Question: how many times have you looked at a book - or anything for that matter - on Amazon/Goodreads/Waterstones/etc and simply glance at the star ratings of something before deciding if it’s worth your time or not?
Answer: probably a lot. I do this all the time, even though I know that I should know better.
The problem with doing this is that it’s simple things. And there’s no explantation on why people have given the star rating. Plus, the star rating changes depending on where you look and who you chat to.
For example, I looked stuff up on Goodreads. The one that prompted this discussion was a book I was going to preorder and yet, when I added it on my To Be Read list, it had a ton of 5 star reviews. I know with Goodreads, users can put star ratings on books that aren’t out yet, but when the book comes out, won’t these star ratings mess the rating up a bit?
I’ve seen the same thing on Amazon when people write reviews on how they got the book delivered to them. I’m glad/sad that you got the book is wonderful/horrid condition, but do you need to write a starred review to tell us that? What is your thoughts on the story itself?
Another thing to consider is that star ratings don’t mean the same thing on different sites, even if they’re owned by the same people. Let’s compare Amazon and Goodreads star rating, shall we?
1 Star on Amazon is “Hate it” whereas Goodreads is “Did Not Like It”
2 Stars on Amazon is “I Don’t Like It” whereas Goodreads is “It’s Okay”
3 Stars on Amazon is “It’s Okay” whereas Goodreads is “Liked It”
4 Stars on Amazon is “I Liked It” whereas Goodreads is “Really Liked It”
5 Stars on Amazon is “I Love It” whereas Goodreads is “It Was Amazing”
You see. How can “I didn’t like this” be one star on Goodreads, but on Amazon, it’s two stars?
Hang on a minute, Andrew, I hear you say, these two sites are aimed at two different target audience. Amazon is more general, for everyone, whereas Goodreads is more aimed at readers and is more younger-aiming than Amazon’s. Well, yes, but most people won’t check that the star ratings between different sites mean the same or differently. We, generally, think they mean the same thing…
It’s the same with book bloggers/vloggers/podcasters/people in the book blogsphere. If we use star ratings, we leave our ratings meanings out so people can see what we mean or we put a quick meaning after the rating in the review.
I never put ratings on the Pewter Wolf. I like chatting about the books and yes, I should in theory do star ratings or percentage, would it still be a problem for people? If I rate something 3 stars, would people think “Oh, this is an ok read”, or would people read my write-up on the book or my star rating meaning and go “Oh, that’s why he gave it this rating”?
Plus, ratings, like reviews and write-ups, are given to the book/audiobook/item/etc in that moment. What about in a few days/weeks/months/years time? The amount of times I have reread a write-up of mine for a book in the past on here or Goodreads and go “Did I really think that this was good/bad back then? What was I thinking?!”. Do I have the right to go back and change my rating? If I do, do I add an edit to the review to explain why or should I write another post, explaining why I changed my rating for whatever reason (most times, it’s because my tastes have changed from who I was back then) or do I leave the rating alone as that rating and write-up/review was written by me in that moment?
See? Once we sit down and think about this, we begin to muddy the waters.
So, do star ratings work? Well… up to a point. For a throwaway glance, yeah, it works fine. But we must look at people’s reviews and reactions and see why that person gave it the rating that they did…