I have been approached by other authors and asked if I would like to swap a review for a review. I have come across several groups who do the same thing. One of the reason I don't participate in these review exchanges is because it changes the experience for me. I am an avid reader and I write a lot of book reviews. I do have a lot of requests for reviews. I sort through them, picking out the ones I would truly be interested in reading and believe I will enjoy. I also scan free book downloads and the library website for things I would like. I read and review them. I don't want it to feel like pressure, or work. It is supposed to be fun.
I also don't want to feel pressured to withhold my absolute honest opinion. I am a nice person. I don't enjoy giving less than stellar reviews. I am truly thrilled when I can give a 5 star review because the book really blew me away. I will always give an honest review. I try to point out something positive, even if I felt the book just wasn't for me, or I didn't enjoy it for whatever reason.
I want to believe in others' reviews of my book. I don't want to question a 5 star review, wondering if that shiny boon was given in hopes that I would reciprocate. I want someone to experience my book in a natural sequence. It catches their attention in some way, they read the description, maybe check the reviews, and then decide to read it because they feel they would enjoy it. If they do enjoy it, or not, I want their honest opinion reflected in stars, and hopefully a well written review explaining their feelings. To me, an honest 2 is better than a fake 5. I put it out there for the world to judge, hoping that it is liked and willing to accept it if it isn't - I want the opinion to be real, and deserved. When I see a book that has all positive reviews it makes me suspicious. Maybe it is just me. I also feel betrayed and angry when I see rave reviews only to download and read something, and figure out they were sugar coated at best, and out-right lies at the worst.
I have now seen a few sites where there have been advancements with trading reviews, and they are working on a system where you can join the group and then pick books to read and review anonymously, thus avoiding the "reciprocation" factor. This may be interesting. I just wonder how the whole transfer of review to Amazon and other sites would work, because ultimately that is what an author wants, right? Couldn't you just find the review on another site and figure out who wrote it? I guess a little more examination is required on that subject.