No author enjoys getting the occasional bad review on Amazon, but just imagine if your reviews were written by a general audience with no particular interest in your work, and lacking the background to understand all but the most introductory text. This is rarely a problem with nonfiction niche books, because it’s highly unlikely that people with no interest in gardening will buy and review your great tomato tome. All things being equal, the broader the scope of the audience of a nonfiction title, the more negative reviews I seem to see. But this is all hindsight, because I never noticed the phenomena before I started using the IMDb (Internet Movie Database, now owned by Amazon) to look for free movies during the month of Prime that came with my last Kindle.
It turns out that the IMDb supports an advanced search option that allows you to specify pretty much every data field that they track, including which movies are currently free on Amazon Prime, and it does a much better job of this than the Amazon video app on Kindle Fire:
Being a database freak, I ran various searches trying to maximize the number of movies that would come up, and then looking for foreign movies, because I have a strong preference for movies with subtitles. In fact, I find reading subtitles such an immersive experience that I always forget that I don’t know the language and get confused when I look away and suddenly discover I can’t follow the dialogue. What struck me about the different database sorts, all of which I ranked by the IMDb member ratings, is how well some pretty horrible genre movies scored, compared to many unarguably superior movies that drew a general audience. I won’t name any movies here, which will keep it unarguable:-)
The lesson is that the obvious genre movies, whether they were based on comic book characters, horror, sexual orientation, love-um-or-hate-um stars and even intellectual elitism, all get a great leg up in the ratings war by their self selecting audiences. And I had never noticed that the same dynamics play out with book reviews on Amazon, where the wider the audience a book draws, the lower its overall ratings.
When you include TV movies with full length feature films, there were 5,562 free on Amazon Prime tonight:
You couldn’t have paid me to watch the two top rated “movies” by user reviews, though I think IMDb actually miscategorizes them as movies when they are really long TV specials. The “feature film” only search offers 5,158 results:
Even if you aren’t a movie fan, looking at an extensive list of movies sorted by online user ratings offers a condensed version of what’s happening with the millions of books rated by “users” on Amazon.