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BIP #11: Analyze Some Book Reviews!

The BIP Week #11 project was to dissect some book reviews, and analyse the numbers. The idea was to compare the reviews of book bloggers with professional ones, and see if there are any obvious differences. If you are interested in seeing all the figures, then the spreadsheet is here. 

I decided to compare the 8 professional reviews with the 8 blogger reviews and see if I could notice any major differences:

  Average Number of Paragraphs  Average Number of Words Total Number of Personal References
Professional 5.25 550 2
Blogger 7.5 500 78


The most obvious difference is that book bloggers use personal references. In our small sample the blogger made a personal thought or feeling known 39x more than the professional.  This is what I love about book bloggers. I can frequently read professional reviews and at the end still have no idea whether the book was any good.

Bloggers tended to have slightly shorter reviews, and a greater number of paragraphs, but the other statistics were all a lot more similar than I expected them to be. The average number of words in each sentence/paragraph was very similar, although I noticed that I tend to have less words in the sentences I write than the professionals do.

Overall, I was surprised by how similar they actually were, but will stick to reading the reviews of bloggers as I can build up a personal relationship with them, learn their taste in books and therefore trust their judgement.

Are you surprised by the similarity between blogger and professional reviews?

Have you noticed any other major differences between the two?

Do you read professional reviews?

23 replies on “BIP #11: Analyze Some Book Reviews!”

Hi Jackie! Your chart has the professional with the 78 personal references. 🙂

Anyway, I used to read professional reviews a lot. But that was before I discovered book blogs! I do still read professional reviews from time to time but not as much. Mostly now I go for book blogs for all the same reasons you gave.

Whenever I can get a copy of the NYT book section (rare, generally just when I’m on vacation and am staying in a hotel! 😉 ), I’ll flip through and see if anything strikes my fancy, but honestly I tend to just stick to book bloggers. Of course the quality of reviews there can vary wildly, but I find them a lot more accessible and they tend to focus on the things I care most about as a reader.

Claire – Well spotted – I’ve fixed it now! I very rarely read professional reviews, and if I do I always cross check their thoughts with bloggers before parting with my money!

Steph – I only tend to read the professional ones when I’m away from home too! I don’t normally buy newspapers, but if I spot one at a friend’s house or hotel then the first section I flick to is the book reviews.

Diane – I think the professional reviewers often hide their true opinion under descriptions of the plot, but you can normally tell when they really love the book – it is the average/good books where it is difficult to tell what they really think.

I read both book bloggers and professional reviewers (book review magazines, newspaper book sections and bookshop newsletters) and I find I gravitate to those in each category that have recommended books that, when I’ve ended up reading them, I have liked too. I like what each has to offer but what generally ends up happening now is that the professional reviewers will highlight a book and then I will chase it up around the net mostly on librarything, and of course the book bloggers!

I am relatively new to the blogging world and wonder what I ever did before I read other bloggers book reviews. I have never been one to take much notice of professional reviewers, when I did I often found them pompous or felt the reviewer had another agenda in mind. As a result I would choose books either because I liked the look of the cover, the blurb on the back was appealing or if it had been recommended by a friend.
Now I select virtually all my new books because of fellow blogger recommendations. Finding people with similar taste to my own has opened up a whole new reading experience for me. Thank goodness for book bloggers!

I rarely read professional reviews anymore with the exception of The Horn Book Magazine, which features excellent reviews of young adult and childrens literature. Once in a great while I buy The New York Review of Books which is also excellent.

The trouble with professional reviews is that they are almost all limited to new books. Book bloggers write about everything, and there are so many interesting books out there that I’ve never heard of or never read. I seldom went out and bought a book because of a professional review; blogger reviews send me to the bookstore, the library and paperbackswap just about every week.

pussreboots – Yes, it is a shame that the same size was so small. I agree that you can’t really draw many conclusions from such a small pool of data, but the numbers do seem to agree with the trends I’ve noticed in the two different types of review.

Samantha – I agree – I always check with book bloggers before buying a book these days.

Kim – I remember that before blogging I read a lot more bad books. I picked up books based on their cover and although I found a few gems they tended to be of a lot lower quality than the books I read now.

CBJames – You’re right. It is sometimes hard to find a review for a book more than ten years old (before the internet really exisited) I love bloggers for finding books I’ve never heard of.

This is interesting. But I won’t say I’m surprised. I love giving personal references and reading them too. And I trust bloggers much more than professional reviews.

I read both professional and book blogger reviews, but when it comes to selecting a book, it’s the book bloggers I trust! The more personal, honest reviews (especially from bloggers with taste similar to mine) are so much more helpful.

I think professional reviews are useful for newly published books, but only really to find out what a book is about. I like the more personal touch from bloggers, and that book bloggers will usually say what it is they liked about a book(or didn’t like)! I also think bloggers tend to write about what made them pick up the book in the first place, and if it differed from expectations. always find that interesting.

What a fascinating post! I was surprised to learn that the number of words in both are essentially the same, but I loved the fact that bloggers make more personal references. Perhaps that’s why I enjoy blogger’s reviews so much more than “professional” ones: they allow me to make connections with the book as well as the reviewer.

I love how you did this comparison! Even though, like you and Sarah said, it’s difficult to generalize from a small sample, the conclusions ring true to me. I wonder how similar/different they’d be with a larger sample.

It makes sense that bloggers use more personal references, and I love that about them too. In fact, in my opinion it’s impossible not to get personal when discussing literature, no matter how distant you try to sound. – our attitudes, our beliefs, our way of seeing the world are always involved. And my most honest lit professors readily acknowledge this.

As for the number of paragraphs, I’ve actually noticed that I use more paragraph breaks when writing blog posts than I do when writing essays. Part of the reason why is purely visual – smaller paragraphs make a blog post look more appealing and easier to read.

How interesting! The number of personal references does not surprise me as I’m always saying “I think” “I feel” “I believe” and other such nonsense. But, I definitely agree that I’d rather read book bloggers reviews, especially after I’ve gotten to know their preferences and review style than professional reviewers. Actually, the only professional reviews I look at are in People Magazine and I rarely even read what has been said–I just like seeing what books they picked and if I knew of any of them from ARCs people are blogging about.

Shorter paragraphs and shorter sentences are good, I think. We’re not academics–at least not here on our blogs–why should we have to write convoluted sentences? 😛 Thanks for the great information!!

Thank you for all the great comments – I think we all agree – Book bloggers are the best!!

Thanks for doing this one Jackie. I’m sort of surprised at how close the number of words was for both, although I’m not sure why. Did you see with the professional reviewers that there were a lot of very short reviews and very long reviews that sort of averaged out, or were they about the same length.

I love the stat about personal references. It’s what I expected, but I didn’t expect it to that degree!

The sample size from all the BIP people is still pretty small, but I’m interested to see how my averages compare to the 8 you did.

Kim – I think you’re right. The professional data is a little confused, as there were a mixture of long and short reviews that average out.

It is a shame that the sample size was small. It would be great if this could be repeated at some point with a larger number of people.

I read both. I’ve read the NYT book section and Publisher’s Weekly for decades. Plus a few other professional sources. I don’t read the NYT that often anymore because I’m trying to limit my online time and I’m too lazy to rush out on Sunday mornings (like I used to do) to get a Times in print. But I read a few print sources.

I am, of course, an avid reader of blogger reviews.

They both have their place and they highlight different books so I wouldn’t abandon one for the other.

Very interesting. I know I tend to make a lot of personal references in my reviews.

I still read Entertainment Weekly’s book reviews and I like Bookmarks too.

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