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How much time do you “waste” when searching for books to read?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

One of the pitfalls of Christian publishers’ offering their books for free on e-readers is that the authors have to take a lot of crap in the reviews from people who automatically download everything free. When they read it and discover to their horror that the book has Christian themes/characters/content, they feel it incumbent upon themselves to post nasty, cutting, derogatory, sometimes downright degrading reviews.

Because I may be facing this soon, I clicked over and read some of the one-star reviews and subsequent comments on a friend’s book that is currently up for free on Amazon. Most of them were the standard, This stuff should be labeled—we need to be warned that these are Christian fiction (read that aloud with a snide tone of voice to get the full effect). And don’t even get me started on the reviewers who claim that Christian romance is more poorly written than general-market romance, because I read both and I know better. They’re just ticked off they didn’t get any s*x scenes (and that they might have been made to feel guilty through the spiritual message of the book).

But then I saw this statement in one of the comments on a review:

I don’t want to waste time reading an author’s bio when searching for a book, nor do I want to memorize the list of christian publishers.

Um . . . waste time reading an author’s bio when searching for a book? Do you mean you don’t want to waste time reading anything about the book? Because the editorial review blurbs for this particular book include the words/prhases “faith,” “grow spiritually,” and “Christian fiction”—the reviewer didn’t even have to look at the author’s bio to find these clues that the book has Christian content.

So that leads me to ask: How much time do you “waste” when searching for books to read? Do you waste time reading the editorial reviews and product description posted right under the image and purchasing information? Do you actually waste the time to read the reader reviews? What information will you “waste” your time looking for before making the decision to read a book?

19 Comments
  1. Tuesday, July 5, 2011 12:53 am

    I usually don’t “waste” time. Most of the time I read the same authors or I read books recommended to me by people with similar tastes.

    As for the reviews from people who didn’t bother to realize the content up front…that’s why I hate places like Amazon.com. They need to put something in place that if you post a review that says you didn’t check to see if there was Christian content before reading and thus are posting a negative review that they’re automatically banned from posting reviews. It’s dishonest for you not to pay attention and then blame the book because you’re too lazy to find out what you’re about to read.

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    • Tuesday, July 5, 2011 7:02 am

      Amen, Jason! And I wonder, if Christians went around slamming books because they were secular (and we weren’t warned) or Muslim (and we weren’t warned) or something that merely offended us (because Amazon should be able to read our minds when we download and warn us), how much backlash would there be? This is a sore subject for me lately, Christians being blasted for simply being Christians, and no one seems to think this is wrong. Sorry. That was a rant that didn’t quite answer the question…

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  2. Sara permalink
    Tuesday, July 5, 2011 1:11 am

    I have to stand up here and say that I don’t “waste” any time searching for books to read! All time I spend looking for GOOD, faith-filled, Christian books is time well spent just so I can avoid getting three pages into a book and having to throw the whole thing away because of the nasty s*x scenes! General fiction should be the books with the “XXX” warning labels, not wholesome fiction with MORALS! Hello?!?! Wouldn’t that be like labeling veggies “Hey, in case you’re dumb this is good for you!”

    But then again we do live “in the world” and we (as Christians) can’t expect the world to be like us or want the same things. They won’t get the same things out of books we read, or the synopsis they didn’t read.

    ♥ your books! Don’t have to worry when I pick them up what I’m getting 🙂

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  3. Sarah R permalink
    Tuesday, July 5, 2011 1:49 am

    I think when people download all the free books out there without checking to find out if the items are even something that they want then they should have no right to complain. I always check each free item before I download it to my kindle to see if it is something that I want to permanently be on my e-reader and if there are any doubts or troubling phrases that jump out at me in the book summary, I don’t download the item. No one is seeking to “deceive” anyone by not labeling the genre. All the reader has to do is read the book summary and that should be enough to tell you what you need to know about the book. Most Christian books will have a reference to faith or God in some manner in the book description. I find it laughable that people who don’t take the time to do their research when downloading books always have the time to post negative and nasty reviews.

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  4. Tuesday, July 5, 2011 6:36 am

    I waste time. I subscribe to a blog that lists all the free books that Amazon puts up. If a title or cover capture my attention, I go to amazon and check out the editorial review. If it looks like something I’d like to read, then I get it. You have to read a little bit before you can know what the book is really about. Once I thought the title of a book was intriguing, but when I read the editorial review, I found out it was an erotica book. Not my style of book at all. People should read those before reading something they won’t be interested in.

