Search the Site

1,000 Amazon Reviews

This weekend, Freakonomics received its 1,000th customer review on Is this at all noteworthy?

Some of you may recall that we have previously posted here about Amazon reviews. Levitt wondered why people bother to write reviews at all. I wrote about one particular reviewer who somehow managed to always float his review to the top of the heap. (That reviewer, Loyd Eskildson, has disappeared, at least from the Freakonomics page; but he has been replaced by another top-lister who signs off as “Marilyn R. Barry, PhD in Sexuality.”)

The issue here is different: is 1,000 reviews a lot or a little? On the one hand, our book has sold roughly 1.5 million copies, which means that fewer than 1 in 1,500 buyers have reviewed the book on (You don’t have to have bought the book on to review it there.) That’s pretty thin. On the other hand, Tom Friedman’s The World is Flat, which was published one week before our book and has consistently sold a bit more, has only 680 customer reviews as of this writing. Malcolm Gladwell’s runaway bestseller The Tipping Point, originally published in 2000 and still very strong in paperback, is one of the most talked-about books I’ve ever encountered; it has 632 customer reviews. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince has 3,245 customer reviews, more than three times the number of Freakonomics reviews, but a whole lot more than three times as many copies of that book have been bought.

Could it be that people are more likely to review a book if they particularly like it, or particularly hate it? Hard to say from this group. The World Is Flat, The Tipping Point, and Freakonomics all average 4 out of 5 stars in customer rating; the latest Harry Potter averages 4.5.

While it is true that the Internet creates a public forum for a sort of carping and whining that generally isn’t tolerated elsewhere (witness some of the frequent commenters on this very blog, e.g.), that alone wouldn’t seem to explain why there has been so much Amazon commentary on our book.

So if you have any thoughts as to why we’ve passed the 1,000-review threshold, let us know. Carping and whining, as always, will be tolerated.