Thursday, May 19, 2005

Ebooks and reviews

Sela wrote about ebooks a few days ago. She's read several bad ones, and is starting to think it's "excruciatingly obvious why traditional pubs diss the e-world as the last bastion for no-hope writers." She adds, "After the first couple, I thought maybe I was just picking duds, but I don't think so anymore. These books had good reviews -- some of them were even glowing!"

I hate that. I have picked up ebooks that were terribly poorly written-- with continuity errors, misspellings, poor grammar, repetitive writing, and the like-- and been appalled to find that they have several five-star reviews to their credit. Books this bad should NOT be getting five-star reviews, people! Yes, reviewing is subjective, but a truly bad book is, well, bad. Come on, don't tell me you really think that horrifically written book is one of the best you ever read. I don't believe it. If it's terrible, please say so!

I also see reviewers apologizing for mentioning poor editing, or hesitating to bring it up at all, because "it's not the fault of the author, but the editor." No, no, no. PLEASE mention poor editing! Two reasons: First, the reader deserves to know before she buys the book. We cannot afford to give a pass to terribly edited books just because they're e-published-- it gives an awful impression to readers like Sela, who happen to pick one of them up.

Second, it IS the author's fault. Absolutely. I am responsible for what I write. I proofread everything I write to within an inch of its life, and then I have DH go over it. Sure it'd be nice to have a good editor go through it, but that doesn't always happen in small press. It's MY book and MY name is on it. That makes it MY responsibility. Feel free to criticize the editing... potential readers have a right to know if it's bad.

In closing, Sela said, "This is not a universal slam of e-publishing. It is a call to arms. We don't have to put up with terrible books. If you read a bad book, let the publisher know that it was not up to par. If you're a reviewer, for the love of heaven, be honest."

I totally agree. If you buy a dreadful book, complain to the publisher. If you're a reviewer and you read a horrible book, give it one star and say why it was dreadful. Please, let's not give dreadful books five-star reviews and rave about their few strengths while omitting any mention of their many weaknesses. Too many readers are picking up bad books on the strength of their reviews and being horribly disappointed. And it's unfair to the good books that are out there-- readers can't tell the difference because they ALL get good reviews.

There ARE lots of good ebooks out there, but sadly, there are many poor ones as well. And unfortunately, it can be extremely difficult for readers to figure out which is which.


  1. I mentioned her post in my own post today. A while back I complained about a certain review site that regularly gives glowing reviews and VERY few mediocre reviews (and even those are sweetly appended with "but I'll read more of this author's books") and I believe that cheats the reader. I know I certainly don't trust these people anymore.

    I'm totally a word-of-mouth gal now.

  2. Which is why I just won't read them anymore. Okay. It's not the only reason... but one of them!

  3. Teri-- you won't read reviews, or ebooks? Because there ARE a lot of good ebooks out there. I hate to see readers shunning ebooks because they can't find the good ones.

    As an interesting side note, AAR just started reviewing ebooks again. I'm looking forward to reading their reviews!

  4. Good. I tend to trust AAR's reviews much more than a lot of others! :)

  5. While I was here, I read this post as well, Ellen. This is a corollary point to the one I made on Novelspot about erotica (only you took a SO much more diplomatic and calm tone...I'm working on that! LOL). Several people posted asking why I picked only on erotica when these sorts of problems are across genres. I agree that other genres suffer from it too, and have written about that in the past on my "The Life of e" column on eCataRomance. All your points here are very well taken...a great blog and I thank you for saying these things.

  6. I've found some great ebook gems, but also lots of duds. And poor editing. Was reading one last night that had a typo in the FIRST sentence! Tired instead of tried. Umm...FIRST SENTENCE!

    I did review ebooks for awhile and do admit that there are problems with reviewing. I know I mentioned to one author that I thought giving an ebook a 3.5 wasn't a bad thing. There were problems, but it was still a good book. She disagreed and told me that any ebook that is given less than a 4 is supposed to suck. How are we to make real decisions about what to buy based on reviews like this? It's like you can't trust them any more and I hate that. So I do tend to go more with word of mouth and avoid taking the opinion of someone I know who spends a lot of time with ebook authors because those people tend to not ever want to say anything bad. Ever. There's only talk about how good a book is, never about its flaws, or even if it just plain sucked. Now I tend not to bash books as a rule (but if it really really did suck, I would), but what's wrong with saying you liked a premise in a book, but the characters weren't as likeable as you liked? Argh...this is getting too long and I and I think I need to just stop. It's just a subject that really bugs me.