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BIP #11: The Results

2009bip-150x210Finally, the results!

The BIP Week #11 project was to dissect some book reviews by the numbers.The gist WAS to go to this Google Docs spreadsheet and fill in some questions based on two book reviews — one of your own, and one from a professional organization.

Questions included how many personal references there were, how many paragraphs was the review, and how many sentences were in the review.

Six people contributed to the spreadsheet, which isn’t as many as I would have liked, but there are still some interesting things I noticed when I did some averages and stuff:

  • Book blogger reviews had between 4 and 14 pargraphs in each review — most had around 7. Professional reviews, on teh other had, varied a lot in length. Some were just 1 paragraph, some were about 7-9, and others were 11.
  • Similarly, book blogger reviews all had about the same number of sentences (an average of 22.9, but the highest and lowers were 33 and 12). Professional reviews had a bigger range — the lowest had 6 sentences, while the longest had 70.
  • Book blogger reviews use, generally, fewer words — about 432 in a review compared to 549. Again, the professional reviews had a larger range of values.
  • Sentence length and paragraph length, when averaged, were about the same for blogger reviews and professional reviews.
  • Most professional reviews don’t include a rating system, but a lot of blogger reviews do.
  • The biggest difference between blogger reviews and professional reviews was something we already sort of knew — bloggers use a lot more personal references. From these reviews, bloggers averaged about 9.75 personal references per review. Professional reviews had only about .25.

One thing I noticed is that professional reviews are a lot more varied — some are just a paragraph, some are basically full-length articles. Blogger reviews tend to be a little more consistent — similar lengths, etc. If I had to do this over again I’d want more contributions, obviously, because then there would have been a bigger sample size for the averages.

I was also  hoping that the numbers for stuff like paragraph length would be more different, since blogger reviews are almost always online and online reading habits suggest that people scan online and therefore need shorter paragraphs.  Maybe this suggests that even though bloggers are online, we still think a lot about writing in a way that’s easy to read in print.

What do you think of these findings? Do they make sense to you? Are there other qualities we should have looked at to distinguish blogger reviews from professional reviews?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Nicole June 23, 2009, 10:20 am

    These make sense to me. I don’t think that reviewing can be vastly different. You usually have the same components where you break the book down and give an opinion. I would expect the persona references to exceed those in a professional review. Another interesting thing would be to compare how many professional reviews compare/contrast/mention the author’s other works as compared to bloggers.

    Nice job, working with what you had!

  • Julia Smith June 23, 2009, 11:05 am

    I was just mentioning this challenge to my husband last night. I’ve not been able to do it in the time that it’s come up on your schedule, but I intend to do it before the year is out. I’ve had several roadblocks to doing it – not the least of which was having my computer tower in the shop! – but I would like to see how my book reviews stack up to professional ones. I do know that several authors have used quotes from my reviews on their web sites, so that makes me very happy.

  • Louise June 23, 2009, 2:36 pm

    I am sorry I never got around to do this, as I am interested in being able to write better reviews. Not professional since I am not a pro critic, but just better than now, where I basically just give a brief summary w/o spoilers and my own opinion – would be fun with a bit more I think :)

  • Jodie June 24, 2009, 12:19 pm

    Great idea, glad I took part. I think a lot of bloggers (not me but I am trying to scale down a bit) try to keep their word count down.

  • Tom C June 25, 2009, 1:42 am

    I have much appreciated your BIP but need to go back over all your posts to remind myself of all your suggestions (so much to do, so little time). Perhaps you should write a book on improving blogs!

    I tend to aim at fairly substantial reviews – averaging about 800 words.

    I am pleased that book bloggers use more personal references. That is one of the pleasures of reading a review by a blogger – you tend to get some insight into why the book is important to them, and over time you get to know the reviewer a little.