What the F*&# is up with Video Book Reviews?

Video Doesn't make books more funLast week I asserted that no one wants to watch you talk to your webcam because you’re not telling a compelling audio/visual story. Need an example? Just watch any video book review. I filmed a book review myself, and, in retrospect, I hate myself for it.

Typically, a video book review involves the blogger sitting somewhere totally boring and wearing an outfit that screams, “I don’t care what I look like!” to the entire internet.  It then goes into this three step process:

  1. The blogger states his/her name, his/her blog name for the one unfamiliar person who somehow stumbled their poor self onto the video, and the book they will review.
  2. The blogger proceeds to ramble with no script or points to make as they “review” the book for the next one and half to three minutes. The longer it goes on, the more likely you are to wonder things like, “Why am I watching this?” “Why is the guy filming this in his car” or “Is he homeless? I bet he’s homeless dressed like that.”
  3. The blogger closes by saying buy the book (with their Amazon Affiliate link below), and then says their name and blog again because at this point you’ll be waking up from a short nap.

These video book reviews have no strong visual images to show off. Do you want to show people your notes? The cool illustrations? The publisher’s choice of an excellent font? It’s not like there aren’t pictures of this book online. Anything you’re showing in a video is not why people read books.

The audience who is going to go buy a book is not the type that will watch someone review it. They want to know about the content of the book. Is it written well? Is it entertaining or very dry? Is it highly technical or easy to get into? They want to read your favorite excerpts of the book. They want to know what you loved and hated. They want to taste the wordplay the author has committed to the page, not watch you ramble until you think the video is long enough.

Just like you cannot judge a book by its cover, your video does nothing to describe the actual contents of the book. Take the time to write an actual review with actual content, not just whatever spills out of your mouth for three minutes. It will be infinitely better, and no one will know that you were wearing a teal blazer with shoulder pads.

And if you’re dying to know how to review a book on video, talk to Levar Burton and Reading Rainbow. That’s how you get someone to share a book with audio and visual storytelling.

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18 Responses to “What the F*&# is up with Video Book Reviews?”

  1. Rob January 11, 2011 at 10:00 am #

    Please, please, please proofread.
    I really enjoy your sarcasm and criticism of the internet content out there. It takes a little of your critical credibility away, though, if you are making simple mistakes like “your” instead of “you’re” or the one sentence above that goes “I be he’s homeless dressed like that.”
    Just a suggestion. I’m thoroughly enjoying your blogs otherwise. :)

    • Jay January 11, 2011 at 10:18 am #

      I do proofread, but like every other person, I am fallible and things get through the cracks. Always appreciate that heads up.

  2. Chris Ferdinandi - Renegade HR January 11, 2011 at 10:13 am #

    1. Yes! Especially the part about video blogging in your car. How’d you like to be driving next to that dude?

    2. GREAT find on Reading Rainbow!

    3. Ignore the grammar Nazi. Your header takes away a lot more credibility than grammar mistakes (I joke!). Someone (cough Rob cough) has too much time on his hands.

    • Dino Dogan January 11, 2011 at 12:18 pm #

      Agreed…grammar police can suck it..having said that, fix your typos lol

      • Jay January 11, 2011 at 12:31 pm #

        Oh lord are there any more? #hasasad

        • Rob January 11, 2011 at 3:11 pm #

          Apparently, I should have sent a more discreet message. I didn’t mean for it to spiral out of control! =D

          • Chris Ferdinandi - Renegade HR January 11, 2011 at 3:53 pm #

            You meant well. There’s a whole segment of trolls out there who grammar police blogs they don’t really read. It’s all good!

    • Dino Dogan January 11, 2011 at 12:28 pm #

      btw…the reason people tape videos in their car (or on the go) is that its much more on-code for Americans.

      America is and has always been a nation of people on the go. From the day we landed here we started moving into the vast expanse. Which required a major shift in thinking as compared to the European mentality (Europeans are squished-in..not a lot of elbow room there).

      Nowadays a typical American family has one car per person older than 18.

      If you’re not moving (note the correct punctuation in “you’re” hehe) in regards to your life, career, relationships, etc. well, then you are maladjusted my friend (or so they would have you believe).

      I dont mean to go on and on…its a great observation and it is lame when most bloggers do it (those Affiliate sales do add up, tho) but I would actually like to see more people do it…I guess its better than sitting in front of the camera, no?


  3. Jay January 11, 2011 at 10:21 am #

    1. I wouldn’t. 2. Reading Rainbow is genus. 3. I always appreciate the opportunity to clean things up. I’m not perfect (yet).

  4. Rob January 11, 2011 at 10:32 am #

    It’s a curse, really. Our company owner sends emails out that cause me to stroke out from all of the grammar and spelling errors, as well as complete lack of punctuation.

    Please also don’t take it as a major criticism, I just wanted to point it out.

    Also, I miss Reading Rainbow. I’m pretty sure I still know all the words to the intro song…

  5. Ms_Krista January 11, 2011 at 12:21 pm #

    Jay: I suspect one ‘culprit’ may have been Gary V’s book “Crush It”. In the last chapter, he lists some good business ideas that he wonders why no one has started online. One of them is, wait for it, a video book review blog.

    • Jay January 11, 2011 at 12:31 pm #

      I should have know Gary was behind this conspiracy.

  6. Ace January 11, 2011 at 3:33 pm #

    Great piece - glad I wasn’t alone on this one. There’s a lot of dead-space on YouTube these days.

    If you’re going to “meme it up,” though, the least you could have done was film yourself 9 times and sing the review in 4-part harmony. Ha.

    • Jay January 11, 2011 at 4:07 pm #

      Or even better, I could have filmed it once as the original. Then, I could make an auto tune remix with a double rainbow in the background as Charlie the Unicorn bit my finger.

  7. Jerome Pineau January 11, 2011 at 3:52 pm #

    Jay, I had to laugh reading this one - you’re so right on. The only person I actually enjoy and find compelling on video is Gary Vaynerchuk. Not sure why but he just pulls it off every time for me. The few times I tried to do it I felt ill afterwards and didn’t end up using it (except once but then Amazon nixed it so…there ya go).

    That’s why I find it much better to do audio/radio or voice. That and the fact that a book review shouldn’t take up more than 2 sentences maybe 3 at most - that’s just my 2 cents though.


  8. Jay January 11, 2011 at 4:10 pm #

    Glad to supply a laugh. I think a book review’s length varies on the book being reviewed. Giving a novel like War and Peace a two or three sentence review doesn’t cut it. On the other hand, Crush It, which you can read forwards and backwards in two hours, doesn’t need an extensive review (I’m still amazed I filmed myself for over three minutes reviewing that).

    • Jerome Pineau January 11, 2011 at 4:18 pm #

      Wait, I thought the best review for W&P was “War - what is it good for?” :)

      • Jay January 11, 2011 at 5:23 pm #