Goodreads Authors/Readers discussion

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Bulletin Board > Reader Ratings - What are they worth?

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

I have seen discussions on a variety of sites regarding the value of reader star ratings. Are they really any help when it comes to choosing your next read? Do they help author's sell their books? Etc. For example I recently saw a rating of one star for 'Emma'. I appreciate reading is very much a subjective experience but is such a rating truly indicative? I share some thoughts in this weeks post (Sunday 17 Nov 2013) on my blog: http://www.tanyarobinson100.blogspot.com


message 2: by Fletcher (new)

Fletcher Best (fletcherbest) | 54 comments I think star ratings are essentially worthless as a means of evaluating the merits of a book for several reasons. First, as you said, reading is a subjective experience, but the uselessness of star ratings goes far beyond that.

I believe the bigger problem lies in the widely held belief by authors/publishers that a volume of good star ratings will mean that their books will appear higher in sales lists such as on Amazon, thus leading to greater exposure and higher sales. Whether this is true or not, because it is believed to be true, there are numerous approaches to "gaming" the review system. Your blog post talks about friends and relatives leaving unduly favorable reviews, but in many cases, those are a mere drop in the bucket. When top-selling indie authors such as John Locke publicly admit to buying good reviews in bulk, many new authors wanting to duplicate his success are likely to follow suit and hope that they don't get caught and banned (apparently Amazon is a lot more flexible on their terms of service when it comes to authors who produce a lot of sales for them). In some cases, more complex ranking algorithms have taken into consideration how many "likes" and similar social media signals a given review gets and weighing reviews accordingly, but even this is now being "gamed", as you can buy those social signals just as you can buy the reviews themselves. At this point the review system has become so corrupted that it's all but useless.

As a reader, I primarily look at what the text of the reviews say, not what the star rating was. Of course phony reviews have text as well as star ratings, but you can usually brush past them pretty quickly as the fakes tend to be very non-specific, poorly written, and are often ridiculously effusive in their praise. You'll see stuff like: "This gratest book I read. No other book change my life for better as this book. It amaze how good this book. All should read to make life happy." Of course, that might be the legitimate review of a really good book from a non-native English speaker, but when it's a review for something like "How To Grow Tomatoes", it's a bit suspicious.


message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

Thank you Fletcher. I had seen some comments about buying reviews but had not appreciated how broad a problem it is becoming; I naively thought it was a limited occurrence and steps had been taken to deal with it. So sad such dishonesty is ruining a facility which should be helpful.


message 4: by R.A. (new)

R.A. White (rawhite) | 361 comments Stars may not be a good way of selecting a book, but I believe it is still a factor for most people. I myself look for well thought out reviews by review sites rather than generic reviews or reviews by people who are overly enthusiastic and probably relatives of the author.


message 5: by Vanessa Eden (new)

Vanessa  Eden Patton (vanessaeden) | 509 comments As a reader, I do look at the star ratings. That being said, if there isn't a concise review to back up the star rating, then the ratings are of no importance to me. That is why I love goodreads. When I look up a book I get an overall star review and (most of the time) a review of what the reader thought.
I think the star system is great for a quick glance and attention grabber to get potential readers to investigate a book and potentially read it.


message 6: by S. (new)

S. (sthomaskaza) I look at star ratings, but I am also interested in other reviewers who rate books the same way I do. This is especially useful on goodreads where you can "compare books" and find like-minded people who then might lead you to a few good recommendations. But I have to admit it is a roundabout way of finding good books to read.


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