Week 5 Prompt

In regards to ebook only books and their limited reviews, I'd say that would have huge repercussions on collection development. You can take a stab in the dark if you don't have time to review the book thoroughly yourself or know of someone who can vouch for it, but that's, of course, risking valuable library resources if it's not a good addition to the collection. I'd imagine those doing the buying are much less likely to do this than instead go with a more known quantity.

I think the reviews in the documents are reliable in that they seem honest, but I don't see them as terribly reliable in their points when it comes to making a purchasing decision. Their opinions are very anecdotal, and speak very personally of them and their particular tastes, rather than speaking with objectivity. Reading is, of course, a very personal activity and what appeals to one reader won't necessarily appeal to another, but a professional review speaks more to craft and overall quality than these reviews do. I imagine there is a circumstance when I might buy this, but it's not very likely--especially if it's available free from the Amazon store.

The professional reviews of Angela's Ashes should make anyone feel confident in adding the book to their collection. Every review is effusive with their praise, even as they skim through the terrible conditions of McCourt's life. I also hopped over to Goodreads to see some of the reader reviews, since I've seen things praised heavily by critics be panned by most readers. But Angela's Ashes has largely glowing reviews there as well, with an average rating of 4.08 from over 440,000 ratings. Of course there are outliers who call the book things like "uniquely meretricious drivel" (found here) and say "This book simply has you marinate in negativity" (found here), but the number of 5-star reviews overwhelm those dissenting voices. At the very least, it's a book that inspires strong feelings and stirs discussion, so it's meritorious of inclusion in a collection.

Of course, I don't think it's strictly fair that certain books get heaps of reviews while other pass under the radar, but like any business, publishing puts more into the books they think will sell more copies. This includes publicity campaigns and their distribution of early copies for reviewers, booksellers and librarians. Some books earn their own word of mouth and gain readership despite this lack of a push, others flounder. If a librarian doesn't know ahead of time, they're at a disadvantage when readers come in asking for a book, however, and they may not have the resources to add it even if they want to.

I'm not generally bothered by sources that won't publish negative reviews, though negative reviews have influenced me to buy a book more often than I can count. If someone sees themselves or their publication as something there for the promotion of books, they may see negative reviews as detrimental, so instead of lying, they simply don't publish negativity. I'd certainly prefer a review not to be published over one that's dishonest! I don't see that as necessary, though, because many negative reviews are still able to point out positives or even highlight something that convinces a reader that the book would be good for them. As long as the review is done objectively and professionally, negative reviews are a part of putting work out into the world for consumption.

In buying for myself, I take trade reviews into consideration when I know about them, but I trust word of mouth much more. I have friends whose taste I trust implicitly and who have similar tastes to mine, so if they like a book, I can be confident that I'll like it as well. Often, when I see a book I'm interested in, I hop onto Goodreads to see what my friends have been saying, and those reviews will make my decision to read or not very easy. Most recently, I hadn't been convinced by the synopsis of Holly Black's The Cruel Prince, so I got onto Goodreads, only to be greeted by absolutely over the top positive reviews from everyone I knew who'd read it. So, I read it--and ADORED it!


  1. "I'm not generally bothered by sources that won't publish negative reviews, though negative reviews have influenced me to buy a book more often than I can count." I love this statement and it's true for me, too. Some negative reviews have shied me away, but more times than I can count I have thought to myself "It can't be THAT bad" or "Man, now I want to read that!" when reading a negative review.

    I agree that books that are electronic only create problems for library collections. Their format limits the number of people that have access, and there still seems to be something that feels almost like self-publishing when it comes to books that are only available as eBooks.

    I use Goodreads a lot, too. Even though sometimes I feel like the reviews there are overly generous, I also appreciate people who take the time to actually write their thoughts down (I tend to just mark things read and give them a star rating).

  2. Dear Rachel,
    I agree with your point that what is appealing to one person may not be appealing to another individual. In addition, I disagree with you about the opinions of users in user reviews. Sometimes, users are incorrect in their judgments, especially if they are confused about a novel’s content or rely on nostalgia to make their judgments. It is my personal opinion that the best novels or plots are the ones that you can slowly dig into and find great content over time. Many user reviews are hasty and don’t comprehend the quality and hard work that has been placed into a plot in a novel. The best novels or plots are the ones that haunt you in your daydreams and dreams. So, it isn’t necessary to rely on users’ reviews. Also, I would assert that the informal reviews in the course’s document on “The Billionaire's First Christmas” by Holly Ryner are poorly written, and I dislike the reviews because the reviewers analyze the content of the book from their emotional state at some parts of the book.
    I wonder why it is a frightening idea for a library collection to not have valuable library resources from poorly written e-books. What organizations or standards determine the quality of a library’s collection? If a library acquires books due to the books’ popularity, they are not necessarily picking books that are valuable in terms of books of high art or quality. So, does it truly matter if a library decides to select popular and poorly written e-books that were published without a great number of reviews if that same library acquires popular physical books of poor quality that were published with many reviews? For instance, if a library collects a number of popular and poorly written Twilight novels that have been well-reviewed, then the quality of the library’s collection will certainly diminish. However, a certain segment of the public will be satisfied with the romantic aspects of the Twilight novels and will not consider if the novels are poorly written. So, in that sense, the library’s collection will actually become more valuable. So, unless a set of criteria in relation to judging the individual quality of books is applied to the library’s collection, the value of a library’s collection is quite subjective.

    1. Megan! Great comment! You raise some excellent questions and I really like your example with Twilight! Keep up the great work!

  3. Rachel, great prompt response - full points!


Post a Comment