Tuesday 23 July 2013

3 Stars: Do you Like it or Not?

When rating a book on any given retailer's site, what do the number of stars actually mean to you?

I've been thinking about this for a while lately, and I got into a discussion with someone about it the other day.

My favourite book review site at the moment is Goodreads. Goodreads is a community of book lovers. It's completely free to join and participate in, and it doesn't try to (directly) sell you anything. You can't buy books there (although you can find links where to buy them); you just rate and review them. Every other member of the community can see your ratings and reviews, and they affect the average ratings of the various books. Based on your ratings, the site also recommends books that you might be interested in.

In order to rate a book, you need to give it a number of stars, from one to five. They offer guidelines to help you decide, and their suggested scale is as follows:

  • 1 Star = did not like it
  • 2 Stars = it was ok
  • 3 Stars = liked it
  • 4 Stars = really liked it, and
  • 5 Stars = it was amazing

Now, Amazon, who are arguably the biggest book retailer in the world right now, also asks you to rate books that you find there. Their suggested scale, though, is slightly different:

  • 1 Star = I hate it
  • 2 Stars = I don't like it
  • 3 Stars = It's OK
  • 4 Stars = I like it
  • 5 Stars = I love it

So, in my opinion, Amazon's scale assumes that more people who review books aren't going to particularly like them (a negative view), whereas Goodreads' one assumes that people are generally likely to pick books to read that they're going to like in the first place (a positive view).

Be that as it may, my short story, A Petition to Magic currently has an average rating on Goodreads of 3.00 exactly, which I would consider good, and that on average, people like it. On Amazon, however, the average is 3.20. That's slightly higher than on Goodreads, so on the face of it, that would be a good thing. Based on Amazon's suggested scale, though, it's worse, and indicates that the average reader thinks my story is "just okay."

Then again, I would think that most seasoned reviewers develop their own scale, and use it everywhere. So a 3-star rating to one person might mean something completely different to a different person.

What about you? Do you have your own opinion of what the various star-ratings mean to you, and use them everywhere? Or would you rate (for example) the same book 3-stars on Goodreads, but 4-stars on Amazon?

Please add your comments below.

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