Posted by: Jeanie F | October 27, 2010

Kindle Readers Skew Book Ratings

I downloaded this giant of a book (985 pages) on Oct. 18. I almost didn’t buy it because the customer reviews on gave it only 2½ stars, and that’s with 484 reviews.

“Wow!” I thought. “Is it possible that Ken Follett has written a real dog of a book?”

I’m a big Follett fan – loved Eye of the Needle, Key to Rebecca, Pillars of the Earth, World Without End. I couldn’t imagine that anything he wrote could be so bad as to rate such terrible reviews, so I opened up the review page and this is what I found: the reviews of the book were stellar. Readers gave it 131 five-star reviews. There was a smattering of four- and three-star reviews. However, disgruntled Kindle readers – 280 of them! – gave a one-star review because of the price!

One of the big selling points for Kindles is the reduced cost of the book. Typically, Kindle books have sold for $9.99. However, the war between e-book makers such as Kindle, Nook, etc. and publishers has settled into an uneasy truce (learn more about this), with publishers setting their own prices in exchange for the rights to sell the digital book. In the case of Fall of Giants, the cost on Kindle ($19.99) is actually HIGHER than the cost of the hardcover book ($19.39).

I can easily understand how fellow Kindle users are unhappy about this. I am an avid Kindle reader and am not thrilled about the higher prices. However, using the Customer Review on as the venue to protest is simply wrong. For those of us who use the reviews to make decisions about purchasing a book, it is highly misleading to skew the ratings with non-content related complaints. If you don’t like the price, you can protest by refusing to buy the book on your reader or by writing to the publisher. You could even organize a protest through one of the Kindle blogs or websites to boycott the publisher or start a writing campaign. Don’t punish the author – who has no control over how the publisher sets the price – or other readers, who may miss out on a great book, by giving a false rating.

Now that I have that off my chest, I’m pleased to tell you that I am halfway through this book and can hardly put it down. Four hundred ninety-three pages has never flown by so fast. I’ll be back with a review in another 492 pages. In the meantime, when you see low customer ratings on for a book you expected to rate higher, take a minute to look at the low reviews. They may be Kindle reader deceptions.


  1. Interesting commentary on the book publishing industry in its current state. I have a long commute to work, so Kindle would hardly meet my needs. I recently downloaded “Great House” to my MP3 player. That is working well, but there’s no way to write down or note exceptional passages while listening.

  2. I have the same problem with audiobooks – plus, I tend to drift off mentally. Kindle does have a voice synthesizer, so you can listen to your book, but it’s a little robotic. Not as good as a good audiobook reader!

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