Every now and then, the book community has discourse about the ethics of book bloggers being paid for reviews and the ethics of paid reviews. The fact that this argument is used to argue against book bloggers receiving payment while other parts of the book community (bookstagram and booktube) regularly receive payment to promote books is a whole separate issue, and today, I’m going to be telling you why there is no such thing as an unbiased review and why that aspect of the argument is ridiculous.
The thing is, BOOK REVIEWS ARE OPINIONS. It is not a report on a book, and any of the things reviewers say about the writing or characters or plot are OPINIONS. Opinions are inherently SUBJECTIVE, not objective. There would be no point in reading a book review that was just facts about the book, and honestly I don’t even know what that would look like–probably a synopsis and overview of characters?
People read reviews because they want to know if the reviewer liked or disliked the book. You can say in a review why you think other readers might like a book that you didn’t, but even that is still an opinion because reviewers are not mind readers for every single person who has read or might read a particular book.
Reviews also aren’t objective because you ALWAYS go into a book with some level of expectation. The only way you can go into a book with no expectations is if you don’t see the cover or synopsis. But honestly, even the title of a book can influence how you view what the book is going to be like or what you are going to think of it. Things like a cover and synopsis are SUPPOSED to make you have a pre-reading opinion of a book, because how else would you know you wanted to buy it? However, going into a book with expectations of any kind is already a “bias.”
Reviews are also not meant to be editorial critiques, which should be more on the unbiased side of things than a review. When you’re editing and looking for how to improve the book, you’re looking at how to enhance the work that’s already there, not necessarily adding or taking away things willy nilly that you personally like or don’t like. In an editorial critique, there needs to be more of a level of objectivity and it’s less about your personal likes and dislikes. However, editorial critiques are meant for writers, and reviews are for readers (as much as some authors like to ignore that fact), which means a personal opinion is important.
I think what this debate also comes down to is that people don’t want to see that REVIEWS ARE FOR READERS. The point of a review is not, at its heart, promotion. That is a side benefit that can come from a review, but I guarantee people are not posting one-star reviews on Amazon or Goodreads because they’re trying to get you to read it. The true purpose of a review is to help readers decide if they want to read a book. They are not an editorial critique for authors or promotion for authors: they are for readers.