Book reviews are important.
Good or bad, real or fake, book reviews are often the cornerstone of the book buying experience. Few readers are comfortable with risking their money on an unknown, so we seek out other opinions before buying a book by an author we don't know.
This is part of the reason why many ebookstores (including Amazon, Kobo, Sony, Bookish, and more) stock their review sections with user reviews that have been licensed from Goodreads, LibraryThing or other community sites. (Unless you're Barnes & Noble, in which case your review section is full of spurious reviews by RPG gamers.)
But do you know what readers value more than a review by a fellow reader? Expert reviews. That's why book blogs are growing increasingly popular, and it's also why mainstream reviewers like NPR Books or the NYTimes Review of Books have hundreds of thousands of readers.
And it looks like Sony may be the first ebookstore to understand the value of an expert review, because they've just signed a deal with the book review aggregator iDreambooks. Some time in the next few days a new review section will go live in the Sony Reader Store, and it will look something like this:
As you can see it's being used to supplement the Goodreads reviews for each title. In addition to the reviews, Sony will also be using the iDreambooks rating which is generated based on the aggregated reviews. That will be displayed at the top of the book listing, right next to the rating from Goodreads.
iDreambooks launched in 2012 with the goal of being the Rotten Tomatoes of book reviews. They aggregate their reviews from over 3 thousand different sources, including both book blogs and the mainstream press. Right now their collection includes book reviews published as early as 2008, and they are working to add mre reviews everyday.
They might not have as many reviews as Goodreads or as many titles in the system, but what iDreambooks lacks in quantity they make up for in quality. By aggregating expert reviews iDreambooks is avoiding the problem that is endemic to user reviews: they're too easy to fake and can be readily bought and sold.
And iDreambooks also takes steps to make sure that the reviews are valid. I spoke to iDreambooks' founder earlier this week, and he told me quality is one of iDreambooks' strengths: "We manually curate our sources. We have people on staff that go through the quality of writing on publications and blogs."
I've been told that they also have deals in the works with other ebookstores, though I wasn't told any names. According toI found, iDreambooks is also supplying reviews to the NYPL as well as the SFPL.