There's something very interesting and immediate about the reader reviews on Amazon.com. Authors read them. Constantly. This is true of everyone I know who has written a book. The reader review forums give an author the sense that the book exists, that it's reaching an audience, and that they have real reactions to the work. The problem is that, the interface is constructed in a way that allows anonymous reviews to proliferate. The result of this is a skewing toward the extremes in which (the almost inevitable) angry people savage a book, while an author's friends don the guises of anonymity and heap praise upon their friends. And though I pretty much avoided asking anyone to write nice reviews believing that the democratic process would all sort itself out, I've certainly been asked, on occasion to contribute a nice blurb for a friend.
It's partly because of that skewing that the most recent Amazon reader review caught my attention. Unlike other negative reviews (many of which I believe were posted by a single disgruntled individual) this one used the amazon "Real Name" function, suggesting that there was actually someone willing to pan the book under his own name.
All this made me wonder (actually for the first time) what the numbers would look like if I considered in my self-evaluation, only people who were willing to sign their names to their reviews. Suffice to say, I wish I had thought of this calculational trick a long time ago.
As it turns out, by my quick count, of the 53 posted amazon reviews, 26 were from "real name" people. Of them, 24 of the 26 gave the book 5 stars and rave reviews, one gave it four stars and a nice review. The recent one star review (which was actually pretty nice aside for his hating the "liberal blather" of the book) was the only one from a "real" person. So thanks Mr. Johnson--for your candid views, your courage in signing your name, and by doing so, for giving me a new way to look at the reactions to the book.