For most authors, Amazon.com is the closest we get to a stock market for book popularity. Despite their apparent randomness, tracking the rankings can become an obsession; in fact, I’m not really sure why else Junglescan exists. The reader reviews are also a source of potential obsession.
That’s why I’m unaccountably pleased that Eric Meyer on CSS has just completed the “Dash to One Hundred Stars”: since publication, twenty reader reviews have been posted, and every single one is five stars. I’ve been rooting for this to happen ever since it passed a dozen five-star reviews, actually, which sounds stupid even to me. After all, what this proves is that twenty people who use Amazon really liked the book; it’s not a conferment of sainthood or anything. The book won’t be a five-star experience for everyone, which is one reason I wrote some material explaining the target audience. Maybe that really did help the book get into the hands of those who would like it, and keep it away from those who wouldn’t.
Other books of mine haven’t fared as well. The CSS2.0 Programmer’s Reference has recently picked up two one-star Amazon.com reviews, but both of them gave me an arid chuckle. So far as I can tell, in both cases a person thought they were buying some sort of tutorial or guide, and when they discovered they had something else, they decided that was my fault. One guy even looked through the book in a store, bought it, and then discovered the book was of no use to him… and then decided to go post a review on Amazon where he admitted to his mistake in the course of blasting the book. It reminded me a lot of the guy who blasted CSS:TDG for being a “light tutorial” and “not a reference at all.” (Maybe they should just swap books!)
I admit to feeling a certain regret that these people spent money on my books that could have been better invested in something else, but at the same time I can’t help but be amused. Caveat emptor, if you prefer, but I think of it more as, “A lack of intelligent buying on your part does not constitute an authoring failure on mine.”
Anyway… one hundred stars in twenty reviews! That feels pretty darned good, no matter how irrelevant the yardstick might be. Somehow I feel like Will Smith in Men in Black: “Still, that was a pretty good shot, though.”