Grading books on a curve ➚

Via Marginal Revolution, I found this Guardian article on a study that compared professional reviews to Amazon reviews. The Guardian’s summary:

Amazon reviewers were more likely to give a favourable review to a debut author, which the Harvard academics said suggested that “one drawback of expert reviews is that they may be slower to learn about new and unknown books”.

Professional critics were more positive about prizewinning authors, and “more favourable to authors who have garnered other attention in the press (as measured by number of media mentions outside of the review)”.

I have some qualms about the methodology, but I’m glad that someone has started this kind of research. I’m not surprised by the above results. I’ll note that I have only read the news article on the study, What Makes a Critic Tick?, not the study itself. Sometimes news articles aren’t so good with the summarizing.


Administrivia: With this post, I am trying out a new method of posting about links (rather than Link Irresponsibly roundups) that is provided by the new template. I’m sure it’ll look good on the site, but I’m not as certain how it will show up in RSS. I’ll be playing with it until it works like I like, so bear with me.

Edit: On the web site, this post appears in truncated form on the front page. Normally, you would click on the title to take you to the main post. But that takes you to the target of the link instead. To get to the main post, you’ll need to click on the timestamp to the left of the title. As these things aren’t 100% clear, I’m going to think about changing that up. But obviously not tonight. There are probably similar issues with the RSS.

Shades Of Gray / Jackie Kessler and Caitlin Kittredge

Cover of Shades Of Gray
When last we left Jet and Iridium at the end of , they had defeated double agent Night but had also destroyed a transmitter run by Corp-Co that had subtly controlled all the superheroes in New Chicago. What had been revealed was that Corp-Co wasn’t just a benevolent superhero group manager. Quite a few superheroes are unstable without Corp-Co’s control. You might also remember that Jet was the good girl shadow power who struggled with shadow overcoming her mind, as apparently all shadow powers do. And Iridium was the jaded ex-superhero turned rogue Robin Hood. The two were formerly best friends from their school days but Jet now thinks of…

Administrivia: new layout, feedback desired

When I started Read Irresponsibly, I asked a graphic designer to lay out the site professionally. Unfortunately, the work never panned out. So I put in place something pretty basic based on the default WordPress template. Sometimes, it’s better to just get moving and fill in the details later. Well, I still don’t have a professionally designed layout. But I decided to switch things up a bit to highlight book covers a bit more. Just a bit more graphic pizzazz than I’ve previously gone for. If you were there for the early days of my old site, Rat’s Reading, you might remember that I stuck with a very minimalist style…

In Praise Of Doubt / Peter Berger and Anton Zijderveld

Cover of In Praise Of Doubt
The publishers gave In Praise Of Doubt the subtitle how to have convictions without becoming a fanatic. I am a skeptic at heart, so I purchased the book thinking it would explain approaches to blending doubt and conviction. It’s not that, unfortunately. The back cover copy claims the book will explain why religion, politics and culture need doubt to survive. But it doesn’t do that either. The first chapter explains the authors’ theory that the defining feature of modernism is pluralism rather than secularism. In other words, we’re not becoming more secular, we’re just sticking people of different faiths in closer proximity. On the latter, that’s a big duh. On…

Ganymede / Cherie Priest

Cover of Ganymede
Hi folks! Long time no blog! While the time-honored tradition of a dying blog is to start posting pictures of cats, I assert to you that I no longer have a cat. Ganymede is the fourth book in Cherie Priest’s Clockwork Century series, the first of which was a breakout hit. I loved Boneshaker. While I didn’t enjoy the subsequent books quite as much as the inaugural book, they were all a lot of fun. Unless Ms. Priest really whiffs, I’ll continue to buy new entries in the series. I expect good adventure mixed with a fair bit of diversity in the cast. Clockwork Century lures the I don’t like…

Not so independent book blogger awards

Update (30 Mar 2012, evening): Well that didn’t take long. Within a couple of hours of posting this Goodreads has changed the terms and conditions for this contest. Part of the new terms reads: Sponsors may use Posts for any purpose in connection with the promotion of the Contest, including but not limited to displaying the Posts, or any portions thereof, of the Finalists (as defined herein) … Several other clauses have language similar to the part emphasized above (emphasis mine, not theirs). I am not a lawyer, so I don’t know if the new language allows the use of submitted materials for other purposes through other clauses. Nevertheless, even…

Defending Jacob / William Landay

Cover of Defending Jacob
William Landay comes out with a book of crime fiction about every 5 years, and they are always worth a read. His first was Mission Flats in 2002, and The Strangler came out in 2007. I don’t appear to have reviewed Mission Flats, though I did read it. Perhaps it was before I started writing little bits about books on my personal Livejournal in 2002. But I jumped on The Strangler when an A.R.C. was made available to the employees of the downtown Barnes and Noble at which I worked in 2007. . Another five years later, Defending Jacob became available through LibraryThing’s EarlyReviewers program. This is his best yet.…

Salvage The Bones / Jesmyn Ward

Cover of Salvage The Bones
I’m back from months of travel now. I’ve posted a couple of times, but I haven’t had the time to catch up on book thoughts. I have a backlog, so expect a stream of posts ever the next couple of weeks. Salvage The Bones is another book I picked up through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer program. I grabbed this for two reasons: it has an awesome cover, and the novel is a little different than what I normally read. The week after I received it, Ms. Ward read at Elliott Bay Books in Seattle, so I attended. Due to traffic, I arrived about 15 minutes late and missed the reading portion,…

On Gender in SF Blogs – Brainstorming Needed

Science Fiction has never been the darling of mainstream book review coverage. Newspapers, magazines, television, and other venues where reviews of books are published do not make a huge effort to cover the genre. There are a number of science fiction focused magazines such as Asmiov’cs, Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Locus. But their circulations have been dwindling overall. Zines have been another set of venues for discussion of science fiction. I don’t have any kind of documented basis for the following, but my sense is that zines as a whole do not have the importance in science fiction coverage that they have had in the past. So where do…