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Posted by Tom, August 14, 2013

What reviews matter to you?

Kate and I found ourselves talking about reviews recently. At the risk of blowing our own trumpet, we were, specifically, marvelling at how unanimously and overwhelmingly positive the reviews are for a number of our books on Amazon (like these ones, for Weasels by Elys Dolan, these ones for Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam by Tracey Corderoy and Steven Lenton, and these ones for Goldilocks and Just the One Bear by Leigh Hodgkinson, to name only a few – all exclusively 5-star reviews).

But then we got to thinking – just how important are these reviews? How reassured are potential customers by other people’s recommendations on a site like Amazon?

I will happily confess to buying lots of books on Amazon. I also buy lots of books from Waterstones, quite a few books from Foyles, Sainbury’s, and The Book People, and many more from independent bookshops that I can’t help but wander into and browse. But Amazon is different from most of those other shops – in my case, at least – because whenever I buy a book there, I tend to know exactly what I’m after in advance. I don’t browse the site particularly, or pay much heed to the “You may also like” suggestions – I just appreciate how quickly and easily I can order the book I came for. So reviews – for books, at least – don’t particularly influence my decision, in this case. A hand-written recommendation in a branch of Waterstones, on the other hand, may well convince me to buy something.

And, of course, there are lots of other sorts of reviews that will also persuade me to buy a book (or, I suppose, not buy a book) – in print, on the radio, online, and, most powerfully, I suppose, in person (places like Twitter blur these last two categories very effectively, to the extreme detriment of my bank balance).

What’s your “buying behaviour” like? Do you go to Amazon (or other websites) to browse, or just to buy? And what sort of reviews matter the most to you?