Saturday, January 17, 2015


I might be taking a break from writing, but I haven't taken a break from thinking. ;-)

Simply put, I want to see the rating system for books disappear, primarily from Goodreads. I wouldn't mind seeing it disappear from privately-owned review sites, too. Those stupid stars (or marmosets or dandelions or whatever) have caused more grief and contention than anything else in the bookworld -- or at least the corner of the bookworld that I frequent. Over the past decade, I've seen countless writers go temporarily insane over star numbers. I've seen citizen reviewers manipulate those star numbers either to pimp or to punish authors. I've seen author buddies abuse those star numbers to show support for each other. I've seen authors rate their own work. The whole system is hopelessly, absurdly corrupted.

Moreover, books can't be evaluated like cars and appliances. Their worth can't be conveyed on a scale of one to five. Reading, like sex, is a highly subjective experience. The only way to express the nature of that experience on a reader-by-reader basis is through words. WORDS. (Can you imagine people slapping stars on each other's genitals following an intimate encounter? Heh.) At least Amazon requires you to post a review along with your rating. I'm still not sure if the book must be a "verified purchase" or not, but their system is far preferable to the way Goodreads does things.

Serious readers want and need honest reviews, not mere ratings and certainly not juvenile games played with icons. A review can be a few words long or a few paragraphs long. One needn't possess the vocabulary of John Updike to express one's satisfaction or dissatisfaction with a book.

1 comment:

Helena said...

I agree that ratings, especially on Goodreads, have a disproportionate effect. Apart from anything else, this is often because people use them differently. I rate very few books 5 stars, 4 stars is a very good book, and 3 stars is my rating for most books which I finish i.e. good, better than average, but not so amazing that it rates higher for me.

But in fact I almost never rate books these days, ever since I realised that my ratings are fed into and affect the overall rating for books even though I had used the maximum privacy settings possible. When I started I used the ratings as a personal aide-memoir i.e. I would give a book a low rating to remind myself that it wasn't my thing, and I should avoid the author in future. When a rating is public I do not consider this a fair thing to do. I would give a public low rating to a book only if I thought it was badly written, poorly planned, or had bad editing or grammar etc.. If a book is perfectly well-written etc. but happens to be in a genre I dislike, or employs a trope I hate, it should not get a low rating for those reasons.

I really dislike it when people seek out books they know they won't like (e.g. if they hate m/m) and then give them one star ratings. Unless they've been ambushed i.e. it would have been reasonable for the blurb to mention the trope/genre and it did not do so, that's their fault and they just should not rate the book at all.