Thursday, March 29, 2007

One of These Reviews is Not Like The Others

I have had an account with for over five years. I have a subscription there that allows me do download two titles a month for a flat fee. My daily commute is long enough that I can go through two unabridged audio books a month without much problem.

I get to choose my two books after the same day of the month every month. For me that day came this week so I started looking through the titles to see what I wanted to grab.

I guess it is a nice thing that, after five years, I have already browsed through most of their library and now just have to poke through the "What's New" list every month.

Since I last looked through the list I noticed they had added a likely looking candidate for an in-car listen, a military thriller, with the title of "Catalyst."

I had never heard of the either of the authors, but it was read by Patrick Macnee whom I have enjoyed listening to with other titles.

Then I noticed the book had a one star reader review and 5 written reviews. So I went to look at the written reviews.

Four of them panned the book for nearly the same reason; it is difficult to listen to both because of the reader (who was no doubt not coached correctly judging from the comments... I work with voice talent at times, you don't just have people read a book aloud) and because of the generally poor production quality (the word "echo" sticks out in my mind from the negative reviews). I've run into audio issues before and am glad to be warned off of such titles. is not like, people do not write a lot of reviews. (And even on, books by these author's barely generate any reviews.)

A non-best seller title with five written reviews is an oddity. So if four people were worked up enough to go and submit negative reviews about this title, I am inclined to believe them.

The fifth review though.... Again, unlike, playing "spot the shill" is much easier. Five stars. The reviewer praises the book in what sounds like the publisher's marketing material and applauds the "European panache" that the reader brings to it while saying nothing about audio quality. It ends up with a statement about buying the rest of the books in the series.

So who wrote this last review? One of the authors? Friends or family? The publisher? The producer of the audio book (who sounds like they should be fired)? Even a rabid fan would have hedged on the auido quality I think.

And why do I say that? Because offers audio samples of their books. Listening to the sample for "Catalyst," confirms both that the four negative reviews were quite justified and that the fifth one has to be a shill.

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