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  5. Tuesday, July 5, 2011 7:05 am

    I generally read back cover blurbs and perhaps the author’s bio. I don’t often read reviews, because they are skewed sometimes and because it’s a matter of opinion. There are authors I LOVE whom other people don’t and vice versa. To me, reading is highly personal, and reviews are personal to each individual, not to society as a whole.

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  6. Tuesday, July 5, 2011 7:47 am

    I definitely spend time reading reviews/blurbs and always check the publisher too. For the most part I stick to Christian fiction, so I know all of the publishers. There are some nasty freebies for the Kindle…and I’m not talking about Christian fiction {grins}. Generally looking at the cover and title is enough to give a clue, but spending 15 seconds to scan the reviews isn’t hard at all!

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  7. Audry permalink
    Tuesday, July 5, 2011 9:08 am

    I’ll spend as much time as I need to to figure out what the book is about, but I don’t usually bother with reader reviews – I’ve hated too many books that I’d read glowing reviews of (and the opposite) to trust anything a random reader I don’t know says.

    I usually read the first pages if they’re available, because I can tell pretty quickly if an author’s style is going to work for me or drive me crazy. When I find an author I like, I tend to read everything they’ve ever written 😀

    I do try to avoid non-Christian romance because of the x-rated content, but in other genres I don’t read just specifically Christian books. (Are there even any other “Christian” genres besides romance? – at my local Christian bookstore 99% of the fiction section seems to be romance!)

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  8. Tuesday, July 5, 2011 10:17 am

    A person doesn’t reach the grand old age of 40 without knowing what she likes to read—and how to spot key words and phrases in book blurbs to know whether or not I’ll enjoy a story. And, being visually oriented, a good cover goes a long way with me. I also shy away from the self-pubbed books—easily distinguished by the cover images and the price. I also subscribe to a blog that shows the free Kindle downloads, and the cover and the original price are the two things I look if the title catches my eye (and that’s pretty much all the info that shows up in those posts anyway).

    I subscribe to several book-review blogs—some that focus on Christian fiction, some that focus on general-market romance, and a couple that read stuff across the board. I’ve continued reading these blogs because I’ve found that I trust these certain reviewers’ takes on books and style and craft and storytelling. Even still, it’s a rare review there that will make me click over to Amazon and look at the book or download the sample chapters.

    When a book does intrigue me and is by an author I’ve never read—or if it seems different from what a known author has written before—I read the posted reviews, starting with the 3-stars. Then the 1-stars and 2-stars. Then the 4-stars. I rarely read the 5-star reviews, because I know they’re going to be glowing and will probably not tell me much about why I might not want to spend money on the book. (And with Christian fiction, especially, I know that there are a lot of reviewers who automatically rate everything they read as 5-stars—and theirs are the book-review blogs I’ve stopped reading.)

    I don’t even automatically download all of the free Christian fiction. I still go over to the website and read the book description and reviews before deciding whether or not to download it.

    As far as reading the author bio . . . that’s not something I usually do until after I’ve read a book—and not always then. I find I really don’t need to know where the author lives (unless I’m intrigued or annoyed by the details in the book’s setting), how many pets she has, or that she and her husband enjoy parasailing in Uruguay. The exception to this for me is with nonfiction—any kind of book about singleness; then the author’s bio is the first thing I read, because I want to know that the author truly knows what being single is like. (Though, I probably haven’t bought a book along these lines in 15+ years . . . they all pretty much say the same things, none of which have ever been helpful to me.)

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  9. Tuesday, July 5, 2011 12:55 pm

    I can’t believe people who will complain about “Christian” content, while most of us who proclaim Jesus as our Lord sit idly by and don’t touch mainstream fiction. We seem to have a “live and let live” philosophy and simply don’t choose to read just anything, willy-nilly. Apparently most of us don’t consider a little research a waste of time. I read the blurb, but hardly ever the reviews, unless it’s an author I love. Then I want to be sure and check the “usefulness” box if I agree. Plus, I like to be indignant on behalf of my friends. 😀

    But as far as “labeling,” here’s an illustration. We acquired a book in the library – and I”m still not sure if it came in a continuous order plan, or was part of a sale where we chose simply based on the title – that was mistakenly labeled “Christian Fiction.” Yes, it was our fault, we’re the label crew. The girl doing the selection thought it was an author she knew, but it wasn’t, AT ALL. Just very similar. Very, graphic. My circulation staff said that it was amazing the people who checked it out – a few were appalled and very vocal about the subject-matter, and a few didn’t say a word about it. You just never know.

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  10. Tuesday, July 5, 2011 4:32 pm

    “…on the reviewers who claim that Christian romance is more poorly written than general-market romance, because I read both and I know better. They’re just ticked off…”

    Absolutely true. I too read both.

