Monday, August 27, 2012

Breaking Rules that Don't Exist

Earlier this year, I started reading a Christian book I got as a Kindle freebie. After the preface and first chapter, I felt it was waaaaaaaay too basic for my tastes. I stopped reading it, which is hard for me to do. Then I posted a review on Amazon. I believe that negative reviews written objectively and honestly can be useful. When I'm looking for a book, a positive review that says "This is the best book ever!" and nothing else is as useless as a negative review that says "This book sucks! Don't buy it!"

I gave the book one star, and explained why. I even said something along the lines that I had no problem with the quality of the book; I just thought it was way too basic for my tastes. Most books written by popular pastors are. I've often wished publishers would stop letting pastors write books, because they don't seem to know how to get to the point. Or, they have about enough hard material for half a Power Point slide, then add in a bunch of fluff to beat a 300 or so page count. To me, this isn't productive to read.

I don't even expect to agree with an author. I read one book I mostly disagreed with, but rated it highly because it forced me to challenge my assumptions and argue with the author (through my notes). I also learned a lot from that book.

So the one book I rated with one star and explained why, somebody left a comment on. I was partly thrilled. Nobody ever comments on my Amazon reviews. But the comment asked if I actually read the whole book. 

I didn't even remember the book when the email with the comment notification came through. I read my review, where I clearly stated I read the preface and first chapter. I wanted to ask the commenter if he read my entire review (which is short).

So I started to wonder, is there some kind of rule that you have to read an entire book before you can decided whether you like it or not?

I hope not. That would make a world that totally sucks. I'm trying to get better at stopping books that aren't the best use of my time. If a book is a summary of things I already know and have studied deeply, why bother reading it, when I can focus my time in expanding my knowledge in other things?

These are the rules I follow:

1) If a book is provided to me by a publisher or author with the intent for me to review it, I read the entire book, whether I want to or not. I have gotten some review copies of books I did not like, but for the most part I like the books I review.

2) If I just started the book and am not sure whether I like it or not, I might put it down and move on. Sometimes I start skimming through the book to see if I can gain any nuggets out of it.

The problem with traditional publishing is you have page counts to meet. You HAVE to produce a certain amount of pages, whether your material is enough to do it or not. That's why you have wide margins, huge text, double or more spacing, and lots of blank pages that say "notes". That's all those are. Filler. 

Some books say all that needs to be said in 2-3 chapters. The rest of the book is either repeating material or supposedly "digging deeper", although it doesn't always achieve that. 

When I eventually write a book, I'm going to electronically self-publish. That way, if I can say all I need to say to get to the point in 40 pages, that's what I'm going to do. If I did it the traditional route, I'd have to create filler.

So, no, you don't have to read an entire book to decide if it's worth it or not. You don't have to read an entire blog post. UNLESS you plan to comment on the entire contents, which I did not try to do on my review of that book. I simply wanted to provide perspective to people with a similar viewpoint to me to help them decide whether or not to buy the book.
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