Think Aloud explores book-related discussions encompassing reading, writing, blogging, and perhaps newsworthy content. The focus is to push the boundaries, stretch the mind, and encourage dialogue within this community. Let’s all think out loud.
Legitimacy of Staff Recommended Books
“I was wondering if I could speak to John/Jane Doe in regards to this book recommendation—oh, they’re not in at the moment?—that’s cool beans.”
First and foremost: I want to thank those employed by booksellers for their ongoing efforts in creating an environment where literature is at the forefront. This thought comes after hundreds of hours and buckets of cash being spent at bookstores, and it might spawn negativity on part of corporate marketing. I am not chirping a particular individual in this discussion; nor am I claiming these individuals to be dishonest employees. It is simply in the nature of endorsements that I have to ask questions concerning the legitimacy of recommendations and its holistic approach in going about it.
So often in chain bookstores there are recommendation stickers tacked onto books. At times they feature new titles, other times bestsellers, but mostly, the recommendations build (and/or maintain) interest toward blockbuster-worthy titles on credible lists. It is understandable that sellers do their best in a vast market of genres to spotlight titles that have proven acclaim and sales. However, the walls of a store cannot encourage anymore validation towards a novel than the adhesive plastic itself. Yet once it is regarded by an employee, the onus of marketing shifts and interest can be cultivated. With this in mind, I’ve often wondered whether or not certain Staff Recommendations by John or Jane Doe have actually been read by those who recommend them.
The most dubious of culprits involve movie tie-in novelizations. With adaptations come the nuanced difference in how much or little each medium spends to visualize a particular element of a story, and though they may be different, the story is wholly the same. But unlike reading a Wiki or skimming a review, you would actually have tacit experience with the story if you’ve at least viewed the film—call it user experience—and that’s what we indiscriminately buy into. We listen for second opinions to validate ourselves and it’s what we crave when making sound judgements. It doesn’t matter if you’re the type of consumer who asks for help or enjoys not being bothered when perusing books. We consider these sticker advertisements in good faith and this ultimately holds implications for being misleading.
The point isn’t that readers make gambles with these recommendations or that “no one reader is the same”. It isn’t even about staff not having expert advice for a novel either. The concern is rooted in hokey push-marketing and is about being disingenuous by omission of information to legitimize something they haven’t read for the sake of sales. We can agree that books are not films (and vice-versa) but without explicit indication that it is endorsed by someone who puts the weight of the title on the film counterpart, how can consumers truly reward the value of information being sold? You can praise the film’s source text through filtered glasses but that’s all it ought to be.
While this remains a small segment of marketed books, how do we go about engaging other titles being recommended—or is it all a hoax pandering to solid trend forecasting?
And so here I am, wondering if I should poke the bear with detective work to seek validation that recommendations have substance over form. That it isn’t all completely head-office or publisher influence to encourage marketing based on how much cash you put out. I’m not expecting these individuals to be a walking Goodreads directory of reviews—far from it—I’m merely curious as to whether or not they’ve read what they claim to have read. Granted, it’d probably be difficult to ascertain the truth in whether or not they’ve read the text or not (or just perused reviews) but I’m sure there are unique ways you can probe for thoughts.
How often do you read the blurb of a staff recommended novel? Do you end up purchasing it or shelving it in your mental TBR (to be purchased at a later time)?
Have you ever spoken to the individual who recommends the read? Were they knowledgeable enough to pique interest? How did the conversation go?
Was there a time when you were recommended a novel you’ve already read (by staff) and it didn’t seem like they weren’t entirely familiar with it—by simply reiterating the blurb or speaking holistically?
Also: how are you finding these recent Think Aloud discussions so far? “Interesting and Unique” topics are what people wanted to read more into (re: my blog survey results) and I’m trying my best to delve into the unknown.