    I don’t waste any time looking for books. There’s always one at my fingertips. I have a stack of physical books, review copies over at NetGalley, over 100 downloaded to Kindle for PC… Books are never far away.

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    • Tuesday, July 5, 2011 6:14 pm

      Patricia, I love NetGalley! It’s so much fun to review new fiction coming out, and I’m sure it’s alot cheaper for the publisher, not having to mail physical copies of the books.

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  11. Susan Snodgrass permalink
    Tuesday, July 5, 2011 5:37 pm

    I don’t ‘waste’ my time looking for a good book. I don’t want to waste my money, either, so I do indeed read the back of books, read what other authors have written about said book and I do read the Amazon reviews about books a lot, especially if it’s a new author. I’ve spent a lot of money in the past buying books that were duds and I’m interested in what other readers have to say about a book I want to buy. If I come across one of those hateful reviews by a nonbeliver, I just discount it and move on and consider the source and ignore it.

    I have a list of authors that I’ll buy anything they write and you are one of those, Kaye. I know I’m not going to be disappointed when I buy one of your books. I tried just getting books from the library, but I want to keep my books!

    Many years ago (33 to be pretty close), I read historical romance. Those books were getting to be, in my opinion, soft porn, and the Holy Spirit convicted me of reading them. “Whatsoever things are pure, lovely, etc. ” from the book of Philippians will guide us if we allow it to do so. God is not pleased when we put all that garbage into our spirits. I’ve borrowed books recently from the library from secular authors, novels, and you’d recognize the name if I wrote it here, that, in both books, on the first page, and one in the first paragraph, was the “F” word. I was not raised in a home were swear words were used and I didn’t know what that word meant until I was in high school! Nowadays it’s the word of choice in most secular novels. There are not many authors that write a good novel that do not use such vulgarity and sex scenes in their books. I want to read something without that junk!

    I recently send an email to Mary Higgins Clark and her daughter Carol thanking them for writing good novels without trash and Carol responded back that her mother and she herself decided long ago that they could write a good book without vulgarity and profanity. I say bravo to them.

    You’re right, Kaye, about those reviewers who day Christian fiction is not written well because it doesn’t include sex scenes. I have read some pretty awesome and extremely talented Christian authors, every bit as good as the secular novelists. I read a quote by the Christian comedian Jerry Clower, now deceased, and he said, “Profanity is a public proclamation of stupidity.” I agree with him. I can say anything I want to say to anybody without using one swear word.

    Sorry to go on so long about this. It just hit a nerve with me. I love Christian writers and Christian romance. Keep it coming as long as you’ve got it in you!

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  12. Tuesday, July 5, 2011 7:09 pm

    No time with books is ever wasted time. Just my opinion!

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  13. Lissie permalink
    Tuesday, July 5, 2011 7:43 pm

    I read the comments in the books and if it’s from an author I like, I give it a try.

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  14. Wednesday, July 6, 2011 4:39 am

    Finding a good book is like finding treasure. So what if I have to spend some of my time doing it? If it takes 5 minutes or 25 to unearth something which I’ll devote hours to read and fill my mind, then it’s worth it. It’s never a waste. It’s a reward. Living in Australia I have 2 places where I can find a good Christian book – a Christian bookstore (4 in Melbourne) or online. That’s it. No department store, supermarket, or library I can walk into has Christian fiction. So I really have to hunt. Lucky for me I’m a happy scavenger and I must admit, a brilliant cover always draws me like a bowerbird 🙂

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  15. christian church permalink
    Wednesday, July 6, 2011 8:11 am

    You made some very useful and interesting points within your post. I like the way of your explanation. Very useful for all readers.

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  16. Thursday, July 7, 2011 3:23 pm

    “nor do I want to memorize the list of christian publishers.”

    That’s so ridiculous. People like that waste my time. I like to read reviews if I hear of or see a book that sounds interesting by an author I’m not familiar with, but then I usually have to wade through countless pointless reviews. The ones that really kill me on site likes Amazon are the ones where a person gives 1 star complaining that the book wasn’t shipped on time or it never arrived. Seriously?? That is not a book review; that is a complaint against the company! But that is what you must deal with on any site that is not moderated.

    Kaye, I think you are quite right in finding certain sites with reviewers you can trust. And I feel bad for authors who have to endure these unnecessary reviews!

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  17. Traci Myers permalink
    Tuesday, July 12, 2011 10:34 am

    I “waste” lots of time making sure that it IS Christian. I have read some of those comments to and my only response after wanting to smack them, is to pray for them.

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