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BIP #11: The Results

by Kim on June 23, 2009 · 10 comments

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?

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Nicole June 23, 2009 at 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!

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Julia Smith June 23, 2009 at 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.

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Louise June 23, 2009 at 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 :)

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Jodie June 24, 2009 at 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.

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Tom C June 25, 2009 at 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.

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Kim June 30, 2009 at 3:42 pm

That’s a good point — a lot of reviews have similar elements. It might have been interesting to try and pin down what those elements are (summary, rating, opinion, etc.) and then track how reviews approach those pieces differently.

And about the author’s other work — I’m not sure how I think that would work out, as in, how bloggers versus professionals would approach it.

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Kim June 30, 2009 at 3:43 pm

Don’t worry about not doing it right now; I’d love to add more reviews to the spreadsheet and run this again sometime later anyway.

I’m glad your computer is back!

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Kim June 30, 2009 at 3:43 pm

I think everyone wants to write better reviews, and part of why I wanted to do this was so that we could think about what makes a “good” review. I’m not sure it achieved that, but I think it was interesting anyhow.

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Kim June 30, 2009 at 3:44 pm

I try to keep mine down, just because I don’t like super long reviews. But sometimes there is so much I want to say about a book I tend to ramble (plus, being an English major just a year ago, I learned to write about books in essay length chunks!)

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Kim June 30, 2009 at 3:46 pm

If only I were smart enough to write a book :) But I agree — there seems to me so many things you can do to make a blog better and never enough time to do them all. I guess the best we can all do it just keep trying :)

I agree with you — I enjoy the personal references. Once I know a blogger well (or go through their reviews for books they liked), I feel like I get more solid recommendations of books I will like.

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