I've often wondered how important reviews actually are. I try to look at it objectively and not just from the perspective of an author. So, I'll answer the question as honestly as I can from both perspectives.
As an author, it's wonderful to know when someone loved my book. However, it's also more likely that people who HATE it will leave a review. I'm not sure why this is true, but it seems to be. People who love the story seem more likely to send me an email. Don't get me wrong, I greatly appreciate this. Kind words do wonders for encouraging me and keeping me motivated to do what I love. I suppose the people who leave bad reviews do so because they just want to "hate and run." LOL Sending an email might actually open up *gasp* a dialogue between them and the author.
Constructive criticism is often difficult to hear, but totally understandable. Everyone sees things differently and has different opinions. However, bashing an author on a personal level is horrible and should never be considered a review. As a rule, I don't respond to reviews. I have broken that rule once when someone actually called me names. That's right, they attacked ME, not THE BOOK. Still, I was professional and to the point. And I only responded ONCE. (By the way, that review was removed by the site for violating policy. Yes, it was that bad.)
Also, it seems that many bad reviews are planted delibrately by others who seek only to make the author and their work look bad. Why anyone would put such effort into bashing someone else is beyond me, but it happens.
I've read in several blog posts and online discussions that reviewers are uncomfortable when an author responds, even if it's to say "thank you." So, unless someone draws my attention to a review they posted, I don't even do that.
I sincerely appreciate someone taking the time to read and review my work. I read a post yesterday in which the individual said they thought it was tacky for an author to post links to "great reviews." Seriously? We aren't allowed to gush when someone totally gets us and what we were trying to say?
Anyway, as an author, I think that reviews only matter to me when they are in reference to my books. (Sorry, didn't mean to go into a rant.)
As a reader, which I've been all my life, I tend to overlook reviews for the most part. Most of the time, I've already made up my mind to purchase the book based on a few factors.
1. The cover art must catch my attention. I'm sorry to say, but I really do judge books by their cover.
2. Price is the next thing I look at. I'm most likely to purchase the book if it's under $5. The cheaper it is, the more likely I am to buy it.
3. The blurb. I read the book's description. If it sounds like something I might like, the cover looks good, and the price is right, I'll buy it.
Beyond that, I might glance at the reviews, but they have only once changed my mind. That was because I saw a book had rape in it, which I have no desire to read about. (Or see in a movie for that matter.)
Even before I was published, I only glanced at reviews if I was bored or had a spare minute. And they still didn't matter to me. In particular the really bad, ranting and raving reviews (in my opinion) only made the reviewer look bad, not the author.
So, that's my 2 cents on the subject. How much do reviews matter to you?