)

A few months ago, I was invited by Amazon to be part of the Amazon Vine. The Vine is a system where manufacturers or publishers will make certain products available to be read, used, tested and reviewed on

Some of the books are offered pre-publication, as advance reading copies. Some books have already been published in hardback but the paperback release is coming up. Other things are already on the market (toothbrushes etc.).

A problem that I am having right now is that I requested to get and review a book which had not yet been published. There was limited information available for me to figure out if this book is my taste or if the book is not a complete dud which I’ll not be able to finish.

I requested a certain book and I’m trying to read it. I am 1/5 of the way into the book and absolutely hate it. I really would be torturing myself if I force myself to keep reading this book. Additionally the book is full of stuff that is not so great to have rattling around in my brain, it has some offensive stuff in it that I just don’t even want to read anymore.

I have a personal policy of not reviewing books which I don’t read cover to cover. I don’t think it is fair to review a book if I haven’t actually read the whole thing, to see if the story gets good by the end or whatever.

So should I rate it 1 star then say I never read it (that will surely get me a bunch of negative ratings). Also is that fair to the author to slam the book when I didn’t even read it?

Should I rate it 3 of 5 stars as an attempt to give it a middle of the road rating?

Or 2 stars because it is so bad in my opinion that I can’t even finish it?

Or keep plugging away and spend precious hours of my life on this book?

I am so torn about this!

A pressing issue is that my status as a Vine reviewer is tied up until I review this. This month the Vine newsletter said we could ‘request 2 items’. I first requested a book which looked very interesting to me. (Now before I order them, I research the book a bit more to see if it is something I really think I’d like or can get all the way through.) Then further down the list of items being offered to me to receive and review was an ultrasonic toothbrush which I’d LOVE to get for free and to use and then review. However the system tells me I was ineligible to request it as I had 2 items outstanding to review. Well one was the book I ordered two minutes prior which I don’t even have in my hands. And the other is this book that I don’t know what to do with.

So last night and today I forced myself to read more of this book. I really can’t stand it. It is full of dialogue, it is nearly all dialogue. The dialogue is not interesting either. I don’t like any of the characters and have yet to even be able to figure out who the main character is. Is it possible to have a book where every character is hated by the reader?

The book is full of profanity and there is sex thrown in that is both without emotion and actually is crude and dull to boot.

I have an inkling of how hard it is to write a book and get it published. I now feel guilty not rating a book as at least 3 stars unless it solidly is garbage and if I have taken the time to read it cover to cover.

I am so torn!!

And here is one more thing that bugged me. On the back cover of the book the author publicizes her blog. I tried to visit the blog out of curiosity to learn more about the author, and I see that it is set to private meaning that only people who she personally invites can read it. Can someone explain to me why an author and a publishing house would publicize their blog on their book’s back cover then not want readers to access the blog?

Update: I wrote this the other day. I decided to force myself to read the book. I am about 1/3 way through it at this point and I still don't like it.

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softwareNerd said...

If one is going through a book only half-focussed, or going through it not hating it but thinking: "I doubt this is going to get better" then it would be different. However, if it's a type of book that makes you want to stop reading, then that is what it is. That is of essence to its rating. If that is a "1", so be it.

I think that more important than the rating is the explanation. As long as you explain that you put it down, and -- more importantly -- say why, Amazon customers get what they are looking for in the feedback.

moravion said...

Hi Christine,

Thanks for the post about Amazon Vine. We do not require that you review everything you request - only 3 of 4 products. We hope that this provides enough leeway to deal with just this type of situation. The main purpose of this policy is to prevent people from getting a free ride. We do not want to force you to consume something that you find offensive or uninteresting.

Your account shows 3/5 products reviewed, which means you will be able to request another 3 items before you hit the 6/8 item review cap.

I've gone ahead and removed the review requirement for that item from your account, I hope you have better luck with in the future. (You are still free to post a review from the detail page if you wish).

-Aaron Freshwater

Kasthu said...


I came across your blog when I did a Google search for Vine. I've been a Viner since its inception and I've had mixed feelings about the program thus far. I like what you say about not liking a book but feeling as though you HAVE to write a review on it. I've found myself hating one or two books, and I've come right out and said, "I just didn't like this one." I always try to be as honest as I possibly can in my reviews. Thanks for talking about this issue in your blog!

(by the way, which book was it that you read and hated?)

christinemm said...

The book was "gods behaving badly" (sic).

I saw in People magazine that they praised the book in the one paragraph review they did on the book. Actually it read more like a commercial than a review or critique.

You can read my review here.

Thanks for stopping by!