The New York Times ran another interesting “Bookends” column on 3 February, as James Parker and Anna Holmes squared off on the question: “Is Book Reviewing a Public Service or an Art?” The text may be accessed here: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/08/books/review/is-book-reviewing-a-public-service-or-an-art.html?ref=books&_r=0.
Sadly (and with all due respect to the highly-credentialed contributors), neither writer addressed some very real problems: the democratization of culture, the emergence of Everyman as critic, and the millions of “reviews” bought and paid for (if not otherwise published by family and friends). Amazon is particularly noteworthy in this regard. With a proper marketing/promo campaign, an author may easily drum up hundreds of 5-star reviews.
This is easier than it may sound. Those who release titles through Kindle Direct Publishing can run numerous “promotionals” during the year. At these times, they give their titles away – literally; they may actually release it for free. This, in turn, creates the “verified purchase” that lends credibility to the family, friends, and paid “reviewers” who will of course give it five stars!
I thought both Parker and Holmes made excellent points, and their essays are well worth reading. However, I should have been happier had they addressed this issue.