Some random thoughts on how we rate books


Every now and again I look at my average rating. Currently, it’s at 4.05 for some 1369 reviews so the average is fairly reliable as a predictor. That has several possible interpretations: 1) that I grossly over-rate, 2) that I like most everything I read, 3) I don’t rate what I don’t like, or 4) that I don’t rate what I don’t finish. There are possible more interpretations, but these four are enough for the moment. Since I know my reviewing habits fairly well, the main reasons are a combination of 3 and 4 with a smidgin of 1 (as I noted in my profile I tend to hold anyone with enough imagination to write a book in high esteem soI tend to be a bit generous.)


Now, one of the subtexts of the ongoing concern with GR’s changing TOS is that reviewers want to be able to downrate books with little fear of retribution by others, but mostly a small coterie of authors who don’t have sense enough to “grin-and-bear-it.” (A failing many of the reviewers suffer from.) I got a little curious to compare my average ratings with those of others of my friends and then those of some who have self-identified as being concerned.


I discovered a group of reviewers who had average ratings from 1.4 to 2.5. In one case a reviewer with an average of 2.74 had few books in the middle. Most were either 5 stars or 1 star (44%.) Now to have 44% of the books you read being rating as books you didn’t like can only mean that either you’re a masochist who loves reading books you hate, or you have some kind of political agenda. (In the case of one friend of mine whose ratings average 2.18, I happen to know his one-star ratings are the result of his loathing for religious books.)


We've seen much criticism of Amazon ratings recently as well as criticism of GR reviews and ratings as being “dangerous”, “harmful,” “bullying,” etc., comments all that are vastly hyperbolic.


The lesson in all of this is that star ratings are useless without a review. Focus on the review. Ignore review-less ratings. That’s one plus for Amazon; you have to write something, not just award stars