This ticks many of the boxes regarding openness surely? Posting a review on a product, or in this case a book. I’ve never taken much care with these until recently. As I’m studying the First World War I am learning to read with the discerning eye of the ‘scholar’. I came to Max Hastings having done enough reading to be able to identify the weaknesses, not least in the cut and paste assembly and journalistic style of the author. What has been less expected is how my own, early review is now the favoured counterbalance to those who review with gushing enthusiasm. It is ‘the most helpful critical review’ and has been helpful to 38/57 people. It strikes me that this kind of leakage from the academic into the commercial world is representative of the connected environment in which we love – anyone can join in. Indeed, feedback and support from our own community or cohort might be less significant that from those we find beyond these boundaries. What Amazon creates is extraordinary footfall – it brings people together who have a shared experience, though clearly have different points of view too. Do we, the 68 who have cared to review ‘Catastrophe: Europe Goes to War 1914’ have a better understanding now? I’ve adjusted my review from one star to two … and have bought several more books recommended to me by fellow readers. Which also suggests a form of personalisation – developed not simply by the algorithm at Amazon, but by the perceptions others have of me based on what I read and have to say. So a person does tailor my education after all.
Amazon is going way beyond selling and reselling books to aggregate conversations. The sophisticated way that discussions are offered might be a lesson to educators – reviews aren’t simply stacked, but are offered in a variety of ways: contrasting arguments, newest first, based on rating for the publication or likes from other readers. While simultaneously, playing upon serendipity multiple alternative reviews are offered in a ‘side bar’. You can begin to pick out types of voice, from the academic to the belligerent, to those who have yet to read or complete the book, to those that have read it more than once. Innovations here are seeing Amazon becoming a social platform in its own right with recently launched platforms inviting discussion and group forming. i.e. Amazon gains in stickiness and frequent visits and revisits.
There are many differences with reading an eBook. I wonder about finding what others have highlighted a help or hinderance – who are these people! Sometimes I wonder if they are making grave errors or behaving in a ‘crowd’ or cliched way. Other things you can do – share passages, from one to several sentences. Post these to Twitter and you get text you can copy and paste too – which you can’t do from an eBook. A case of unintended consequences that one. The ease of linking from a page to an anchored link for references and footnotes, and where they work, linking directly away to the book to supplementary reading, even a few clicks and another book is downloaded or a paper sourced. And in digital format being able to screen grab then mash-up the content – something I do out of habit sometimes as it is easier than taking notes and creates a ‘mini moment’ that you can come back to or reassemble later. It’ll be interesting to see how Amazon develop this as the social side is under development.